“She Is Black” Pharrell Responds To Album Cover Controversy

February 27, 2014  |  

Yesterday, author and activist, dream hampton tweeted that she was disappointed by Pharell’s album cover for his new project, G I R L. hampton was displeased because, from her perspective, there appeared to be no black women represented. hampton referenced the decades-long practice of black artists white washing their covers to appeal to mainstream audiences and spoke about how album art sends messages about to whom the artist and culture assign value.

Some agreed with her and wondered when black women were going to be represented by black artists and others felt the criticism was unwarranted.

But what does Pharrell have to say about this? Turns out the woman in the middle, the one he’s standing the closest to, is a black woman. Pharrell called into “The Breakfast Club” this morning to speak about the mini controversy. Here’s what he had to say:

What really disappointed me is they jumped the gun, because the one I’m standing closest to is black. She’s a black girl from Wisconsin that I used to date over ten years ago or maybe like twelve years ago. That just must suck man for people to look at something and to assume they know what’s going on. If they just bothered to listen to my album, they would know that my album was an ode to women, period. And the one thing that I’m trying to kill…well I can’t kill anything…but the one thing I was just trying to help and aid in changing the crazy statuesque standard of you gotta be white, waif, and thin for you to be beautiful.

Pharrell explained how his song “Marilyn Monroe” challenges the notion of one set beauty standard.

My next record is called “Marilyn Monroe” and the chorus is, ‘Not even Marilyn Monroe who Cleopatra pleased, Not even Joan of Arc, That don’t mean nothing to me, I just want a different girl.’

So that means no matter what color you are, what size you are, what you’re into, your sexual orientation, I respect you as a woman because I know without you, none of us would be here. But unfortunately, they looked at the cover & they didn’t see what they felt like — I don’t know what the definition is. That she’s a light-skinned black woman. But I mean, what is the conversation? So is our president not black? Is Lenny Kravitz not one of our greatest? What are we talking about? Is Lisa Bonét in or out?

I’m not mad because I understand. I understand that plight. My dad is a dark-skinned man. I understand that, I know what that is all day long. Have I lived it specifically? Yeah, I’m a black man.

They just reported I was the first black person to go number one on pop radio since Rihanna, but then you’re gonna shoot at me? What do you mean? I’m gonna turn 41 in April. Of course I’m doing this for us. What are you talking about, man?

My mom is a black woman who is a huge part of my business. My business is run by another black woman and I’m married to a black woman. What are you talking about?

Then Charlemagne suggested that Pharrell include women like Gabourey Sidibe in his video.

Pharrell responded:

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