Wed | Jun 3, 2020

Mark Wignall | Skin colour as slick marketing ploy

Published:Wednesday | October 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dancehall artiste Spice posted this light-skinned version of herself on Instagram yesterday.

Last Tuesday evening I was in the company of two young men, probably in their 20s, both bleachers, and a shopkeeper and her teenaged daughter.

One of the young men was wearing a hood, ostensibly to shield the still incomplete lightening of his delicate facial skin from the dangerous ultra-violet rays of the sun. He had the more regular bleaching look, tending to an early change to Caucasian skin colour.

The other fellow, a huskier one with an ample face, was not so lucky. His face was 'lightened' to the colour of newly blanched lobster. I wasn't going to probe into the reasons they bleached.

Some people get very defensive about it and are prepared to do so with physical aggression. It is almost as if they know that they have broken a major cultural norm and are ashamed to know they did it purely for reasons of vanity and troubling inner complexes.




I wanted to know what people were saying about Jamaican entertainer Spice appearing in what could be newly bleached skin, but what is more likely a cosmetic lightening at the skin's surface as one grand marketing ploy.

"Mi nuh know what shi really up to, but right now, shi have everybody a talk bout har. Shi smart," one said. His friend fully supported his point, but also thinks it is a genuine bleaching.

"Shi have har career an shi educated. Shi a create dis controversy fi boost har career and over di next two weeks, a jus she dem a guh talk bout."

"She has said that some of her fans were telling her that shi too black, suh she is basically trolling them and using it as a career-boosting gimmick," I said.

In South Africa, when the late Nelson Mandela used his gigantic global presence to fight for the liberation of his black people, his ultimate freedom and rise to political leader of South Africa, it did little to radically change the economic imbalances which existed in the days of apartheid.

Worse, there are genuine concerns among doctors there that many black people, including entertainers, when faced with the revelation that the creams they are using cause cancer, often respond with a resignation that a perception of better looks is better than good health and long life. Senegal has a similar problem with beautiful black-skinned girls opting for skin bleaching.




When Vybz Kartel was the ultimate don of dancehall music and still a free man, he asserted that he had no duty to be anyone's role model. He bleached his skin, it was heavily tattooed and much of the lyrics which passed his lips were not fit for public airplay. The sex act needed no nuance in lyrics; it had to be raw and near offensive in its delivery. The spouting of violence through his lyrics was plain and direct.

But Kartel was right. It had to be left up to parents to marshal their children through these mixed messages of life. Black skin is not good enough. Successful black men tend to marry women with lighter complexions. Sex is something bordering on violence and violence is just another way of standing up for one's self.

I wish Spice all the best and she had long proven in her collaborations with Kartel that she did not wish to be hobbled with any 'role model' designation.

Unfortunately, that will not hinder black girls from staring at her and wanting to be like her as she loudly proclaims that black skin must be covered over with a whiter shade of pale.

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