I stumbled upon a blog post on CLAW’S BLOG about this very topic a few weeks ago, in which I learned about a recent skin bleaching celebrity…I was aware of such bleached faces like SAMMY SOSA, but now…

I was mortified to find VYBZ KARTEL donning a new shade of skin tone.

I don’t quite know where this trend of bleaching skin began, but I became aware of it as a youth. I was first introduced to the strange phenomenon while hanging out with Jamaican friends and listening to reggae tunes like “DEM A BLEACH” (the song talks about this very act of bleaching your skin). I remember thinking, “why on earth would you EVER bleach your skin?”. I loved having brown skin and I couldn’t understand. In fact, I always wanted my skin darker so I would douse myself in baby oil and lay in the sun every Summer (until I learned skin cancer doesn’t discriminate).

As I got older, I started to realize skin lightening was occurring in many places; Asia, India, Africa, even the United States. Sometimes I see little Asian women in Chinatown with umbrellas in the Summer, shielding them from tanning sun rays.

Maybe it had always existed like those other age-old beautifying treatments, like ear candling or threading eyebrows? Was it freedom to choose or the subconscious effects of racism put in place by a previous majority rule? I mean – those underlying notions in the world that lighter eyes, lighter skin, good hair are “better” couldn’t have just evolved by themselves.

I can understand wanting to try something new and change your  look, but I’ve never been interested in cosmetic attempts to fit in. Maybe I’m not as liberal on the topic as most people – I also think that cosmetic surgery is unnecessary, unless in the case of reconstructing or for health reasons.

*photo by VASHTIE (from an Indian market in NYC)


We all watched the progression of a very black Michael Jackson become much lighter. His condition of Vitiligo had apparently forced him to use skin bleach in order to create an even skin tone. If all that was true, I could understand why someone would want to bleach their skin. Skin disfigurements corrected by lightening seemed sensible, but what about the situations where people just wanted to be lighter? Does it come from a self-hatred or is it just our 21st Century option to enhance our outer appearance?

VYBZ gave a statement to VIBE (as peeped on MISSINFO’S BLOG):

“I’m my own man, and as such I do my own thing. When black women stop straightening their hair and wearing wigs and weaves, when white women stop getting lip and butt injections and implants, when bald men stop getting hair transplants, and when people stop getting nose jobs and cosmetic surgery then I’ll stop using the ‘cakesoap’ and we’ll all live naturally ever after. Until then F**k you all.”

I guess, he has a point. “To Each Their Own”…especially if we’re all trying to “perfect” our appearance in some way or another. Maybe if he likes the way he looks, what does it matter what I (or you) think…

I believe everyone has the right to choose, but I also believe there is beauty in flaws. It’s what makes us. I mean, you don’t confuse FRIDA KAHLO’S  face (mustache and unibrow) for anyone but her. Think about when 80’s screen queen of such flicks like “DIRTY DANCING”, Jennifer Grey, had her prominent nose surgically enhanced. No one could recognize her anymore and she seemingly faded from the spotlight.


I leave you with this speech from the late and great, MALCOLM X:

“Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?
Who taught you to hate the color of your skin, to such extent that you bleach to get like the white man?
Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose, and the shape of your lips?
Who taught you to hate
yourself, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”

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