‘What I Wanted Was To Have Gold Skin:’ India Arie Addresses Colorism On ‘Super Soul Sunday’

June 24, 2013  |  

Early Sunday morning, soul singer India Arie sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss the obstacles she has overcome both personally and professionally and how she responded to criticism over her “Cocoa Butter” single cover.

Arie opened up about the 2001 Grammy “snub” where, though she was nominated for seven Grammys, was awarded none. She also talked about how for quite some time she had been living her mother’s dreams and not her own. She spoke about the unhappiness that ruled her spirit and how she was “emotionally and spiritually off-balance,” saying:

“I didn’t have a foundation of well-being… It always felt like I was recovering from some sort of battle. I was always recovering… Everyone around me was happy because I had what they wanted me to have.”

After stepping out of the entertainment spotlight for quite some time and taking care of herself spiritually, Arie was excited earlier this year to release new music and, with it, a new, bold look. But she was quickly met with venomous disdain as many believed she had lightened her skin for said new look. This is not uncommon as other artists like Dawn Richard have also been accused of lightening their skin as well, but India said this was not the case with her.

“What I wanted was to have gold skin. If you see, the dress is gold fabric, it’s metallic fabric, and the backdrop is metallic. I just wanted for it to glow and be luminous, not light, luminous. For me, there’s that conversation where women’s bodies are just unpacked for entertainment. Bikini body, postbaby body, mom boobs and all the stuff that they say. For me it was stepping out there and allowing myself to be beautiful and sensual and powerful and strong and athletic and womanly and all that stuff and just letting it be seen. Showing some skin. Showing my thigh muscles. That was my intention. I wasn’t trying to look light, I was trying to look luminous.”

She went on to discuss the lighting during the shoot and how it was set up to create the “luminous” look she was going for. And truth? She seemed incredibly genuine and at peace with every word she said, especially when addressing colorism in the Black community:

“…The colorism conversation- this is my prayer – what I would love to see happen is that I find the perfect words or the perfect song to sing or to say to people that will heal a big part of this conversation in the black community, because really, it’s about self-worth.”

Amen to that. Check out snippets of India Arie’s appearance below. What do you think about it?

India.Arie: I Didn’t Lighten My Skin

One of the themes that resonate most in India.Arie’s music is her unapologetic embracing of her authentic self. Back in the spotlight in 2013 with the release of her single “Cocoa Butter,” the last thing India.Arie expected was the controversy around a publicity shot in which people accused her of lightening her skin. Watch as she reflects on the controversy and shares her prayer to heal colorism.

How India.Arie Started Living for Herself

By 2009, a series of physical setbacks, a broken engagement and a cross-country tour left India.Arie exhausted and at a spiritual crossroads. She says that despite selling millions of albums, gracing magazine covers and becoming a darling of the critics, her soul felt out of balance. India.Arie shocked her managers, label and family by quitting music. About a year later, she says, she had an epiphany that shifted her entire perspective. Watch to find out what it was.


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  • Lisa

    I think it is clear that if India.Arie wanted to be lighter, she would have done far more than that cover. She would be lighter now in real life. I think the makeup artists, cover designer, and/or photographer could have added more gold to her or better accented the gold-like makeup already applied. But not enough to make her look like she came out of the Wizard of Oz. Other than people’s accusations against her, it is a pretty cool cover.

  • Lisha

    I’m torn because I really want to believe her, especially after she explained the concept; however, she is several shades lighter and it is obvious in the side by side picture.

  • Renata Miranda

    Hello to all!!

    I am Brazilian, and the first time I saw and heard India, I fall in love, and as if that was not enough to be one of the most beautiful black artists that I had ever seen, was also one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard, it was like receiving a kiss on the soul!

    I confess that when I saw this photo for the first time took a huge scare, and could not believe it, I thought “it can not be, she would not do it,” I wanted to know about it and I was very relieved when I knew it was only a job, and after seeing his explanations, I understand your intent, and I believe that she is not lying, but could have thought umpouquinho the result …

    Well, here in Brazil, advertisers often say that we have a lot of explaining about our intentions in a campaign, it is because the idea was not good when the idea is good, people just need to look to understand, needs no explanation unfortunately India had to give many explanations about their new album … I think she needs another advertising! … lol

    To conclude, as a passionate fan, even not liking the photo, as I prefer to see more work and perhaps this has not had the expected return, we are human beings and are prone to failure, it is still perfect for me, out of that picture, it still wonderfully beautiful and black!

  • IAJS

    I can understand the concept but they could have made it luminous and deep beautiful chocolate, I am not a fan of this picture at all.

  • Tonya Johnson

    what does she have to gain by a lie? We judge each other so harshly if u don’t care 4 her don’t buy her music .When I saw the pic I thought wow India coming back that’s great and she looked pretty to me. I didn’t honestly think she looked golden but I also didn’t think she had altered her self to look lighter.pls save your hate and discuss for bigger issues.

  • Diane Whauloknat Bridges

    Ain’t buying it! Just like AK writing music about about womanhood and lifting your sisters up BUT YOU RUNNING AROUND WITH A MARRIED MAN BREAKING UP FAM’s…..

  • Kenedy

    She still looks chocolate to me in that picture, just with different lighting

  • Mimsy

    Please.. India approved that picture knowing full well, that she looks light skin not gold skin!! Stop the lies, girl..

    • MLS2698

      Well, if she wanted to be gold, why not take it to that level? Kind of like Rihanna in one of her videos where she was silver……
      Nope………not buying it.

      • Dragon Senait

        Exactly. There’s so many other ways she could have achieved that look. She’s a fraud plain and simple.

  • pickneychile

    That’s exactly how I felt when I first saw the pic. It just looked like a lot of light…I’m dark skinned and I know if there’s enough light I can come off a totally different shade.

    • Angelitis

      Me too, if you have yellow undertones your skin carries light and gold very well and lightens you up!!!