So Sasha Fierce is rocking the burnt cork, darky look in the March issue of French magazine, L’Officiel Paris and of course she’s got folks’ Vicky Secrets all tied-up in a knotty bunch. The photo—tribal markings, outfit and all—was styled in honor of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. Personally, I found the photo spread more boring and in bad taste than offensive, but then again it’s gonna take a lot more than Fashion Fair’s Ebony Brown on Bey’s browbone to get me pissed. That’s just how I’m wired. What I did find so friggin ignant, rude and ill was the editorial, which stated:
Far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce, the beauty posed for the magazine… A return to her African roots, as you can see on the picture, on which her face was voluntarily darkened.
The idea that returning to her “African roots” is synonymous with Sash being unglamorous is really dumb. Clearly these folks are still linking Africa to the image of the Black savage hence the tribal markings, leopard print coat and bone necklace that Beyonce dons. It’s sad that in 2011 this kind of thinking still exists never mind the fact that Beyonce is looking quite glammed up in the photos and she didn’t need to darken her skin to represent Afrobeat, Nigerians or the Motherland! Did Beyonce ever see the play Fela, which she incidentally helped to produce and see the varying brown beauties that portrayed Fela’s wives? Have any of the editors at L’Officiel Paris seen an Egyptian? I know the media has most of the world thinking Egypt is in the Middle East, but it’s a country in the North Eastern region of AFRICA. And let’s keep it real, “a return to her African roots” would have Miss Creole on some New Orleans slave plantation working her bootyliciousness off on getting those sugar cane bushels to massa. Now baby, that’s far from being glamorous. And what is this line about her face being “voluntarily darkened”? Are models, singers and everyday folk being snatched up from their post-racial snuggies and having there faces involuntarily darkened?
And where were all you ranters last year when British singer Estelle and pop-rapper Will.i.am went much harder with their blackfaces than Bey Bey ever did in L’Officiel Paris? Will.i.am looked crazier than Nicki Minaj at the 2010 MTV VMA’s and you know that’s really hard to do.
Estelle appeared in her video “Freak” with a do-rag, fuschia lips and darkened skin. Now that there kinda tapped my offended nerve. When questioned about her controversial image homegrrrl responded: “I’m Black, so how do I do black face? I refuse to defend (my look).”
So then I have to ask: Is blackface on a Black face still blackface?
Europeans seem to be oblivious or on some talk-to-the-hand ish when it comes to blackface because they constantly feature both Black and White models with dark facial makeup. Then again the history of blackface is an American one so is blackface within a European context cool? Were you offended by the beauty spread in the now famous Black (Italian) Vogue issue which featured this photo or did you see it as a kind of performative art?
And look at Sasha Gaye-Hunt (Sasha Fierce ain’t the first Sasha to pose as a darky) do her thing in this issue of i-D magazine that was published in 2007. Is she promoting the stereotype of the dandified coon?
But yes, I do remember a few people blowing a gasket when Lara Stone appeared with her face darkened in French Vogue back in 2009.
Was Vogue playing around with racial stereotypes and being insensitive pricks like Ted Danson and Whoopi back at their Friars Club roast in 1993?
I wonder what Bert Williams would say about all of this blackface backlash? Back in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s Williams, who voluntarily performed in blackface, was the highest paid African-American entertainer of his day. He was the only Black member of the Ziegfeld Follies when he joined them in 1910 and upon his passing Booker T. Washington said this about him: “He has done more for our race than I have. He has smiled his way into people’s hearts; I have been obliged to fight my way.”
So what say you? Blackface– cool ish or foolish?