Beyoncé has made waves in the past when L’Oréal lightened the diva’s complexion in cosmetic ads, but now the superstar finds herself amid fresh controversy after darkening her skin.
As a celebration of its 90th anniversary, French style magazine L’Officiel Paris is featuring the 29-year-old on its cover as a tribute to Nigerian human rights activist and musician Fela Kuti.
(Word on the street is that Beyoncé recently saw “Fela!” on Broadway, which tells the story of the Nigerian legend, and was so inspired, she cites it as a moving force behind her upcoming album. Husband Jay-Z was one of the show’s producers.)
In what the magazine calls, “a return to her African roots,” Beyoncé’s face “was voluntarily darkened” for the shoot.
L’Officiel Paris adds, “Far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce, the beauty posed for the magazine with amazing fashion designers’ clothes, but also in a dress created by her mother … all the pictures will be available in the collector edition, on sale at the end of this month.”
Not surprisingly, debate has erupted all over the Net, arguing whether the shoot is an artistic tribute to a beloved hero or a racially tinged insensitivity by a star looking to cash in on a top-selling magazine cover.
"While this is not blackface in the traditional sense, it still raises many questions. Why didn’t she go whole-hog and have her body painted, too? Is this yet another case of how much fashion loves blackface? Is it still blackface when the woman is black? Is it still offensive when it’s meant as a tribute?” wondered Dodai Stewart of Jezebel.
Yet others view the shoot as a piece of art.
"Sometimes people are way too sensitive. Black stars are made to look lighter on television everyday with makeup and lighting and no one complains. Whites get tans. Models do photo shoots where they have to portray a race other than their own. So what is the problem with this? It’s a beautiful artistic creation. I love it, and yes, I am a dark-skinned black girl,” says one reader at TheUrbanDaily.com.