Emulated through Images: The Globalization of Misconstructed African American Beauty and Hip-Hop Culture Kerri A. Reddick-Morgan Georgia State University firstname.lastname@example.org
From news coverage to entertainment, the media shapes, reflects, reinforces and defines the world in which we live. In publishing, theatre, films, television and popular music-industries largely controlled by white men--Blacks continually struggle for both a voice and representation. Many scholars write about the stereotyping of Blacks in the media (Meyers, 1999; Davis, 1989). Light skinned Black women with classic European features predominate in beauty pageants, music videos, and in the world of modeling. It is with respect to the world of modeling and music that this discussion will examine the globalization and commodification of Black female beauty. I will examine the historical creation of Black beauty in the United States and Europe and how theses misconstructed images play out globally. Image is what colonizes the mind John Hendrick Clarke
A number of writers discuss the adverse effects of this false definition of Black beauty (e.g. Kathy Russell, 1992; Alice Walker, 1982; Marion Meyers, 1999). These writers show clear links between this offensively constructed definition of Black beauty and the negative self -view it imposes. Researchers expose how the erroneous characterization of Black beauty/culture has created and reinforced this destructive definition of Black beauty/culture that is based on an American/European ideal. Investigating these historically racist systems leads us to ask four serious questions: How are misrepresentations of Black beauty/culture played out in the modeling industry, cosmetic corporations? How does the media contribute to the global transmission of these images? What are the negative consequences of transmission of these misrepresentations? Finally, are there any positives that come from the global transmissions of African American beauty/and
culture? An exploration of African American Hip-Hop sub-culture will expose how younger generations of people are defining themselves outside of the commodified, globalized mainstream ideal of beauty and culture.
Modeling and Televising ‘Black’ Beauty and Culture in The United States and Europe The media portrayal of images that support the ideal that “white is right” and “white is beautiful,” has created and maintained the American / European beauty ideal; pale to fair skin, long straight hair (preferably blond) light eyes (preferably blue), slim nose and skinny. Unfortunately, this does not embrace the diasporas of Blackness, the many shades, shapes and colors of African American women. After much struggle a few African American women slipped into the public eye. These few women who were able to break the color barrier did so only because of their likeness to the “beauty ideal” (Jackson et al. 1979, Green 1991, Ferguson 2002). These women were decedents of slaves who though tragically created, were given the label mulatto and oftentimes passed for white or a close enough likeness to be accepted by mainstream society. In the U.S. specifically, many Black women were faced with a beauty ideal that did not resemble the reflection in the mirror. Many entrepreneurs began and sustained successful businesses based on selling the white ideal to the Black woman. Skin lightning became a common practice in the Black community (Russell 1992). There are still remnants of this practice visible at your local Walgreen’s. In 1991 The New York Department of Consumer Affairs’ survey of over 11,000 ads in 27 magazines and of 22,000 pictures in 157 catalogues found that while African American women comprised 12% of America and 11% of the readers of magazines, only 3% of all models in magazines ads were Black. The pattern is similar with Latinos and Asians. The few minority figures that did appear in these advertisements were...