Impossibly Beautiful

Part Nineteen in an ongoing series…

Most of the previous entries in this series have focused on body size/shape and age, with women (and the occasional man) subjected to Photoshopping making them appear thinner and/or younger, but this is the first entry we've had on digital colorism, in which the skin of a WOC is lightened as a so-called "enhancement."

Beyoncé Knowles candid shot (L) and in L'Oréal Paris advert (R)

Snarks Cosmo at Photoshop Disasters: "The great thing about L'Oréal's caucasianizing and plasticizing of Beyonce is the way that they will probably proudly point to it as an example of their inclusiveness and general political correctness." Too true to be funny.

Preferencing whiteness is as inherently arbitrary, and just as aggressively offensive, as preferencing thinness and youth; it's also just as insidious and no less pervasive (except insofar as white women are already preferenced for advertising in the first place, which is a whole other issue).

Advertisers routinely mess with white women's skin coloring—making them tanner, making them paler—depending on what they're modeling to sell, but there's not remotely the same cultural context for differing tones of "white" skin that there is for differing hues of "non-white" skin, nor are white women who want to be darker- or lighter-skinned generally regarded as trying to distance themselves from their ethnicity.

The complexity of race and color and beauty in this diverse but biased culture means that white models and models of color simply can't be treated (in all senses of the word) in the same way.

And, aside from all that, I'm not at all sure why on earth L'Oréal would hire a beautiful black woman only to undermine her blackness. Beyoncé didn't get to be one of the most famous women in the world because she was ashamed of her appearance, and it's just every shade (pun intended) of wrong that L'Oréal would behave as if she should be—or as if they are.

[Thanks to Shaker Renee for the original heads-up on this item, and to Shaker Ruth of All Evil for the link to Photoshop Disasters. Impossibly Beautiful: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen.]

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