From Lupita's People cover to Pharrell's 'Marilyn Monroe': Dark skinned beauty fad sparks backlash
Pharrell’s “Marilyn Monroe” cover is visually stunning. The chocolate face against that fire engine red was striking and super fierce. Plus, the model herself is gorgeous.
Then I saw the cover of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful” issue with Lupita Nyong’o, and my soul did the running man because: YES!!!
She has taken the world by storm, and she stays giving me black velvet moonlight tea for my fever. Lupita is perpetually looking like she’s unable to flaw.
So why are people upset at both Pharrell and People magazine right now? Because they feel like both parties are pandering to disgruntled dark girls, and they think it’s cheap and condescending. I understand one more than the other.
I get why people are mad at Pharrell, and I’m actually surprised that I’m not. I’ve certainly told people how many seats to occupy for less obvious things. I see all the points that people are making about the name of the song and the cover. Why didn’t he call it something else like “Eartha Kitt” or “Dorothy Dandridge?”
Also, his choice to use a woman who is chocolate is being seen as an attempt aims to get folks to shut up about the cover of his GIRL album. On some “FINE, GINA! I will marry you. Are you happy now?” thing. I see it, and I acknowledge the frustration of my sisthrens.
Even so, I’m not upset. Maybe I give Skateboard P a longer rope than others because I love the song “Happy” and the fact that he refuses to age. Does he wake up and bathe in unicorn tears and towel off with phoenix feathers? I just want him to stop being selfish and tell us about the voodoo he do (shout out to Lauryn) and share the secrets to looking 25 for 45 years.
Pharrell using this beautiful, dark model for the cover of this song doesn’t upset me, and it’s because I do want to think he’s taking a direction to fix what people spoke about in the past. I wasn’t upset at the cover of GIRL either because, in spite of it being somewhat monochromatic, I’ve never gotten “I hate dark black women” vibes from that dude in particular.
However, could this Marilyn Monroe cover seem a bit cheap? Sure. Would he have done it had he not received backlash from that first cover? Not sure.
Honestly, I see this as a can’t win for losing situation. Had he ignored critics, he’d really be showing that he had no damns to give about the feelings of those who felt shafted by his lack of mahogany. And this time, he blatantly placed a chocolate lady on the cover, and folks feel like he’s trolling. If we’re mad at the cover with the two white women and one ethnically ambiguous biracial woman, then we need to know what we want him to do to make it right.
Now, as for the folks who are throwing hateration in Lupita’s dancerie for being on the cover of People, I want them to please tuck in their salty. It boggles my mind that some people are really questioning her presence on that cover and whether it’s some sort of pity move by the magazine’s team. It reminds me of when she won the Academy Award for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave and folks were upset because she won for playing a slave.
Why can’t we celebrate this moment with the purest motives and joy? I want us to be able to lay these burdens down even for a hot millisecond, because we carry this complex so close to the chest that it gives me heartburn.
Do we think we’re not good enough that when we land on a major magazine cover we need to be cynical about how we got there? I know beauty is subjective, but it is undeniable that Lupita has been shutting down red carpets for the past six months with her style, and she belongs on that list and on that cover. This isn’t some pandering move.
You don’t have to be giving Pharrell or People magazine pats on the back. However, I don’t think we should be so dismissive of the presence of these two women who happen to be dark on these mediums. I think we’re victims of the singular story, and we’re carrying that with us and questioning our own worthiness to belong.
Right now, we don’t see enough of ourselves (black people) in media (TV, magazine, radio), so we place a lot of weight on those who are (and on shows we appear on). Every artist is carrying the hopes and dreams of our tomorrows, and every misstep is placed on a mental list of how wrong they are.
So I’m gonna sit this battle out. Maybe I’ll tap in for the next one. But on this, I just want us to enjoy the small victory and say WERKKK!