Letters to the Rich and Famous: Dear Beyonce’, Do You Know the Origins of Blackface?

Letters to the Rich and Famous: Dear Beyonce’, Do You Know the Origins of Blackface?

Dear Beyoncé,

I was pretty shocked when I saw this photo:

I have been a fan of most of your work.  Deja Vu is my JAM! As a matter of fact thanks to that song my vanity plate on my car is going to read "808", not for the area code in Hawaii, but because of that base line.

You are beautiful, talented, rich  and an iconic black woman—and you're not even 30 yet!

But I wonder how far you will go for another magazine cover or headline.  It's Black History month, and your submission to be portrayed in Blackface for fashion, for art,  in Europe or wherever is a clear sign that you are suffering a severe disconnect. reports:

Beyonce graces the March issue of L'Officiel Paris, but it's a controversial photo of the superstar inside the French fashion magazine that's getting the most attention.

The glossy is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and Beyonce marks the occasion with an homage to Nigerian musician and humanitarian Fela Kuti; Beyonce's husband, Jay-Z, is a producer on the acclaimed Broadway musical "Fela!," based on the icon's life, music and courageous defiance against government corruption. In a statement (via Jezebel), L'Officiel describes the Feli-inspired photo of Beyonce — sporting blackface, tribal paint and a dress designed by her mom — as a "return to her African roots, as you can see on the picture, on which her face was voluntarily darkened."

FYI– the origins of blackface, from Black History:

“Blackface” is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, and is used to make an actor look like a Black person, but in a very exaggerated way. It is the countenance of an iconic, racist American archetype—that of the “darky,” as Blacks were often called in the past. Blackface also refers to a genre of musical and comedic theatrical presentation in which blackface makeup is worn. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork, and later greasepaint or shoe polish, to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips. They’d often wear woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, Black artists also performed in blackface.

Initially, blackface performers were part of traveling troupes who performed in minstrel shows. In addition to music and dance, minstrel shows featured comical skits in which performers portrayed buffoonish, lazy, superstitious Black characters who were cowardly and/or lascivious. These characters stole, lied pathologically and mangled the English language. Such troupes in the early days of minstrelsy were all male, so cross-dressing White men also played Black women making these characters often look either unappealingly and grotesquely mannish, in the matronly, “mammy” mold, or portrayed them as highly sexually provocative. At the time, the stage also featured comic stereotypes of conniving, Jewish, cheap Scotsmen, drunken Irishmen, gullible rural folk, ignorant White southerners and the like.

Surprisingly, by 1840, Black performers also were performing in blackface makeup. Frederick Douglass wrote in 1849 about one such troupe, Gavitt's Original Ethiopian Serenaders: "It is something to be gained when the colored man in any form can appear before a White audience." Nonetheless, Douglass generally abhorred blackface and was one of the first people to write against the institution of blackface minstrelsy, condemning it as racist in nature, with inauthentic, northern, White origins.

Read more…

Check out Tavis Smiley's radio show on featuring producer Roy Hurst who explores the roots of blackface minstrelry, and how the legacy of the act still haunts some forms of black popular entertainment today.  Click here.

You are a role model to black women, young women around the world—heck, even old women like me love ya.  But along with fame comes accountability. To be fair,  I have cheered on your charity work, your good deeds, but your collar yanked right about now.

Don't checker your career with an unnecessary, degrading "artistic" choices.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

3 Responses to Letters to the Rich and Famous: Dear Beyonce’, Do You Know the Origins of Blackface?

  1. Ron Eldridge February 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Awesome post Sista. I totally agree with you on this and am hopeful that Bey reads this one. Good stuff!!!!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Letters to the Rich and Famous: Dear Beyonce', Do You Know the Origins of Blackface? | Blinging Beauty --

  3. Blaqisbaq February 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Im confused because though she is in black face & she has tribal paint too. I don’t understand the message & if it’s strictly for “fashion”, this is ridiculous.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login