Beauty Model and Colorism


Continuing our discussion on the Beauty Model and Colorism; how does colorism affect men, black men in particular? How do men form opinions about black women based on the images created in the media and how do you think black women see themselves.  As an example, earlier this year an Univision TV Host was fired for comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to “Planet of the Apes.” Feel free to use music videos, TV shows and films as example. Please read the Univision article and two articles about Viola Davis’ challenges in Hollywood as a dark skinned actress. Please incorporate the articles and the readings about the Beauty Model and Colorism into your comments.


19 thoughts on “Beauty Model and Colorism

  1. Colorism By Raifis Rodriguez

    Colorism affects men in a very prejudice and negative way. There is a lot of stereotyping being shown in the media: movies, shows, series, and commercials. Since they are very young, black children, also spend vast amounts of time viewing media images (Cosby, 1994). Those images send them subliminally messages that white girls. Mend tend to see light skin women as feminine while dark skin women are just there for sexual pleasure. White women are seen as the intellectual romantic tool and black women as a sexual tool to men. That makes white women more desirable to pursue a romantic and stable relationship.

    Something that really caught my attention was the poster for the movie “Baggage Claim”, released in 2013 and directed by David E. Talbert. The poster features five black men and four black women. All but one of the male actors have very dark skin while the women are a little bit light. They are not as black as the men. That is weird and I think that cannot be a simple casualty.

    Sometimes I wonder is Zoe Saldana is hired by Hollywood filmmakers because only of her talent or because she kind of fit the “standard” of black females in films. She is Hispanic but she looks like most of those black women in films. She even looks like those women in the “Baggage Claim” poster. One thing is for sure, -Latinas- not being white, men often places these women in the “other” category of women, and it is these women’s shared “otherness” which works in many black males’ favor. White women seem to appeal to so many black males. In fact the number of black men who are marrying white women is increasing.

    In the article published by the New York Times, it is stated that Viola Davis is known for her meticulous preparation. She spent four months studying for her eight minutes in “Doubt.” For “The Help,” she imagined Aibileen’s childhood, her aspirations and even her love life. That clearly reflects what Denzel Washington told to his daughter, who is attending NYU School of acting. “I tell my daughter: ‘You’re black, you’re a woman, and you’re dark skinned at that. So you have to be a triple, quadruple threat…. Look at Viola Davis. That’s who you want to be. You want to be her. Forget about the little pretty girls….’”. Washington is telling his daughter that for her to make it like Viola Davis, she was to work much harder than other girls…maybe light skin girls. I mean, I see a lot of young white actresses who does not have any talent and they keep getting roles in movies. Kristen Stewart and Megan Fox are two great examples.

    Finally I would like to address the Univision incident with Rodner Figueroa. Obviously Univision fired Mr. Figueroa without good cause. Figueroa said that Michelle Obama looked like one of those apes from “Planet of the Apes” with the makeup that she was wearing. He criticized the makeup, he did not criticize her. I think all of these stereotypes are ridiculous. We are in 2015, things should not be like the way they are in the media industry. The way men see and degrade black women is not right. The way men treat white women in the other hand, should be equal for the others.

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    • Raifis, you did an excellent job connecting the articles on Viola Davis and the class discussion. I’m not sure what reading that first quote came from in the readings. I also would have liked to see one or two more quotes. Please note what section your quotes are coming from. You use of Baggage Claim is a great example of not only the Beauty Model but also of Colorism. Would the film got made or was as successful, if the lead actress was a darker skinned actress like Viola Davis instead of Paula Patton. I think its also interesting that you referenced Zoe Saldana who had her own interesting reverse issue of Colorism. There was a lot of backlash that she was used for a film about Nina Simone who was a popular black singer during the 60’s & 70’s. There was concern because Zoe is much lighter thank Nina and isnt a singer. I’m sure this was an issue many actresses of her complexion rarely experience but I think its a reflection of audiences wanting to see the full spectrum of black womanhood. Lastly, I partially disagree with you regards in Rodner Figueroa, as reporter he either knew or should have known the consequences of comparing the 1st lady to an Ape even if he was just referring to her makeup. I dont think he should have been fired but there had to be some sort of fall out to address the severity of his comments.


  2. Brittany Milan
    October 19, 2015

    African American communities, woman in particular, are often victims of Colorism. Colorism is when people of a darker skin tone are discriminated against. This can be advertised in many different ways but is most often shown through media such as TV shows, films, and music videos. Colorism affects men, but black men in particular, in a variety of different ways.

    African American men tend to believe that white woman are more valued than black woman. This is explained in Norma Manatu’s article “Beauty Model – Colorism/Racism.” In this article, she explained how black teenage boys are fed these messages through media images. White woman hold a prominent presence in media, making them seem more important, and more sought after, than African American woman are. Because of such images and subliminal messages, black men often seek after white woman.

    Men form opinions about black women based on the images created in the media. White woman are portrayed as feminine, where as black woman are portrayed as masculine. Black woman are also portrayed as oversexed. These images are shown throughout media and shape and mold men’s views of African American woman. These portrayals often shape the way African American women view themselves.

    African American women tend to see themselves in a differently due to the images that are created towards black woman in the media. Many African American women also believe that in order to be beautiful, they must be white. This is shown in a variety of ways, but one of the biggest ways is in connection to skin bleaching. Many African American women have turned to skin bleaching products in order to “become” white. This is most probably due to the
    medias perception as white woman being more “beautiful” and “sought after” than black woman.

    In conclusion, media is a large influence in how different races are viewed. In this case, the media plays a big role on how men view African American woman versus White woman, and how those African American women view themselves. Even African American men fall victim to viewing African American woman differently due to the way the media depicts them. This is a shame because no woman should feel inferior to another woman due to skin color. The media needs to start sending more positive messages when it pertains to the race of woman.


    • Brittany, you did a great job in incorporating the reading to your comments. I would have liked to see you use some film and TV clips or scenes from music videos to build your argument/comments. Also, you missed an opportunity to talk about the articles on Viola Davis which addresses around the Beauty model and Colorism. Overall, I think you did a good job in connecting the dots. You are on the right track, just dig a little deeper for the next post. As an example, you felt that the media needs to do a better jobs in addressing colorism. I think you could of found examples where the media is attempting to do a better job. Both, Scandal and How To Get Away from Murder have brown to dark skin women in lead roles. The characters are not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.


  3. Colorism is used in the media in a very negative way. Women of darker skin town are seen in a very negative way. They are usually the ghetto girl or the whore. That makes it difficult for darker skin women to pass certain barriers. In the recent movie, “Straight Outta Compton”, they divided the female cast based on skin tones. The lighter skinned females played the better roles, while the darker skin towns were not given them. Even in music videos today, you hardly see dark skinned females. Black rappers always used white, spanish or light skinned girls in their videos because they “Look Better” and “More Exotic” then dark skinned females. This has made men look at darker skinned woman differently. As a dark skinned females, Ive personally felt some of this colorism first hand. Ive worked as a bar tender in a few urban night clubs. Hispanic men as well as black men did not even want to order drinks from me because I am a dark skinned female. The media has got to change because it completely effects the public.


    • Jenai, I appreciate your personal experience in relations to the posting but feel your comments would have a bigger impact if you quoted the readings and articles on Viola Davis. In addition, you didn’t talk about how colorism is viewed in the media. Your mention of the film, Straight out of Compton is no different than what we talked about in class. You can go deeper but you have to do the work which is read the articles and do a little research


  4. Colorism has been a controversy subject due to the fact how media makes it seems that not all women , who is dark chocolate complexion is as beautiful a light dark skin girl. If there is a beautiful chocolate complexion women then they use the term ” she’s beautiful for a dark girl ” these type of comment become offensive for certain people.

    I watch a lot of the Univision, the host made a comment about Michelle Obama comparing her to the Planet of Apes, which it was obviously wrong but I think he made it as a joke to be silly, which unfortunately got him fired. I am sure he didn’t mean any harm. If he would of made that comment towards a white person , I don’t think anyone would care but the fact how media is always making such offense to dark skin folks. People are starting to have their guards up and feel they are being racist towards them.

    Black men have this image that is better to date a white female then a black women whom they think they have the characteristic of a mad women, whore or very sexual. Films and the media always label them as these type of characteristics. Even when it comes to music video , they potray black female in a negative mannerism.


    • Janyll, you stated that you believe colorism has been a controversial subject because of the media but don’t refer to any media to support your point. But according to our readings and discussion, colorism has long been an issue possible since slavery but has been made worse due to the media. In addition, despite whether it was a joke or not, the reporter from Univision was wrong for his comments. As a public figure he has a responsibility to his audience. His comments automatically becomes part of the problem in promoting colorism as oppose to addressing it! Lastly, you didn’t read or address the articles about Viola Davis or the readings in your comments. Or note a film, TV show or music video as part of your comments in relations to the beauty model. Please do so in future postings.


  5. Colorism affects men in more than a few ways, our pop culture is dominated by images of women with European features thus making them the standard of beauty. This standard crosses racial lines; both minority and non-minority groups tend to identify women who look closer to those of European decent as more beautiful than those who don’t. “From a larger sociological perspective, studies by Keith & Herring (1991), Bond & Cash (1992), and Taylor (1993) find that European racial features including skin color, nose, and hair texture are generally preferred among both minority and majority groups, perceptual outcomes being that higher social acceptance levels result.” While it is clear that these standards come from a long history of European dominance; in a lot of ways they have been internalized and are enforced within minority communities. Black males who are very much victimized by colorism seem to be more influenced by the standard representation of beauty and will often make choose romantic partners based in part on this influence.

    While there is nothing at all wrong with interracial marriage or any type of marriage between consenting adults. People tend to group non-whites into the category “people of color” this makes sense considering Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans aren’t considered white. However black men tend to show the effects of colorism when choosing a partner in non-interracial marriage. “if the woman a black man chooses to marry is herself black, studies reveal that she must generally be as light-skinned or lighter-skinned than the black male suitor himself (Bond & Cash, 1992; Robinson & Ward, 1995).” In it of itself I’d argue that their is nothing wrong with the way anyone chooses to couple up this particular trend does seem to correlate with the on screen preference of light skinned women over dark. While no one can say that film is the cause of this discrepancy of who “deserves” love and who doesn’t; it would stand to reason that there is some influence that comes from mass media.

    The affects are not unique to men or black men. Film has constantly both intentionally and non-intentionally signaled black women that lighter skin women are more attractive. Take Halle Berry, she is the first African American woman to win an academy award and often gets roles that few black women get because she is considered to be very beautiful. While many black women are limited to hypersexualized or mammy roles, she has played the romantic heroine many times in her career. One of our readings points out that black women seldom play a witch like role due to the fact that to fit that mold the women tend to have power Halle Berry actually has. In Xmen (2000) an it’s subsequent sequels she plays Storm; who has the ability to control the weather. Her abilities make her incredibly powerful and by the end of the original trilogy, she would eventually end up as the leader of the team.

    Now while Halle’s success in both the critically acclaimed and commercial realm does show progress for black women on screen her experience is not shared by all black women. “Even when I get the fried-chicken special of the day, I have to dig into it like it’s filet mignon,” – Viola Davis. Viola Davis is widely considered to be a very talented actress. However she has consistently been limited in her options for roles in ways that white women and light-skinned black women have not. In her thirty year career she has played a crack addicted mother and many Mammy type roles. Despite these being limited to marginal roles she has received two Oscar nominations and eventually caught her big break in the series “How to Get Away With Murder.” While in many ways Davis’s success can be considered inspirational for any struggling actress especially one that doesn’t fit the European beauty model. It is fair to point out that she may have struggled more because many don’t see her as a woman who fits “the classical beauty model.


    • Excellent observations Sean! You did your research, great references to the readings as well as the Viola Davis articles. In addition, you made a great compare/contrast to the roles Halle Berry and Viola Davis have performed. What is interesting is they are both women of equal age, talent, experience and beauty but in terms of the roles they have received Halle Berry has had an opportunity to portray a wider variety of roles. What is also interesting is Berry has been more sexualized as a lighter skinned actress than Davis. Davis has been historically viewed as the Mammy and not equal in the Beauty model. In regards to your overall comments, the only thing you missed was referencing the Univision reporter. I would have liked to hear your thoughts since you made some really interesting points in relations to men and colorism and their view of women of color. Overall, great job!


  6. Colorism affects black men in particular by the media manipulating what is the standards of beauty. Many of the posters,movies, television shows, and other forms of media use colorism to define what men should find attractive. Light or fair skinned women dominate what’s considered to be attractive while attractive dark skinned women are considered to be beautiful for a “black girl”. Black men internalize the privilege that light skinned women have over dark skinned girls such as being more visible in media, having anglo features, and the benefits of having less discrimination. I believe it also affects how black men feel about themselves in terms of discrimination and seeks the opportunity to challenge insecurities by dating and having children with any type of woman on the planet EXCEPT for the dark-skinned black woman. Men form their opinions about black women by noticing how much privilege dark skinned girls lack as opposed to light,fair-skinned, or white women. I was recently looking at some of my favorite videos on Youtube and noticed how many women would always be in a hip hop video but barely have any African American women as video vixens/ co-stars or dark skinned girls in general, only exotic fair skinned women. I agree with Norma Manatu when she says:
    If the film medium presented a valuation of the diversity of black female images; if the images presented a more inclusive model of the various types of black feminine beauty housed in the black community; and if more positive and diverse role behaviors were routinely assigned to black female subjects, black boys might perceive the positive aspects of black women as also desirable (pg.1).

    More women like Viola Davis, and Lupita Nyong’o, and other actresses that are African American should be able to play various types a role that don’t just fit them into the categories of over-sexed, hyper-ghetto, and not feminine enough to be considered beautiful even though there are different types of personalities as well as skin color in the African American race. When black women become visibly respected and empowered on camera then they will receive more positive feedback from black boys.

    The Univision host Rodner Figueroa being fired is interesting for 3 reasons; Rodner Figueroa compares her to an animal which is a common stereotype amongst black people, the way people specifically Raven-Symone interpreted what he said, and how he defends himself by saying that he voted for Obama (twice) and apologize to minorities as a whole. Rodner Figueroa is defended by Raven- Symone who is always facing criticism when she talks about race because she act oblivious to everything that is racially motivated or racially conscious. Symone defends him by saying “He voted for Obama so he can’t be racist, and some people do look like animals, I look like a bird” which still didn’t make it inoffensive towards her or her physical attributes. Comparing a dark skinned African American person to a ape or anytype of primate has its history on disrespecting blacks especially when it comes from another race.


    • Shaquarius, you presented some good points as it relates to how black men experience and internalize colorism. It’s not just how the mainstream media and the society overall but how we as people of color, especially men internalize that concept that light and white are ideals models of beauty. Some of your comments became a little difficult to understand and think incorporating the reading and quotes would have helped flushed out your ideas. You referenced pg. 1 but it wasn’t clear if that was from the reading or something else. In regards to your comments about the Univision reporter, you outlined out a good argument as to why his comments were problematic. Please always use the reading in you posting and film clips for future posting


  7. Colorism affects black men in particular because of the idea that beauty is important in our society skews their views and causes their actions to be different. I have seen a lot of Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook posts/pictures and discussions on how men say “love to light skin girls” but never address anything to a dark skin girl. Why is this? Is it that every dark skin girl is automatically stripped of her beauty whether inside or out, or even the potential she may have or already is working hard on? These pictures and posts bash, poke fun and degrade and further enforce what our society is teaching us about colorism, the lighter you are the better and more appealing you are. So many music videos, TV ads, magazine ads, movies and TV shows reinforce this idea onto us and the future generations to come. Why is it that the darker skin girls never seem to be portrayed other than a stereotypical angry, b*tchy woman? Yet lighter skin girls are always given roles or put into ads are being seen as more appealing, more exotic and more socially accepted. “Women are socialized to privilege a man’s ability to provide for her over his skin-tone differential. Men, on the other hand, are socialized to privilege a woman’s “feminine” attributes—her skin-color and physical beauty—over her intelligence and career achievements (Manatu pg.3). ”
    What role models do black girls having growing up when watching television, movies or looking at ads? Not much to be honest, it is very limited unless these girls want to and end up bleaching their skin. The same can be said for other minorities about role models they see on social media (ex: Asian Americans) These girls will grow up feeling left out, no one to hold up as their hero/role model and want to be different and fit in, even if fitting in causes them to deny who they are and discriminate against other dark skin girls. Yet now it can be said there is some change in progress with having Viola Davis starring on her own TV show. By doing so, maybe now girls can look up to her and see themselves in her, an actress who has struggled, and yet has found her way to be an inspiration and also a new breath of fresh air for many of us when it comes to African American women starring in TV shows.


  8. Great comments and a good quote from the reading. Your reference to social media is a great example of how men, particularly men of color, internalize colorism. We also know, as you have noted, that this issue is not specific to African Americans but many other communities of color as well. As we know things are changing but not enough, its a slow and difficult process. I would have liked to see a comment or quote from the Viola Davis article as well. Also, what are your thoughts about the Univision reporter and his comparison of Michelle Obama???


  9. Its said beauty is in the eye of the beholder which is very true, but how much can that view be tampered with or controlled . Media over the years have tampered and controlled what beauty is or should look like with social media and in film. African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema by Norma Manatu explain the damage colorism and the beauty model has done to our society specifically in the usage of film. “In the film medium, especially, black women’s physical beauty and social conduct are not shown as desirable nor valuable as that of white women. It is, perhaps, for these reasons that white women seem to appeal to so many black males”.(Norma Manatu) This is based on the degrading roles and image black women were assumed to all be like and stereotypes never go away especially when they are used in movies til this day.”There are so many more positive images of black female beauty and of their social behaviors that could be shown in film. Black women come in all different shapes, sizes, skin-color, heights, and so on; black women also have diverse personality types and varying emotional and behavioral quotients”.(Norma Manatu) Our society not only other races blacks as well have a hard time seeing black as beautiful, because of what the media has controlled and done to what beauty means and what it should look like. So many people find blonde hair and blue eyes as beautiful when none of that has anything to do with beauty, your complexion or race shouldn’t define you as beautiful. People come in all different shapes and sizes and all of them are beautiful which should be pushed and marketed more in film and some do try but not enough this is a poison to our society that must change. “If the film medium presented a valuation of the diversity of black female images; if the images presented a more inclusive model of the various types of black feminine beauty housed in the black community; and if more positive and diverse role behaviors were routinely assigned to black female subjects, black boys might begin to perceive the positive aspects of black women as also desirable”.(Norma Manatu)
    Viola Davis who is a well-known African American actress who for the past decade was type casted with the same roles as the down and out problematic mammy. Now she finally at 49 has the opportunity to make history with her show “How to Get away with Murder” . She does state in her post segment for a long time she had suffered with low self-esteem with her complexion and not being beautiful, which seems to be a common thing with a lot of black women. She didn’t let that stop her she wanted to be a star and worked her way literally and waited to get the opportunity she deserved. Her with this top selling show is helping other young ladies black or any other minority who doesn’t feel beautiful know they can make it, because she did. Films and shows like How to Get away with Murder do more than people think and its not the biggest change but its progress.

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  11. colorism affects black men by messing with their views on what standard beauty is. granted we are all allowed to date who we want but to completely have bias against ones skin complexion is wrong. However!! Although the media portray beauty in the form of “white” or “Light”, i do believe that everything should not be completely be blamed on social media or movies, these black men have black mothers that i’m sure have raised them right. they chose not to date women of a particular color because society gives you more “credit” when you have a woman from a particular raise. It’s like an accomplishment society says in order for you to be successful or look successful you should date these kind of women.


    • This is a great comment, especially since it’s coming from a personal perspective and represents the social implication of this stereotype but the goal is always to tie the blogs to the films, class discussions and readings. How does the “Beauty Model” and “colorism” related to the Viola Davis article or the short we saw in class? “From a larger sociological perspective, studies by Keith & Herring (1991), Bond & Cash (1992), and Taylor (1993) find that European racial features including skin color, nose, and hair texture are generally preferred among both minority and majority groups, perceptual outcomes being that higher social acceptance levels result.” This quote is a great connection to the short film, Yellow Fever, as well as most of the recent TV shows we talked about in class, like Martin, Fresh Prince and My Wife and Kids. And because its so common in the portrayal of black women, colorism shows its ugle head in our relationships, friendships and family relations as you alluded to in your comments. Its only when the “Beauty Model,” is no longer the standard of beauty, that we stop judging each other by our skin color and instead by the content of our character.


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