The magazine that convinced singer Beyonce Knowles to paint her skin a darker shade of brown for a photo shoot says she wasn’t in blackface, but in ritualistic African face covering. Do you think we buy that explanation? Read on to find out.
L’Officiel Paris, which if you’ll recall inspired us to get a little ranty earlier this week, asked Knowles to paint her face for it’s 90th anniversary issue. In the spread accompanying its profile of her, the magazine dresses Knowles in African-inspired clothing that reflects her African roots. Initially, we thought the concept sort of made sense because she mentioned Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician, as an inspiration on her next album. The magazine says that’s not what it comes from. They wanted to portray the singer as an African queen.
The series was conceived as using art and fashion in paying homage to African queens.
Beyoncé mentioned the artist Fela Kuti in the interview as one of her musical inspirations. It was later misquoted as the inspiration for the shoot. We would like to clarify that it is not the case.
As for the artistic makeup, the inspiration came from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face. We find the images beautiful and inspiring.
We find this explanation trite and confusing. It’s true that there are African rituals that use face paint. Face paint is part of the cultural history of literally hundreds of civilizations and ethnic groups. But the magazine doesn’t offer any explanation as to which African ritual uses face paint to make its participants’ skin darker, and for our part we can’t find one that does.
So we’re calling bull on this explanation. The magazine quite clearly has one idea of what African people look like and felt the need to make Knowles fit that mold. And while we’re angry with the magazine for that, we’re still scratching our heads trying to figure out why Knowles would agree to this in the first place.