This week was definitely a win for famous black women in the limelight. Beyonce landed the cover of Time Magazine’s “Most Influential People” issue and Lupita Nyong’o scored the cover of People Magazine after being deemed the “Most Beautiful” female celebrity in the game.
Sure, we can look at this with a cynical eye and go, “Wow, big whoop, some rich women won a couple of popularity contests.” But the significance of these two very different black women being put on such a widespread pedestal is something that I, as a black woman, definitely embrace.
When it comes to Beyonce, people either love her, hate her, or think she’s part of the Illuminati or something. But whether you like her or not, you’d be a fool to deny the fact that Beyonce’s unqiue brand of female empowerment, individuality and talent has made a worldwide impact.
I mean, take a look at this video of a French audience singing and dancing to “Drunk In Love” at a Drake concert. It gives me straight up chills:
To see all of that come out of an awesome black woman is so important!
With all that said, Lupita being considered “Most Beautiful” by People Magazine is especially moving. Let’s not beat around the bush here: Lupita has dark skin. It’s beautiful and I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t have a single pore on her face, but her complexion is not one that is exactly praised in our society. People can go on about how awful they feel about their pale skin in the wintertime as much as they want, but that’s nowhere near comparable to the struggles that dark skinned women have to deal with. Because we’re still living in a backwards world, dark skin is never considered as beautiful as pale skin.
Young black girls grow up comparing each others skin tone and remarking on who is the darkest. Dark skinned girls don’t grow up seeing many characters on TV, in movies or magazines who look like them. When there is a black character appearing in a program or a model strutting their stuff in a fashion editorial, they are usually either racially ambiguous or aren’t any darker than a cup of milky coffee. Seriously, think about how many black celebrities we consider beautiful have dark skin. Let me guess: You can’t name too many.
Lupita herself has spoken in length about her struggles to see herself and her skin color as beautiful. That’s why she looked up to models like Alek Wek, a model with a similarly dark complexion, for inspiration. And people say that representation doesn’t matter. Pfft, think again!
That’s why it’s so important that Lupita is rocking the cover of a major publication. Little black girls everywhere will see this cover when they accompany their parents to the grocery store. Black teen girls will see this image blow up on their Twitter feeds. Black women will look at that cover and think about how much they wish that they could see something like this when they were growing up. Others might just see another beautiful face, but for us it’s an acknowledgement of something we’ve had to learn to tell ourselves: Our skin color is beautiful, too.
Admittedly, I’m naturally a little suspicious of people exotifying Lupita’s beauty. It’s as if nobody has ever seen a beautiful, dark skinned woman before! So until these same people who are fawning over Lupita can also see the beauty in dark skinned women who aren’t famous with slight frames, I’m not convinced that society as a whole really made a huge leap forward in seeing the beauty of dark complexions. And let’s not get it twisted: The world we live in is still incredibly racist. Nevertheless, it’s great when a magazine projects an image of beauty that largely defies the status quo.
All in all, this was a great week for black, female representation in a big way. We’ll see if the media keeps it up, but I’m not holding my breath.
What do you think of Beyonce and Lupita’s respective magazine covers? Have you dealt with feeling insecure about having dark skin? Tell us in the comments!