Is That Really Beyonce: Black Women and Beauty

image Believe it or not, that is an image of Beyonce that is being used to market L’Oreal Feria haircolor.  Obviously someone discovered photoshop and lost their ever loving mind.  The image is barely even recognizable as the famously beautiful Beyoncee Knowles.  It seems to me that altering her image to this degree actually defeats the purpose of attempting to leverage her celebrity status to market a product.  

Even though Beyonce is  super model beautiful, her image was still not acceptable to portray beauty by L’Oreal standards.  Womens bodies are routinely photoshopped and used in advertising, but this kind of “beautification” has a very specific basis in racism. Notice that along with a change in complexion her nose has been altered to appear more Caucasian.

As a woman and a feminist, I try to remove myself from the beauty as power syndrome, but realistically inhabiting the body that I do, in the society in which I reside, it is an impossibility to completely vanquish.  A male acquaintance of mine once thought to offer me a compliment, “you are beautiful for a black girl,” is what he said to me.  Another man told me, “I just don’t see you as beautiful but then I was never raised to see black women that way.” I believe that these statements are revelatory in that they  highlight which bodies are understood as beautiful and why. Black women are created as unfeminine, dark bodies in the maintenance of white female beauty, it is a binary that privileges one group while relegating another to invisibility.

When I see images like this, I understand how it is that even today black children can still show preference to a white doll over a black doll. The media and most other social institutions hold up models of black inferiority that no one would want to identify with. If a woman as attractive as Beyonce Knowles cannot be accepted as beautiful, what chance do other women who have not achieved super star status have of feeling validated in their femininity?

Throughout the years I have come to understand that my beauty, though different, is not less than. I have learned to love the black features that society has tried to create as savage or decidedly unfeminine. This translate to loving my dreadlocks which reach the middle of back, realizing that my fuller lips are indeed sensual and inviting to kiss.  I am woman and beautiful not because I fit the stereotypes but because I have created an understanding of beauty that allows for a more inclusive ideal.  Whiteness as a beauty standard excludes not only black women but all WOC, and it is lunacy as well as the pinnacle of self hate to worship that which you can never be.  So when you are tempted to scream at the moon and ask Ain’t I A Woman….answer with a resounding yes. Everything about you is beautiful and deserves affirmation.

Do not covet whiteness for it is self defeating.  Remember that when you search for an ideal that you cannot achieve, not only are you devaluing yourself, you are enriching someone through your own self depreciation.  How much money do black women spend annually trying to “tame” our hair so that it will appear Eurocentric? How much money is spent yearly on creams to lighten pigment, despite the fact that they lead to permanent damage?  Each dollar you spend in your futile attempt to become white, or emulate whiteness, makes you complicit in your own marginalization. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, and decolonize your mind.  Allow no one to profit by creating an insecurity where no should exist.   

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