A Generation Of Chameleons.
Since I was a youngin’ I’ve been captivated by the bright lights of the pop world. Staring out at me from the TV, I was hooked by the make-up, racy outfits, suggestive dance moves and the beauty of my favourite female icons. I would mimic their moves, change my hairstyle and maybe even my attitude. But I overlooked one aspect when it came to mimicking their appearance; my skin colour. Though it’s been around for years, skin-whitening has never been so popular, with the global market for bleaching products projected to reach to $19.8 billion dollars by 2018.
By now you will have probably heard rumours regarding Beyonce’s change in skin colour over the years. A photo for the cover her album ‘4’ in 2011 caused controversy due to the noticeable change in skin colour, something that was later put down to lighting. In 2008, an allegation was made towards L’Oreal for ‘whitewashing’ the star in one of their campaigns. Critics claimed they had digitally lightened her skin, which could have the effect of making darker-skinned black girls ashamed of how they look. L’Oreal denied the pictures had been altered in such a way and Beyonce has never spoken on the topic. However, it has been alleged that her father Matthew Knowles had encouraged her to use skin- whitening products in the early days of Destiny’s Child.
Other black celebrities that have been picked up for the noticeable change in skin colour throughout the years include Vybz Cartel, Lil Kim, Tamar Braxton and of course, Michael Jackson. Vybz Cartel has openly admitted that he lightens his skin using a type of ‘cake soap AKA blue soap’, even pushing forward his very own brand of soap. Sales for the soap in Jamaica rocketed when Vybz claimed it lightened the skin. However, Vybz does defend his beauty regime and explains that he sees lightening your skin as no different to straightening your hair or getting a tan. He states, “When black women stop straightening their hair and wearing wigs and weaves, when white women stop getting lip and butt injections and implants … then I’ll stop using the ‘cake soap’ and we’ll all live naturally ever after.”
And it’s not just celebrities supporting the trend. Skin- whitening has never been so popular in certain parts of Africa, with a recent increase in women even bleaching their children’s skin to supposedly make them appear more attractive as they grow up. This is despite the fact skin-lightening products contain dangerous toxic substances that can lead to kidney failure, diabetes and even death. Sure, skin-lightening has been around for quite some time now, but new crazes and ways of changing your skin colour have never been so widely available.
Unfortunately, skin-lightening isn’t the only concern in these times of ethnic appropriation, as other cultures also get wrapped up in thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Caucasian men and women who desire a darker skin tone are spraying themselves with chemicals, burning their skin using harmful sunbeds and even using the latest ‘tanning technology’, getting lethal tanning injections or ingesting tanning pills which dye you from the inside out. Europe is currently experiencing a boom in cosmetic surgeries and skin-altering products, with young females currently idolising blow-up doll-like celebrities such as the Kardashians. Using Botox for plumper, more exotic lips has never been so popular; with the younger generations able to purchase an injection for around £50 in some nail salons. It will come as a shock to no one that the trend for a larger derriere has reached its peak, causing a trend for women in both the US and UK to go as far as ass injections to get that J. Lo behind. Long gone are the days of padded bras being deemed risqué. Go into most womenswear stores today and you’ll find gel-padded pants for a rounder bum, waist-trainers that prohibit your breathing whilst exercising (shown to not work in the long term, by the way) and many other body shaping undergarments, which are essentially used to disguise your natural form.
There are now so many different types of fillers and treatments, it’s actually shocking to think any female can feel good about themselves without having at least three different surgeries. If it makes you look more unnatural and less like your true self, the average female (and some males) want to hear about it.
Read the full article in the Spring Summer 2015 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy a copy here.
Words by Alice Razack
Illustrations by Edd Leigh