What Has Beauty Become?

Advertisements featuring an African American women... And the difference in the lightness of her skin

Advertisements featuring African American women– And the difference in the lightness of their skin

Beauty is a commonly sought after ideal in society.  People have come to know that in order to be considered beautiful and special by society, people have to like looking at you.  Otherwise, you can pretty much forget about enjoying the same advantages as a stereotypically “beautiful” person: a good husband, a good job, and financial security.

We’ve all seen Beyoncé in ads for various things, as well on the stage singing her music; she’s a well-known icon.  We all know her skin color to be a little lighter than many African American women, but never as light as portrayed in the above ad.  Looking at the picture above, you can see that her skin is so light, it looks almost like she is a white woman with a good tan, rather than the African American woman with whom she has been known to culturally identify.  The woman in the ad next to her, from a date presumably earlier, is shown in all of her “black beauty,” clearly without any retouching at all.  Putting these pictures side by side clearly displays the extreme differences in skin color, and even hairstyle between the two women.

Since when has the world, especially the US, become that African American women need to become more like white women?  It has started with things like face lightener, and now has gone to retouching photos to make African American women seem lighter.  What has caused this shift in thinking that somehow darker skinned women are not beautiful just the way they are, and must alter their appearance to “fit in” more with their white counterparts?  You can see, looking at the picture above, that if you did not know who Beyoncé was, you would think that she is a white woman.  From her hair to her skin color, she exhibits all the positive traits of beauty, for a white woman.  Her cultural identity is clearly lost in this photo.

Chris Rock, an African American comedian, made a movie that spoke to this fact, titled Good Hair.  Like the title suggests, it was a documentary about black women in the United States, and what they do to their hair to make it look more natural, more like a white woman’s hair.  This movie is just another example of what a black woman will do to make her hair, or some other feature, look like a white woman’s, to be more accepted in society.  The trailer for this film, attached below, in several instances, mentions how black women want their hair to look more natural and flowing, more like a white woman’s hair and less like the poufy, Afro that has been given to them by Mother Nature.


African American perception of beauty has changed drastically over time.  It has gone from being proud of your blackness, celebrating your dark skin, an ideal synonymous with the Black Power movement, to trying to accommodate the white ideals of beauty into your looks.  Women will literally torture themselves to look “more white.”  But the question remains: is it worth it?


Delicious11. “Re: Perceptions of Beauty and Initial Relations between African and African American Women.” Lipstick Alley. N.p., 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.lipstickalley.com/f373/perceptions-beauty-initial-relations-between-african-african-american-women-455630/index6.html>.

Good Hair ft. Chris Rock- HD Official Trailer. YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m-4qxz08So>.

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