Coffee Rhetoric: Color Complex
Showing posts with label Color Complex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Color Complex. Show all posts

March 19, 2014

There's Something About Lupita

Why is it controversial to see a dark-skinned black actress achieve stardom? 



Lupita Nyong’o… the Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised, Yale educated actress and filmmaker took Hollywood and popular culture by storm, after her breakout role as Patsey in the film adaptation of the memoir and slave narrative, 12 Years A Slave. Making the red carpet rounds at various press junkets, social events, and awards shows, Lupita’s gracious demeanor and impeccable sense of style has taken people’s breath away. The media seems hooked and denizens of social media drool whenever images of her swathed in colorful couture, looking radiant, hit the internet.
Lupita is poised to become a bona fide Hollywood A-lister, and her growing popularity symbolizes the type of universality not often afforded to women and girls —especially working actresses — who exist in skin like hers and whose brand of black isn't 'exotic other'
And while most people, particularly black women, are finally glad to see the likes of Lupita Nyong’o take center stage to much fanfare, others in the black community expressed a myriad of dissenting opinions ranging from confusion and indifference, to flat-out unimpressed and insulting.

August 17, 2012

(Mis)Casting Call: The Erasure of Nina Simone's Image

Nina Simone: pioneer, influential, volatile, classical music genius, revolutionary, regal and every bit the High Priestess of Soul.

If anybody is worthy of having her story brought to the big screen for posterity, it would, and should, most assuredly be Nina. Despite having to overcome racism and colorism, Nina left a legacy of music and activism that continues to resonate with her fans, lifelong and new.  

When it was announced in 2010 that a Nina Simone biopic—based on a script by TV writer, Cynthia Mort—was in development and that singer, Mary J. Blige was slated to play her, the public's interest was piqued, though some (including myself) were a bit skeptical about whether Mary had the range and right look to portray such a dynamic and complex figure.  And while Mary J. Blige emotes a similar feeling of consciousness about love and heartbreak in her own music, she doesn't necessarily harness the same sense of social awareness Nina did.  Nonetheless, some of us stayed abreast of the project, which was slated to start filming last year. Alas, it was stalled by a series of setbacks that delayed production and Mary J. Blige dropped out of the film, reportedly, due to funding. 

Folks were left to ponder who would play Nina, and bloggers and fans campaigned for the Black actresses they thought were better suited for the role – including Viola Davis, Lauryn Hill, India Arie and Adepero Oduye, who starred in the Dee Rees film, Pariah – so many were left with feelings of confusion and dismay when Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana was announced as Mary J. Blige’s replacement. With Saldana on-board to play Nina, suddenly the film’s financial setbacks were resolved and filming picked up momentum.

While Zoe Saldana is undoubtedly a capable actress and has amassed an impressive acting resume, people are understandably agitated and, of course, the ubiquitous online petition started circulating via Change.org, and chief among the petition's grievances:

"Getting light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history."

 And it’s a very valid gripe that raises some important questions...

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May 08, 2012

Documentary Short: 'Shadeism' - A Global Look at Colorism



Bleached Kwaito singer, Mshoza 
"Shadeism" is a short 2010 documentary, written and directed by up-and-coming Canadian filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah (a young woman of South East Asian descent), and it details intra-racial discrimination experienced by young women of the Caribbean, South East Asian, and African Diasporas, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of having dark skin and the Colorism they face within their respective communities.

We often hear narratives from people who've experienced Colorism within Black-American communities, but Shadeism takes a more global look at the issue and its impact on young women of color. Intra-racial discrimination tends to be a hot-button issue whenever the topic is broached. It ruffles people's feathers because, speaking within the context of my own (Black-American) community, folks deny the prevalence of the issue, and the dialogue never extends beyond the superficial claim of it merely being a self-esteem issue. Colorism is institutional and it's structural. Darker-skinned people (women especially) are denied jobs, are subject to erroneous racial stereotypes, and are railroaded by the prison industrial complex.  

It's a destructive message that's notoriously perpetuated by the media, fashion and entertainment industries, and the cult of celebrity. Even casting calls for car commercials require that
only light-skinned Blacks need apply.

In India and various parts of the Caribbean and Africa, the skin-lightening cream industry continues to thrive, as people seek quick-and-easy ways to become the fairest one of all. 


Shadeism from refuge productions on Vimeo.

February 26, 2012

Coffee Rhetoric Redux-- If You're Black, Get Back!



In the wake of the latest foolery courtesy of a St. Louis-based promotional company, involving an ill-conceived marketing idea, themed: "Battle of the Complexions" pitting dark, brown, and lighter complected Black women against one another, I'm re-posting an essay I did in August, 2011 about Shadeism or what's also known as Colorism; which is still very much an issue in the Black-- (and other minority)-- communities, despite denials to the contrary. 
In perhaps, an equally as foolish attempt at insulting the collective public's intelligence, the promotional company responsible for the event released a convoluted apology (below), chalking up the idea as a tribute to Black History Month... 
MACK TV WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF OUR CONCEPT FOR THIS PARTY...ITS NOT TO DEGRADE WOMEN OR DIVIDE SKIN COLORS. ITS SIMPLY TO SEE WHICH COMPLEXION OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN RACE REPRESENTS THE MOST (lightskinned, caramel-brown, or darkskinned) AS A WHOLE , MALE & FEMALE! I CAN SEE THE MISUNDERSTANDING WITH OUR PROMO.....WE COULD HAVE USED A BETTER CHOICE OF WORDS....WE DID NOT MEAN TO OFFEND THE OFFENDED
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO WE MADE A PARTY THEME DEDICATED TO OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN CROWD. THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS LOVING THIS PARTY BECAUSE HERE'S THE FIRST TIME EVER YOU CAN COME OUT & BE PROUD THAT YOU ARE BLACK!! REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKIN TONE SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION & MISLEADING INFO.
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO LETS BE PROUD OF THE SKIN WE'RE IN!! REPRESENT YOUR COMPLEXION! ...



If You're Black, Get Back!  
Originally posted August 8th, 2011

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne’s verse in Every Girl in the World, in which he expresses his desire for “a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon” has.

Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos.
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women… that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: “Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching … making them feel BLACK is ugly…”

Additionally, Actor/Singer Tyrese also felt the backlash of frustrated darker-skinned women, confused as to why his video was seemingly devoid of obviously Black women. “So I’m getting tweets … why aren’t any “Black Women” in your video.  I had a 2 days audition.[Sic]  I welcomed ALL women and went with the BEST.” he tweeted exasperatedly.

When framed within the context of entertainers and their sex lives, Colorism is undeniable. I acknowledge that it thrives within this realm and influences the aesthetic of many Black men, however, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why Black women continue to look to entertainers and athletes to validate their worth and personal brand of beauty. I understand wanting to see more honest and diverse examples of Black beauty in music videos; But when do we stop holding rappers responsible for how we essentially should view ourselves? When do we stop allowing Lil Wayne’s preference for a “long-haired, thick Redbone” to bother us and realize that when Black men (many of whom are also darker-complexioned) punctuate their preferences with disdain for dark women, it’s their deep-seated issues… and has nothing to do with us? When some Black men reach the pinnacle of financial success, they get to dictate who keeps their mattress warm and comfy… and for some, darker skin just doesn’t suffice.  As frustrating as their self-loathing is, that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, when I look in the mirror, I’m not wondering whether heavily tattooed rappers with platinum dental work and several children by several different women, think I’m too dark to be considered attractive. Black men who look down on women for having darker complexions… have soul searching to do. Black women who agonize over and doubt themselves on account of a troubled individual’s superficiality… have soul searching to do.

This is definitely not an attempt to trivialize the impact of Colorism… My hope is that Black women with darker complexions move away from seeking acceptance in empty, cold places and hold themselves in high regard, despite the odds stacked against them.
Prolific film director Bill Duke eloquently explores the issue in this 9-minute trailer for his documentary,  
Dark Girls





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