It’s not just Lil’ Kim. A global industry pushes white beauty standards on women of color.


Lil’ Kim has continually been too big for containers.

The unique Queen Bee rose to prominence in the mid and late Nineties as the sole female member of notorious B.I.G.’s Junior M.A.F.I.A. with her first solo album, Hard Middle; she proved she ought to rap except hip-hop’s Boy’s club while unapologetically embracing her sexuality, beginning the doors for artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj — although Minaj and Lil’ Kim do not get along — nowadays.

Despite her undeniable imprint in the music and entertainment industry, a few have observed that Lil’ Kim looks almost unrecognizable these days. In a recent Instagram submission, Kim’s once-brown pores and skin appear to be notably lighter, and her functions have been altered.

Lil’ Kim has denied beauty surgical procedure rumors for years. But the current picture that surfaced on social media in overdue April has Lil’ Kim as the center of a broader discussion about the pressures girls of color face to attain Eurocentric standards of beauty through practices like pores and skin lightening while with lethal consequences.

Skin bleaching suggests how much our society values white beauty standards

Lil’ Kim’s frame image troubles are not any secret. In a 2000 interview with Newsweek, she stated:

I’ve low, and that I continually have. Guys always cheated on me with girls who were European-searching. You already know, the long-hair kind. Sincerely beautiful ladies that left me questioning, ‘How can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black lady wasn’t suitable enough.

However, there may be more to the story than Lil’ Kim’s insecurities. Her evolving appearance personifies the insecurities of many ladies of coloration, dwelling in a society that values Eurocentric splendor requirements. For a few, meaning trying to lighten one’s skin.

“Focusing on the occasional excessive celebrity examples of skin bleaching lets us consider these issues as uncommon, as excessive, as unusual, as opposed to a decreased level of steady messages approximately white requirements of splendor,” Mills University sociology professor Margaret Hunter told Vox.

Lil’ Kim isn’t the primary black superstar rumored to lighten their pores and skin. Retired Chicago Cubs player Sammy Sosa admitted in 2010 that he became an extended-time consumer skin lightening cream after a photograph surfaced searching “ghost-like” at the 2009 Latin Grammies. Michael Jackson became additionally rumored to have bleached his pores and skin — although it became complicated with the aid of his vitiligo analysis.

But, North Carolina’s vital college political and technological know-how professor Yaba Blay referred to that skin lightening grabs our attention because of the critical component skin plays in racial identities.

“Pores and skin bleaching and lightening the pores and skin will become the [thing] that grabs our interest because pores and skin color’s such an unapologetic mark of someone’s race,” she said. “To exchange that, or attempt to change that, the automatic inference and assumption are that you hate yourself, and you do not want to be your race, without always enticing what that shade has come to represent in our society.”

Fairer, light pores and skin have long been a status image that can be traced as some distance returned as skin lightening’s origins in mid-sixteenth-century Europe. The term “redneck” comes from associations made among pores and skin coloration and class. Racism, most effective, in addition, complicates this by retaining human beings of color to a white popular of beauty they no longer innately possess.

Hunter mentioned that comparisons are now and then made between people of color bleaching their skin and white humans tanning to show no person is glad about the way they look. But tanning is an exception that proves that white beauty requirements rule.

“While white humans tan, they may no longer alter their whiteness,” Hunter said. “Nobody is announcing they’re now not white, and they’re now not trying to be a person of color. They’re looking to be a certain form of white man or woman: a white character on vacation who has a lively lifestyle.”

The price of lighter and darker pores and skin shade adjustments relying on a person’s race, almost exclusively denigrating girls of shade like Lil’ Kim for features that might be glorified on white women.


International locations have banned pores and skin-lighteners for their unfavorable fitness effects.

Ache is splendor. However, skin bleaching tends to be one of the extra dangerous regimens.

“I think one of the most commonplace misconceptions about pores and skin bleaching is that it is secure and similar to other cosmetic approaches,” Hunter said. “And I assume that most of the general public health researchers have proven that it sincerely isn’t always very secure and it can be sincerely negative, not simply in your skin but in your different structures on your frame.”

Skin-lightening sellers aim to forestall the body from producing melanin. In the 19th century, white ladies consumed toxic arsenic complexion wafers to make their skin fade.

Researchers have pointed out the damaging results of hydroquinone, a chemical determined in skin lightening and bleaching marketers that could cause itchy, burning pores and skin. One of the other side effects of this chemical (which is likewise used to increase photographs) is, satirically, skin darkening.
It's not just Lil' Kim. A global industry pushes white beauty standards on women of color. 1
Different side outcomes of pores and skin bleaching generally range from scabs to skin cancers.

A few governments have spoken back by way of outlawing products with hydroquinone. The E.U. banned pores and skin-lightening merchandise that incorporated the chemical in 2001. Japan and Australia have similar prohibitions. Merchandise that contains hydroquinone is not prohibited in the U.S.

In 2014, the California Department of Public Fitness cautioned against using mercury creams and other agents in a few skin-lightening products. The state mainly warned against merchandise imported from other nations because of the lack of global consensus that doesn’t necessarily fit U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements.

Côte d’Ivoire’s health ministry banned all skin-lightening creams for the remaining year, warning that they’d have the capacity to cause most cancers.

The skin-bleaching enterprise exploits racist beauty standards for income.

Despite pores and skin lightening’s harmful physical consequences, society’s skewed beauty requirements are the foundation of a worthwhile global marketplace.

“So we are going to factor arms at, chastise, decide people who use the goods while not having a communique about the folks who make the products?” poses Blay. “It’s so easy to pay attention to the man or woman with our figuring out the approaches wherein we are all participating in the system, and the society that even encourages, and even makes it an option, for her to lighten her skin.”

There are economic incentives for skin bleaching. For instance, a 2007 look determined that lighter-skinned immigrants in the U.S. earned eight to 15 percent more than their darker-skinned counterparts.

These incentives target people of color and inform them of the popularity of pores and skin-bleaching products in specific areas of the world.

B.B.C. News mentioned in 2010 that India’s pores and skin-whitening cream industry is expanding by 18 percent every 12 months and is valued at $432 million. In 2011, the World Fitness Organization stated that 77 percent of ladies in Nigeria used pores and skin-lightening merchandise regularly, as did forty percent of women in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea.

International industry analysts valued the pores and skin-lightening enterprise at $10 billion in 2015.

“We’re already clear about the dangers of those products, but then the query will become which bodies depend?” Blay requested.

Don’t ladies of color have a “desire” to lighten their pores and skin? It is not that simple.

Given the social and economic pressures women of color face around the world and the dangers skin bleaching poses to their physical well-being, what does this imply for ladies of color like Lil’ Kim, who wants to be whoever they need to be?

Is this truly a reminder of individual expression? For both Hunter and Blay, the solution is complex.

“I would not need to mention black women can not have blonde hair, black ladies can not have hair or long hair immediately, or immediately noses,” Hunter told Vox. “I feel like we would need for black girls what we desire for all of us, and this is inventive freedom in creating their appearance and patterns.”

However, for Blay, looking at black women as having equal freedom as their friends does not imply they have that freedom inside their draw close.

“Now, it is not simple; it is a tough question. However, it’s far a risky question because I suppose it is something we should assume through,” Blay said. “It looks like humans of color do not have — within a racist society, inside a white-supremacist society, within a society that was founded literally upon their backs — the “freedom” to be whoever we want to be.”

Ultimately, whatever Lil’ Kim’s motivations for her transformation, her social media reflects the harmful approaches race plays in beauty politics and the fees many girls pay.