Wednesday, August 13, 2008

C.Y.I.W.G. Case Study: Did L'Oreal Upgrade Beyoncé?!?

A minor kerfuffle is taking place on the web the streets right now surrounding a current ad campaign featuring singer/actress(?) Beyoncé Knowles[1]. Apparently the ad is for some sorta hair lightening product, and Bey's hair ain't the only thing that's lighter.

It isn't what it looks like - or so L'Oréal would like readers to believe.

The cosmetics colossus yesterday denied it whitewashed Beyoncé Knowles, although she looked inexplicably light-skinned in Elle magazine's two-page L'Oréal Paris ad for its hair-highlighting product.

"It is categorically untrue that L'Oréal Paris altered Ms. Knowles' features or skin tone in the campaign for Féria hair color," the company snorted in a statement.

The diva's rep insisted a bleached Beyoncé is still recognizable.

"There is no doubt that anyone seeing that ad will know that it is Beyoncé," said publicist Alan Nierob.
I agree, it might have taken me a moment, but I would have eventually figured out that this was Beyoncé. Still, it does beg the question of exactly why someone felt the need to take a relatively lightskinnded woman and make her even lighter, and blonder for that matter. Are they subliminally making Beyoncé more "pretty" or at the very least, appropriate for their product?

This isn't the first (nor last) time this has happened of course. In my casual TeeVee viewing, even I've noticed "ethnic models" like Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, that chick off Ugly Betty, Tyra Banks[2], Gabrielle Union, and even Queen Latifah seemingly lose melanin when placed in ads, especially when alongside traditionally "pretty" (read: white, thin, and blond) models. It's messed up, but I'm also assuming these sisters go into this knowing it's gonna happen. These companies are seldom, if ever marketing their products exclusively to women of color. So, it's fair to assume some racial trickery could happen, namely because they want to celebrate some superficial notion of "diversity", yet not alienate their core customer base (ie: white women). I would suspect that this is why Beyoncé hasn't come out with some objection herself. She was in on it the whole time. Ditzy as she may appear, she clearly knows the game, and the game is to get pizzaid.

On the flipside, come the freak on! What the ham sammich is Beyoncé doing hawkin' hair coloring anyway? Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it even possible to dye a lace front wig? I'm obviously no expert on women's hair, but I think not. My guess is, she prolly just gets some lighter tracks stitched in hair, rather than dying what she's "got". I wonder if L'Oreal has considered how dumb if is to have a person who sports a horse mane selling hair dye. Seriously, that's like Ron Harper being the spokesman for ToastMasters. Would you buy condoms from Evander Holyfield? Singing lessons from Ashanti? Would you hire Billy Joel as your chauffeur? Prolly not.

Peep Bey a decade ago.

And this year.

I've heard of "aging well", but who the hell ages into an entirely different ethnicity? I'm just sayin'.

Didn't she switch her style to those ridonculous looking bouffant blondish wigs, get a boob job, and lose weight years ago to boost her "mainstream image"? So, while I feel sorry that she's being exploited, getting all up in arms seems at bit silly when you consider the fact that she's a willing participant already anyway. Yeah, she's being objectified. But if she's not smart enough (or too smart) to be insulted by L'Oreal, why should we be? This isn't too far removed from that infamous LeBron James Vogue cover. I thought he looked like King Kong. He didn't. Same for women who shake their butts in music videos. Are they being objectified? Sure. Do they care? Apparently not, because they just wanna get paid (or attention).

So, to repeat, if the objectee (I know that's not a word, roll with me) is too dumb to know they're being objectified, why should we give a crap? Nobody's being forced into chattel slavery here. It's called a free market system. No harm, no foul. End of story.

This is a big cluster all around, but unfortunately, it takes me back to my favorite adage: when you don't control your own stuff, you're gonna have to compromise.

Question: Do you think L'Oreal intentionally lightened Beyoncé's skin? If so, what message were they trying to convey? Do you notice this sorta of "brightening" with other ads featuring "ethnic" models? Is it possible to dye a lace front wig?


[1] Is that still her last name? Does she even use a last name?

[2] Speakin' of which, man, what skin tone is Tyra? She used to be my complexion. Now, on her show, she appears to be some really strange, mustard beige hue. How is that even possible? It really, really confusing.

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