Colorism and the Media


Please read the brief article about an  actress from the Hit Fox TV Show, Empire and her experience dealing with Colorism as well as an article on Viola Davis as a dark skinned actress. As always incorporate the readings, our discussions and refer to the content in this blog posts in your comments. Also see, the short film Yellow Fever which we viewed in class on Thursday

Yellow Fever

Empire’s Grace Gealey Says She Didn’t Experience Colorism Until She Came to the US

Viola Davis as You’ve Never Seen Her Before: Leading Lady!


13 thoughts on “Colorism and the Media

  1. Colorism occurs inside the black community from light skin vs dark skin, natural hair vs weave and outside the community in those ways plus many more. As manatu points out in her book darker complexions tend to be at the brut end. they tend to receive the most critiques and often are more hypersexualized then their light skin counterparts. case in point The Carmichael Show on NBC features a light skin main character who plays the girlfriend (her boyfriend is a darker complexion) while there is a dark skin supporting character. When comparing the two the light skin character is educated, soft spoken and abides by the law. Mean while her chocolate counter part is loud, obnoxious and has been known to commit a crime or two. the stark contrast in roles can also be compared in Eddie Murphey’s Coming to America where sisters Lisa and Patrice are both of different complexions and different personalities with Lisa playing the innocent sister and Patrice the jezebel.
    In the short film Yellow Fever the ideas of bleaching and hair came into play. both are just others ways colorism is portrayed. The idea of bleaching as I know it is a time consuming, daily task. In countries like Jamaica where one of there biggest artist has visibly changed from a chocolate tone to a pale white, yellowish color. he has made his own bleaching bar and endorses it in his music and videos. The concept of hair is such a big idea in the black culture Chris Rock even made a documentary about it, Good Hair. The topic of hair brings the topic of western beauty as the ideal standard of beauty. Black women and girls, especially dark skin girls are critiqued on their decision to wear both their natural hair or a weave. they are told natural hair is unacceptable to society while if the hair is straightened or place in a weave they are attempting to be “white”. Along with the makeup world new fascination with contouring, black women are being targeted to “create high cheek bones a structured jaw line and a defined nasal bridge” things they seemingly don’t have those features based solely because of their skin color.


    • Keanda, excellent observations about how colorism exist in different forms of media nearly thirty years about, like The Carmichael Show on NBC to Eddie Murphey’s Coming to America. The point of this class is to be able to learn about the stereotypes, identify them in the media and hopefully challenge them as well as produce new images/ideas of what and who black women really are. And you did that, especially in extending the discussion beyond skin to the challenges that hair and make up add to issues around Colorism. My only criticism of your comments is that you didnt put quotes on your Manatu reference and didnt incorporate the articles about Viola Davis and Empire’s Grace Gealey, which could have really added to your analysis since these two women were addressing their personal as well as professional prespective of colorism in Hollywood. Great job!


  2. Viola Davis talks about her obstacles she’s faced in the business she’s in. She says she has had some good roles but then in between she is cast very small insignificant loveless and business woman roles. Davis said she got stuck playing the mammy on several occasions. She talks about how excited she was to get her role on HTGAWM, it was the role she always wanted to play. Davis talks about how important is was for her character to show her vulnerabilities and that her character has struggles just like all other women, no matter how beautiful you have to come home at the end the day and take off your makeup. Grace Gealey reveals about a completely different way of thinking than how it is in America. Gealey grew up in a way that taught girls is doesn’t matter how dark or light your skin is, everyone comes from the same culture and same background. It was not until she came to America when she realized how significant it was for her to have light skin and how her opportunities changes and were different form other black women. The short film shows women who have bleached their skin white, and not even all of it but just what they could afford, their hands and face. This woman was just trying to make herself appear more beautiful to give herself a better shot at succeeding.
    Manatu discusses this beauty scale that these woman have faced. How darker woman have been perceived as ugly and unlovable where lighter skin woman are more beautiful and have this shot a better life because they are not so dark. I’ve seen colorism and discrimination first hand. I’ve heard people say things like ” oh she’s beautiful with her mixed skin…dark girls just aren’t as pretty…Mixed guys are super attractive” or I hear black girls saying that they wish their skin was lighter, even wish they were white because they would just have better opportunities in the world. You really don’t see many depictions of women with very dark skin on tv or in movies, and if you do they aren’t in leading roles or the main person on the news. NYC’s abc news caster, Sade, is a very beautiful light skinned black woman but it would probably be unlikely that we would see a dark woman featured the same way she is. It puts this very negative view on dark woman and is not good for young girls or anyone to see. We shouldn’t be making it seem like your not beautiful if your skin is dark, it sets people up to fail or feel like they could never be worthy.


    • Liv, the first have of your posting was more of an overview of the articles and video, Yellow Fever, while the 2nd half was what I was looking for which was beginning of critical analysis on Colorism. Your example of Sade Baderinwa is the beginning of what could have been a great analysis of how colorism exist in the media if you did a little researchon her. Sade is bi-racial and it would have been interesting to see if her skin color affected her rise as an anchor and reporter compared to other women of color and what bias, if any, she received as a black women. More connection to the readings, especially from the book could have provided more meat your your analysis. As an example, Manatu states, “Indeed, based on the European model of beauty, colorism, not racism has been the driving force in the beauty and feminine concepts.” This helps describe that despite Viola Davis’s success and talent she is not viewed with the same standards of beauty as Grace Gealey. And Grace’s beauty as well as Sade Baderinwa puts their looks far ahead of any perceived talent whether they as for it or not. Its the same issue the little girl struggles with in the film, Yellow Fever.


  3. Viola Davis talks about all of the problems she had been dealing with in the acting business. Most of the roles she was given in movies or TV shows was always the same and or the typical black roles in Hollywood. Before she got a leading role in HTGAWM most of the past roles she had, while good roles was more mammy and didn’t show what she could do as a lead actress. This was more typical to the face that she is a darker skinned black woman and because of this she fit more into the beauty scale and casting role of an older black woman who should be caring for others rather than holding a lead role.
    Even Grace Gealey had to deal with issues since moving to America. In her homeland she was always thought that girls no matter the skin color, or what culture they come from it doesn’t matter. Since moving to America she now has to deal with the issue of having light skin in Hollywood while dark skin actress have a far less chance of succeeding. Though because of this issue she struggles with the idea that based on skin color you are deemed worthy enough to be a specific character or not. I agree with this fact unless specifically casted, such as a black man acting the part of an Asian man.
    Lastly the beauty scale for dark skin women are simple, the lighter your skin tone is more beautiful than women of darker skin. Children now days would prefer to have lighter skin because they have been called ugly or if you were mixed you would be more beautiful. It does ruin the image of proud beautiful dark skin women when they are told that they need to have lighter skin or complexion if not they wouldn’t be considered for major roles or feeling like because of their skin tone their ugly and not beautiful. We see this in the short film Yellow Fever and how the young girl in the film wishes that she was whiter because the lighter skinned girls on TV were deemed more beautiful. This concept hurts because this scale of colorism is what shapes our society and draws the binary lines that most people cannot cross without losing a part of their self.


    • Good comments Liz and I appreciate your observations about the two articles relating to Viola Davis and Grace Gealey from Empire. I think the readings from Manatu would have been prefect here as well. As for example, she says “The darker the woman the further from the feminine beauty model she is. Thus, colorism – how light skinned a woman appears – the more feminine.” Your analysis on how colorism and children of color is spot on for the most part. Although, I dont think children prefer to have light skin but that its more a taught value that is ingrained from birth from your family, community as well as the media. Which makes me think that colorism and the beauty model is more dangerous than any of the other stereotypes we talked about is because its more ingrained in our culture.


  4. The Mulatto hypothesis- is the belief that an infusion of white blood uplifted blacks from their innate inferiority- privileged lighter-skinned black slaves, many in which were the child of the slave-owner. (Manatu p.88) Manatu talks about in chapter 1, Thomas Jefferson perception of what was beauty was based on what was femininity and physical beauty; light skin female slaves was valued for their exotic beauty. As for darker skin female slaves were seen as physical strong, and were neither perceived as femininity nor beautiful. The model of beauty has form into colorism, not racism, is a key factor of how we perceived beauty and feminine concepts. This separation of what dark and light skin African American women has been an ongoing cycle in which the dominate group use to enforce the precipitation of beauty. Through media you can see that light skin women are more feminine and can in the sense find love or even able to have a husband because their fair skin defines beauty. As dark skin in the media is seen as good to sleep with and not so to be as wife. Honestly, these thought of beauty in 2016 is very so much use into place. From hit show Empire, Grace Gealey stated she never really saw herself as a light skin black women until she move into the U.S; “It was something that people felt the need to point out. I guess maybe it’s a form of intra racism: I was discriminated against for being light-skinned and there were a lot of labels. Some people assumed that guys might like me more because of my complexion or that I had it easier in general.” Grace also mentions that back home there is no such colorism, because they all have an understand of begin all one and that they all come from different walks of life. I find that hard to believe because in the short film Yellow, the filmmaker Mukii explore how women will use lighting cream and perm their hair to become what that thought was beauty white skin. Despising their African roots, the short films even shown how the effect of whats beauty has on children. As her little cousin, describe that she desire coming to America so there she can be white.
    Manatu states “the importance of the media in the lives of children and the decrease of family time have had a major influence on children’s selection of role models.” (Manatu p.91) the beauty models affect children because in today society everything they see they believe. I know for me my role model was of brandy as she played Cinderella and had her own hit TV shows Moesha. I remember relating to brandy as an artist because we share the same hair styled and was near the same skin tone. Now that I’m a mother i don’t see as many shows that courage young girls of color to be proud of who there are. Disney has K.C undercover in which Zendaya is lead actress as her family works undercover superheroes. But yet Zendaya whose lead as KC is of light skin, her little sister is light skin, her father is dark-skin, brother is of darker-skin, and mother is light skin and also her bestirred is white. Colorism still plays a part in show where is there suppose to be of a positives influences, yet we can never see a darker-skin mother be played on hit tv shows like blackish. Even with Viola Davis begin lead in hit TV shows HTGAWM she still also uphold the dark-skin women who hold no virtual. She may or may have killed her husband; she had an affair with two other people. She not really stable at all, in my opinion but it is a mystery so I understand.


    • Ebony, great job in connecting the readings, articles and short film Yellow Fever. You noted that you didn’t think it was possible for Grace Gealey not to experience colorism in the Caribbean. But, we all experience colorism differently and every island sees race differently. I also think it depends greatly on how colonialized that island is/was. If there was a heavy influence of European or Western beliefs then yes, colorism and the beauty model probably had a major impact on how people of color saw themselves. Your quote from Manatu about how children see themselves in the media is a perfect example of how we internalize colorism. Your comments is also an example of how I feel Colorism is a bigger issue and problem than some of the other stereotypes we see in the media. The beauty model and colorism gets ingrained in our family, community, culture as well as the media. Its harder to fight internalized racism that external racism.


  5. The beauty model and colorism is this idea that the lighter the better. According to Manatu, “As curious as this phenomenon appears, so commonplace is this practice that on can observe many black men dismissing as a partner a beautiful dark-skinned young woman in favor of a far less attractive light-skinned black woman.” (Pg.90) It is this idea that light is beautiful and dark is not. In the show How to Get Away With Murder we see the main character Annalise go from a light-skin to dark-skin when she takes off her make-up. As the article by Amy Wallace on Violia Davis said, at the end of the day we all have to take off our make up. That scene shows how females make themselves lighter in order to be accepted and to been seen as pretty. This also connects to the short film Yellow Fever. In the film little girls had this idea in their mind that if they were light-skin then they would be pretty. We see this idea all the time when dark-skin models are lightened in photos. This gives society the idea that being dark-skin is not ok and being light-skin is the way to go. Also it gives society that in order to be successful you have to be light-skin. In class we talked about how the main girl in a video is always a light-skin girl. I never really noticed this until this weekend when I was watching music by many artists such as Chris Brown. Us as a society have this idea that light skin and straight hair is what is beautiful. I even hated my curly hair at one point and all i wanted to keep it straight. I think that we all have our doubts of our skin but society puts this idea in our head that one color, one race, one type is beautiful and everything else is not.


    • Stephanie, as I noted in Keanda’s reply, the overall goal of this class is to develop an awareness of these stereotypes and images in media. Everything you noted from the article on Viola Davis to How to Get Away with Murder to the short film Yellow Fever shows how devious Colorism is and how it sneaks into our consciousness. Your quote from Manatu is a perfect example of that as well as your examples of how we see certain women of color (light skin) as the lead in music videos. Your comments also reflect the personal affect colorism has, just as Viola Davis and Empire’s Grace Gealey experienced in the articles. I think Colorism a more devastating issue than all the stereoypes we talked about because it completely destroys the confidence and pysche of the person experiencing it. Great comments!


  6. Being a black male I see colorism all the time in my culture. It’s nothing new and with Grace from Empire this is nothing but a cultural shock. She’s from a island in the Caribbean where color is not divided especially if your all of color. Once she came here she sees that’s not how it plays out and sees how a person who has light skin complexion is being treated then those with a darker skin tone. In the book Manatu describes the idea of light skin people being look upon as better because of the simple fact during slavery time if a person was inside the house they would be better than people who worked in the fields. Closer to the white man and sometimes even being rape by them is why they have a light skin completion. You see it now is the media or music videos the light skin girls have a better part and more of an important role in this industry then darker skin women. It’s Sad that we have rasicm in our own culture but it’s what’s American and the media make out this way on why we allowed this to happen. I can’t even count on the times I heard ” light skin is the right skin ” or ” she’s pretty for a darkskin girl “. It really bothers me but hey that’s how society has become these days


    • David, this post shows you are building your analytical skills and working to make connections between the readings and the videos we are watching. Although, I am pretty sure that your reference of Manatu is not a direct quote from the book but more of a paraphrase of the discussion in class. Again, you really need do the assigned reading in the book as well as the other articles. I also see you didnt refer to the video, Yellow Fever, so I assume its safe to say you didnt watch it either. So, although I think you are making better connections, you still need to do the work!


  7. Colorism essentially is one of the most effective oppressive methods dating back to slavery. The fact that its impact is still relevant and to some degree even stronger today is evidence of the effectiveness of the divide and conquer method. Though colorism could be referenced in all cultures, I say that it is solely meant for the Black community in that we come in such extremely different shades and we have used these differences to internally categorize each other. According to Manatu’s chapter four on the Cultural Impact of Film’s Imaging on Black Women, during slavery “light-skinned black female slaves were valued for their exotic beauty” (p 88). This exotic lens that are on light-skinned black females allows them some form of femininity whereas dark-skinned black female slaves “were equated with physical strength” (p 88) but no femininity nor beauty. This goes back to the notion that the more dark skinned you are the stronger you are perceived and with the sexism ideology men are supposed to be the strongest ones. So dark skinned black men are more acceptable; however, dark skinned black women reject that model because colorism is a mix of racism and sexism and being a dark-skinned black women does not fit in the mold for what a women is supposed to be so they become marginalized and essentially othered.
    The video we watched in class where students discussed the lauding of Lupita who is a dark-skinned black women “IT” girl brings interesting ideas in that why is Lupita showered constantly for her beauty in an almost surprised manner. Is white Hollywood so surprised that a dark-skinned black women could be so beautiful? It’s the fact that black beauty, especially dark-skinned black women beauty is not normalized but rather demoralized so when we see beautiful specifically dark-skinned black women through a feminine and beauty lens it’s something to grasp. However, this comes with the issue in that Lupita and other dark-skinned black women who are considered white Hollywood “beautiful” their beauty becomes fetishized and we see time in and time again the ‘jungle fever’ representation occurring. This is why it is important not only to normalize black beauty of all shades in the media, but to also normalize it internally because though the whole colorism scheme was developed and institutionalized by white men during slavery, it was also carried out and continued to be facilitated in the Black community.


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