Beyonce was asked to do an "African Queen" inspired spread that also included a tribute to Fela Kuti [a Nigerian musician and human rights activist], which involved her painting her face darker. Okay, so one minute she's getting criticized for lightening her skin, and the next she's getting criticized for having her face painted darker for a magazine shoot? Initially, I didn't clearly see a problem with the shoot until I did a little research and found this:
"Blackface, a technique that involved applying burnt cork, greasepaint, or shoepolish to darken the skin, has its roots in the 1883 mistrel show where a white performer, Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, impersonated a black crippled slave he said he knew named Jim Crow. According to Black-face.com “Performers defended slavery by presenting denigrating stereotypes of Blacks who supposedly needed the civilizing influence of slavery to keep them in check. Black slaves were portrayed as happy and content with their lot in life and fearful of life outside of the plantation.” Thus reveals the social crime behind such practices. The orginal minstrel shows saw their end around 1919 but portrayals in blackface carried through unto the 1950′s and even found their way onto London television until the late 1970′s."
We've got to do better. Yes Beyoncé may have indeed been ignorant of how offensive this would be, but can we put all of the blame on her? I, myself, am ashamed of my own ignorance of this practice, as I'm sure a lot of us younger people are. But what about the people behind L'Officiel that put together this shoot and actually did understand the deep history of it, and just didn't care or think to consider how the readers would feel about it?
As of late, there have been other magazine spreads that have included White models with painted brown faces, just like back when Black people weren't allowed to perform on stage so White people took their place with painted faces. The industry keeps trying to depict it as art/expression, but why can't they just find a Black model to do the shoot? Have we progressed at all?
Mrs. Knowles-Carter has yet to speak out about everything and I'm really wondering whether she is going to accept full responsibility for this offense or is she going to claim it to be "just art" and act as if people are "living in the past" and shouldn't feel offended.
Anyways, the remainder of the shoot was gorgeous as expected. Check out some of the pics below: