Background: Beyonce has posed in “blackface” for L’Officiel Paris magazine. The African-themed photo shoot pays tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti and is featured in the mag’s March 2011 issue, which also celebrates their 90th anniversary.
While “blackface” has always been controversial, the magazine stands by its decision, saying:
“The Fashion magazine is about to celebrate its 90th birthday. To celebrate this anniversary, the festivities start with the March issue, with Beyoncé on the cover. She agreed to pose for an incredible fashion shoot, with the theme of African Queen, paying a tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti. Far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce, the beauty posed for the magazine with amazing fashion designers clothes, but also in a dress created by her mother. [It is] A return to her African roots, as you can see on the picture, on which her face was voluntarily darkened. All the pictures will be available in the collector edition, on sell at the end of this month.”
Unfortunately I am compelled add my voice to the ‘Beyonce in Blackface’ hullabaloo. I have never minced words when it comes to Ms. Knowles. I think she is a mindless idiot, although a very pretty one, who has had the fortune of having an ambitious father and really good genes. That, in a nutshell, has been the key to her success. Is she a great singer? No. Is she an excellent entertainer? If you like women clad exclusively in leotards, weaves and high heels – absolutely.
The intent of this article is not to berate Bey. In my opinion, she can’t be held accountable for the poor decisions and/or series of fortunate and unfortunate events that have occurred during her career (such as routine photo finishing to make her look lighter and thinner). Those things are the fault of her handlers that permit them to happen. And once again, her handlers have permitted an absolute MESS to occur. The melee that has ensued has Black people in their right minds shaking their heads in disbelief and White folk scratching their heads. The question? Who the heck thought it was a good idea to put Beyonce in Blackface? (And is something wrong with that?)
A simple search on the question will generate hundreds of articles (many just recycled with no real thought invested into them) on the topic. Of course, Beyonce and L’Oreal have defended the move; she by saying that Fela Kuti inspired her newest album and that this was a tribute to his work, and L’Oreal by defending it as “high art” that Beyonce voluntarily agreed to participate in. Again, Beyonce can’t be held accountable for this decision to participate because she’s what? A mindless pawn.
For anyone who is not familiar with Fela, there are 3 things you might want to know about him: He was a humanitarian, an amazing musician and a freak…and I mean a freaky freak. Since no one can ever accuse Beyonce of possessing anything resembling modesty, I suppose it is alright for her to align herself with someone who’s reputation as a sexual freak eclipsed his reputation as a humanitarian. Again, no one expects her to know better.
My larger issue with this whole thing is not the Beyonce was in blackface, but rather that L’Oreal failed to seize an amazing opportunity to distinguish itself as a beauty brand.
How incredible would it have been for them to do some leg work and due diligence and search out – oh I don’t know – an actual NIGERIAN model who would have the double added benefits of actually being African while sharing Kuti’s nationality? L’Oreal didn’t even have to go far. I typed ‘Nigerian model’ into Google yesterday. Heh! Guess what I found? A whole crop of Nigerian models, all of them beautiful! Oh? And what’s this? One of them was Ms. World? And she was the FIRST African woman to claim the title in the history of the competition. Her name? Agbani Darego.
A have a gander at her.
Doesn’t she look far more regal and elegant with her natural mahogany hue than this idiot in mud colored paint?
Big flop L’Oreal; Big flop!
As Black woman, I am not offended by L’Oreal’s choice to take an overexposed, highly commercialized entertainer to sell their little fonky magazine. That’s certainly their prerogative. As an African woman, however, I am offended that they would take said entertainer, throw some poorly mixed brown paint on her face (and only her face mind you – we don’t want the world thinking she’s ALL black. That would just be unacceptable), drape her in cheetah skin and a bone necklace, and have us all believe that this is an homage to “African Queens” and to Beyonce’s “African roots”. Oh spare me. If you shook Beyonce’s family tree right now, 600 Irish people would fall out and smother the 1 Black dangling by his toes when they all hit the ground.
In my research, African queens have NEVER worn animal skin. The kings, yes, but not women. At the very least, L’Oreal could have done some anthropological research to make their ad campaign look somewhat intelligent and well thought out…but they failed to do that too. If this is the effort they put into their product development, I shudder to think what’s plastering the lips of millions of women the world over.
This is why I wear Revlon.