Art or Blackface? Beyoncé’s L’Officiel Paris Photo Shoot Controversy

Beyoncé Blackface for L’Officiel Paris

Beyoncé in Blackface for L’Officiel Paris?

Anyone could predict the monsoon of controversy coming after photos of Beyoncé for L’Officiel Paris leaked this weekend.

The photo shoot, for their “African Queen” theme, is celebrating their 90th anniversary and honors Nigerian musician and pioneer, Fela Kuti. Many ask why L’Officiel could not use a beautiful dark-skinned mwaodel or celebrity for this tribute.

Beyoncé Blackface for L’Officiel Paris

“The Fashion magazine is about to celebrate its 90th birthday. To celebrate this anniversary, the festivities start with the March issue, with Beyoncé on the cover.

She agreed to pose for an incredible fashion shoot, with the theme of African Queen, paying a tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti. 

Far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce, the beauty posed for the magazine with amazing fashion designers clothes, but also in a dress created by her mother.

[It is] A return to her African roots, as you can see on the picture, on which her face was voluntarily darkened. All the pictures will be available in the collector edition, on sell at the end of this month.”

Hattie McDaniel as Mammy


Question, how is it that Wacka Flocka — who may be the first name one may think of when speaking of what a joke Hip-hop has become, is a hot commodity and Beyoncé in dark makeup is “cooning”?

And where were the complaints were when Beyoncé’s body was painted darker in Dreamgirls?

Let’s think about this… I could see an uproar if they dressed Beyoncé up like a mammy, glued a piece of watermelon and box of KFC to her hands and tried to pass it off as a failed tribute to anyone Black.

Or, more relevant to 2011, they could have asked her to hold three disheveled children, a crack pipe and a foodstamp card and to display an attitude.

Instead, the magazine adorned the singer and actress in beautiful African garments and artistic makeup, using her much like an artist uses a canvas.

If they used a dark-skinned model and painted her face darker, would there still be a frenzy? Is Beyoncé not “Black enough” to be considered an “African queen”?

And do you think tribes in Africa omit brown or black from their color choices when painting their own faces for rituals?

Picaninny Freeze, Jim Crow advertising

Now, we are left with trying to determine the intent. REAL blackface, in its original form, was not beautiful, flattering or fashion magazine worthy.

Real blackface was vicious and degrading in every execution. Real blackface depicted Blacks as ignorantly happy, lazy, and musical.

Is that what you see when you see the L’Officiel photos? Do you feel the pain of Jim Crow laws and Jim Crow era advertising when you see Beyoncé’s face painted in dark makeup?

It takes more than face darkening to create blackface. If this “African Queen” spread was an attempt at recreating or mimicking blackface and its disgusting intent then the technique has certainly come a long fabulous way.

I’m frankly more offended that I have to repeatedly ask any Black male below the age of 22-years-old to refrain from calling me his “nigga.”

I’m reminded more of minstrel shows, “cooning,” and buffoonery when I turn to BET between the popular music videos and the religious scams which run consistently late night on the network.

I’m more appalled that last week, Master P, a hip-hop entrepreneur and his children Romeo and Cymphonique brought positivity and enlightenment to The Mo’Nique Show and Blacks on Twitter used the moment to bash the family for an hour (or more).

Black model in blackface or art?

Blackface or Art?

Here’s an idea, stop giving negative attention to things that are not negative and give positive attention to things that are positive.

How many Blacks went online or to the store to buy any albums by new Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, a Black jazz musician who won in spite of Justin Beiber being a shoe-in?

Did you even bother to illegally download it? Oh but I bet you went and educated yourself on who she is, right?

Better yet, how many of you are supporting art programs in any Black communities or even sit down with your own children or younger siblings to paint or color?

Are you as concerned and outraged with the GOP’s blantant attacks on women and low-income families? Sometimes, making a huge deal out of everything creates unnecessary attention.

And ignorantly protesting about all the wrong things while ignoring issues that directly effect your family creates the total opposite of progress.

What others are saying

“can this girl win with some of you? When a new L’Oreal ad is released, there are complaints of her face being “too light” or features being altered in photoshop so that she more closely resembles a white woman.

When a photo was released a few days ago of Bey taking a candid shot with Rihanna, people complained that she looked too light and that her hair just wasn’t “it.” So now, she’s presented in Black face [with the theme of African Queen, paying a tribute to the legendary Fela Kuti] and suddenly, this is a problem too?”


Let’s look at it this way, if they wanted to pay homage to Marylin Monroe, they wouldn’t have hired Naomi Campbell, paint her in white face and all that crap…”

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