Indian Country: Beyonce Touts L’Oreal Cosmetics That ‘Match’ Your Native American Shade
In her new television commercials for L’Oreal’s TrueMatch line of cosmetics, pop star Beyonce says her face is “a mosaic of all the faces before it” while the words “African American … Native American … French” appear on screen.
In Jennifer Lopez’s L’Oreal spot, she is identified as “100% Puerto Rican;” Aimee Mann’s ingredients are given as “Irish … Austrian … Italian.”
The “Native American” in Beyonce’s makeup (pun unavoidable) comes from he mother’s Creole heritage which, according to widely circulated profiles, includes American Indian. Beyonce happens to be under fire at the moment over a promotional photo for her album 4; critics say her skin tone seems unusually light. The Huffington Post covers the controversy, and presents a selection of images of Beyonce through the years.
This L’Oreal commercial adds another dimension to a popular theory that Beyonce doesn’t want to identify as black. The video has inspired hundreds of comments at the blog Bossip. Most of the Bossip commenters see an ulterior motive behind Beyonce’s cataloguing of her heritage — how should Indians feel? [Read More]
I have to admit, I was a little surprised when I saw the commercial because I wasn’t expecting to see her ethnicity laid out. I also was unaware of her ethnic background - which added to it. I knew immediately, though, that this would open up a discussion about Black Native identity as understood by others. I scrolled through the comments on Bossip - even though I try to keep to the self-preserving practice of avoiding comments sections - and felt utterly disgusted. I’m not a Beyonce fan but I’m a fan of respect. And it was so hurtful, even though why should I be surprised at this point, to read the ignorant colonial one drop rule bullshit that people were mouthing off about. I think there is a way to discuss this marketing technique - as it applies to all of the women that are featured in this campaign - that doesn’t disrespect folks’ identity. But it seems like people aren’t interested in the marketing technique outside of how Beyonce is self-identifying. People don’t seem interested in Jennifer Lopez’s 100% Puerto Rican tagline. Because it suits their understanding of the world. It doesn’t ask them to confront their preconceived notions of identity. Of what it means to be Black in America.
But that kind of leads me back to the feeling that I carry around with me a lot - that there is very little respect for those of us with Black and Native ancestry. Everyone* is suspicious of us. Of our motives for naming our identities. Claiming them.
If we’re not starting from a place of respect, this conversation is worthless to me.
*No. Not literally everyone. But people from ‘every’ background. I wanted to clear this up in advance.