Is Blackface Less Offensive if Worn by a ‘Black’ Woman?


Beyonce appears on the cover and in an editorial spread in L’Officiel’s 90th anniversary issue. Her shoot honors the memory of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. In some of the photos Beyonce appears in “blackface” – that is her face is covered with a coat of makeup that makes her skin appear much darker. The technique always causes controversy, due to an unsavory history of whites entertaining each other by poking fun at black people. As I’ve said before, it’s not really a big deal in my book. People get in a huff over it when it’s really of no import – especially so when the intention of the artists (photog, makeup, model, stylist, etc) involved is clearly not malicious. In fact, the technique can really be quite beautiful.

When Lara Stone posed in with dark makeup for Vogue, for example, the results were striking – in a good way. Of course, instead of recognizing the beauty of the photos many people were up in arms about how “offensive” it was. Pretty silly. Beyonce’s spread is less successful, as the styling falls considerably short of paying proper homage to African fashion or to Fela Kuti. However, the pictures are nice. The ripples of controversy are smaller than they were for Lara Stone and one wonders whether it’s because Beyonce is considered to be a black woman. It’s also a wonder why those upset by her artistic makeup are not offended by her bleached hair.

Photos: Vain Style

3 Responses to “Is Blackface Less Offensive if Worn by a ‘Black’ Woman?”

  1. It’s trendy to be offended.
    I think it’s actually a compliment for folks to emulate dark skin as dark skin is beautiful too.
    Also, those that notice the dark face first and are ‘offended’ by it, probably don’t notice the fabric and cut of a dress or ask themselves ‘Just who designed that outfit!?’

    hence, those people don’t matter.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, said: If u r offended by Beyonce's "blackface" r u also offended by her blond hair? […]

  3. Linzeeb4 says:

    I think Beyoncé’s race has something to do with it sure, but I believe it more has to do with the intent. While there are always going to be a few belonging to the overly politically-correct army who are offended, the intent here was to honor. She wasn’t painted darker just to contrast etc. I cannot blame any one for being offended by the use of blackface, there was a scandal recently about a Filipino magazine using dark makeup on background models, while one without was featured front and center with the caption ‘stepping out of the shadows’. clearly, they were not trying to celebrate the beauty of deep complexions, as I believe beyonce is here.

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