‘Yo, You Don’t Need Nobody To Represent You:’ Pharrell On The Alleged Absence Of Black Women On ‘G I R L’ Album Cover

March 25, 2014  |  

Last month when Pharrell debuted the art work for his new album “G I R L,” he received a ton of backlash for failing to include black women on the cover. Though he initially responded to the controversy explaining that one of the girls appearing on the cover was actually black, in his recent interview GQ he provided more in-depth thoughts on the criticism he received.

“It’s insecurity,” he explained. “If you love who you are—and I’m not saying that there’s not a plight out there for people who have different skin colors, because Mexicans go through just as much discrimination, if not more discrimination, than black people do in this country. Right?”

Ironically, he adds that he actually put his friends on the album cover and reiterated that the young lady standing closest to him is black.

“You don’t gotta be waif, white, and thin to be beautiful. You can be anything that you want to be, and what I chose to do is put my friends on the cover. The girl that was closest next to me is black, but they didn’t know that, so they jumped the gun.”

The “Happy” singer went on to express that a lot of the backlash he received did come from black women, but not all of it.

“It wasn’t all black women. There were a lot of black women that were really angry at some of those girls, but some of those girls are the ones that instantly get mad when they don’t see somebody that’s dark. And it’s like: ‘Yo, you don’t need nobody to represent you. You represent you. You represent the best version of who you could be. You go out there and change the world.’ Because I’m black, and I wouldn’t trade my skin color for nothing. But I don’t need to keep wearing a badge that tells you that I’m black every time I do something! I’m black!”

He went on to argue that discussions regarding degrees of blackness in this country are senseless and foster division.

“My mother’s black, who’s a big part of my business; a black woman runs my business; and I’m married to a black woman. What more do you want? And why are we talking about this? And if we’re going to talk about degrees of black—what is it in this country? I still believe that if you are at least 1/32nd of black blood in your body, even if you look like you, you are deemed black. Right?”

“Right,” his interviewer responds.

“So why are we still having this conversation?” the newly married producer argued. “I’m a black man. I’m happy to be black, and anybody that is not happy to be black will point around and ask for that kind of sympathy. But the thing is, let’s not ask nobody for no more sympathy. Let’s get together ourselves and support ourselves.”

After citing a few major accomplishments of figures in the black community, he closed his argument by insisting that with all of the greatness out there, being black is nothing to be insecure about.

“So which is it? Is President Obama black or not? Since you’re so mad: Is he black or not? Come on, man! We ain’t got time for that. We are black people. This is the new black. Oprah Winfrey: That’s the new black. She’s a black billionaire. President Obama: He is a black American president. Regardless of what you think about him, this is his second term. That’s the new black. LeBron James: the first black man ever shot on a Vogue cover, a black man. Me: a guy that’s written a song at 40! Nominated for an Oscar, four Grammy awards—at 40! That’s the new black! And by the way: a song that has transcended my lyrics, my own intention, and has become a movement and helped cancer patients. That’s the new black! Black ain’t a color: Black is a spirit, and it is ubiquitous. In fact, there’s more black out in space than there is stars. We have nothing to be insecure about.”

Read Pharrell’s full interview here. What are your thoughts on his stance in the whole colorism debate?

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  • Herm Cain

    Some black women can be pure freakin annoying everything is not about you and your insecurity Pharrell is free to put whatever woman he sees fit on HIS cover don’t buy it it’s not like that bulk of his fan base are brothers and sisters anyway

  • staygolden

    This whole piece is deflection and sounds like rambling. Like, why you talking about Mexicans and one drop rules?

    • kiki j

      While reading I almost forgot the subject at hand. I was like did he really just reference the one drop rule? Lol

  • ProudBlackWoman

    Man get over it!!! Im black *well mixed* but i am really tired of people making things about race. WE KNOW THERE ARE BLACK GIRLS IN THIS WORLD. Hell im one of them. But i smell jealousy. ITS NOT UR ALBUM SO GET THE HELL OVER YOURSELVES!

    • chanela

      says the person who will most likely be chosen or seen as attractive in the black community…

  • Ebony in Inwood

    They keep telling y’all Negresses they don’t want you, don’t care if you are represented, and think you are insecure. WAKE UP. Stop supporting their careers.


    He was trying to go for a certain image for the cover and I guess black women don’t fit that image

  • scandalous7

    he wasted all that breath on common knowledge and did not realize the bigger picture here.

  • CC

    So what would’ve happened if he featured all dark women??? He would’ve been a thug or ghetto. Make up your mind. The same dark-skinned women would’ve been saying he’s too “hood” and that needs to go!!!

    • jmjg

      BS. Some of you folk are truly lost.

      • CC

        You sound like you’re lost……

    • kiki j

      Really? Wow you must be one of those people who think all dark skinned people are ghetto. Smh

      • CC

        As you can see I’m not far from being “dark-skinned” myself. I wqs just saying I agree with him. He is married to a black woman and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. You took my last sentence for literal meaning. I’m saying ‘they would’ve found something to talk about regardless’…….

        • kiki j

          I stand corrected. But The industry in general has basically blacklisted dark skin and people make light of it. Pharrell personally has used dark skin women in his videos so i don’t know what the issue is with him but I do understand the bigger picture.

          • CC

            Actually, I kind of disagree. Dark-skinned (particularly women) are “blacklisting” themselves. It’s self-hate, and low self-esteem that seems to be the problem. I think that’s what Pharrell was trying to say. Yes he has featured women off all shades but yet still it’s an issue, with him and other black artists and entertainers. Dark-skinned women need to stand up and represent themselves instead of waiting for other people to do it. Lighter women (of any race) don’t get upset when a dark women wins an award or something. He’s saying, “Celebrate yourself even if no one else does eventually they will follow suit”.

  • kiki j

    My issue isn’t with Pharrell’s cover. But since he’s on the topic, the women chosen for covers, videos etc are strategically chosen (obviously not in his case because they were friends). But, there is a reason dark skinned women rarely get “chosen” and it’s appalling that it gets ignored and when you bring it up that makes you insecure. No we are not all insecure however we are tired of being isolated and blacklisted from anything that represents s e x y, exotic, attractive etc on tv. There is a reason unfortunately that whitenisious or whatever its called is selling. Our young generation of darker skinned girls have nothing on tv showing them they are beautiful. Before you say it starts at home, yes that’s where it starts but unfortunately that’s not where it end. Is that to say that only light skinned girls should look up to their favorite celebs and dark skinned girls should receive it only from home? There is nothing wrong with wanting to see someone who looks like you on tv being called beautiful or even s e x y or whatever. People don’t like to be realistic when having these discussions.

    • kiki j

      And celebs like to be quiet about it but it is a very “complexion discriminating” industry. Many people have come out about being told in order to get a record deal, or even to be a video chick they have to bleach their skin, get butt implants, nose jobs etc. There is actually a YouTube video of women who lost record deals because they wouldn’t get their skin bleached. So the fact that people act like it’s a coincident that certain women of a lighter hue are mostly chosen in the industry is appalling. However, no shade no Pharrell he’s used women of all complexions.

  • Breeze

    I’m not specifically directing this to Pharell but that fact people have to actually name certain videos that darker hue woman are is unnerving and alarming the attitude is so nonchalant. I could just guess of the top of my head which videos feature light or white woman and be right 90% of the time. Despite would many say the younger generation is being heavily influence by this. I hear these young fools all the time talking about they want a redbone. Now for more mature women that are secure with themselves, that you’re I’d rhetoric didn’t phase then but for that young dark sister those words and these images can be I detrimental.

  • nosrednakal

    Skateboard P, my dude.

  • I agree with everything except for the notion that Mexican experience just as Black people. Really?

    • Gloria

      They actually do they have been discriminated against too and so have the natives. During the 1950’s they weren’t allowed in certain areas or they would be murdered. So Pharell is right about that.

      • No Mexicans are not inundated with negative, inaccurate images of them in the news, in history, and in professional life. 90% of Black Americans don’t even realize that from birth they’ve been indoctrinated to believe that their culture is inferior. Which leaves them with very little to even combat discrimination with.

        For example, Mexican women do not have to “explain” their hair and beauty regimen to an employer just to stay in their good graces like black women do.

        • coolyfett

          Yo had to explain your hair to an employer, what corporation was this? Id like to know so I may stop buying their goods.

        • I absolutely disagree. It is wholly unfair to assume that just because a group doesn’t suffer the exact same discrimination you do, they must not have it as hard as you. In many ways, life is harder for Mexicans or Hispanics who are perceived to be Mexican than Black Americans. They are considered good for nothing else but mowing lawns and washing dishes. They are portrayed as loud, downtrodden, dispensable, and unable to speak English, therefore unable to contribute significantly to our society. They are all considered to be illegal immigrants whether or not they truly are. As Black Americans, we are universally accepted as part of American society, even though we have our position in it questioned. Mexicans are not considered to be a part of this society at all. Do they have to explain their hair? No. But there’s a heck of a lot they have to deal with as well that we don’t know or experience, and we as a community need to get over this “we have it worse” mentality. A Mexican woman may not have to explain her hair or beauty, but that’s assuming she gets the job in the first place. I’m sorry, but we need to get over ourselves.

        • velociraptor

          Ma’am I have lived in Phoenix, AZ for the past 15 years and I would like to respectfully disagree. Some white people in my state treat the Hispanic population like they are the scum of the earth and it is evident in the legislation they try to push. You don’t hear about it often in the national news because there’s too much going on with gay rights and other hot topics.

    • TheMagicMan

      How many black people have you seen deported? Or laws made to kick black people out of the country? They’re story may not be the same as ours but I’d argue that they experience the same struggles today that we do, if not more. I can name black funded college funds and organizations that are nationally recognized but I don’t know many Latino ones. Have some compassion for your fellow man.

      • Growth

        I agree but the circumstances of HOW. They got here are completely different. We were forced here against our will. They come here illegally in droves. I kill myself working my way through school and “they” get free money. It’s not right. Their plight will never get sympathy from me. As far as the topic… His album cover, his decision. No big deal.

        • Jill

          There’s the prejudice right there: ‘They came here illegally in droves.’ If you’re Mexican, or ethnically of any Central or South American descent, people will assume you’re not a ‘real’ American, or that you don’t deserve to be here, that you’re a drain on America’s resources and don’t contribute and don’t want to contribute. My father and my uncles were born and raised until their teen years in El Salvador, and after moving LEGALLY to San Diego as US citizens they intentionally white-washed themselves to avoid the racist assumptions and economic disadvantages they would have been subjected to. Out of five brothers, only one of them still knows Spanish or communicates with relatives back in El Salvador, and all have been productive citizens of this country.
          The only way to be utterly unreceptive to someone’s ‘plight’ that is not your own is to be self-centered and lack compassion.

        • kaila p

          let me just add, that whole “illegal” bit is a bunch of hogwash because they’re doing what the europeans did in the 1600s , so maybe the whites should be deported too, nut of course that sounds like crap. They’re just trying to live “The American Dream” like the founders of the United States of America

        • staygolden

          If you mad about ‘free money’ you need to take everyone to task, Not just Latinos. My neice (poor baby..) momma get ‘free money’ ‘free food’ ‘free healthcare’ too. Take her raggedy butt to task too! Hell she a citizen and speak english, so it’s no reason why she can’t get a job. And it’s oft not talked about, but Americans illegally live in Mexico too. Truth be told I used to go over there to get medicine cause its cheap.

      • Just saying!!

        Part of the reason we have nationally recognized scholarships is because we have been struggling in this country for what seems like the beginning of time unlike Mexicans who seem to have become a recent “issue” for Americans lol. And actually…it’s very difficult to get here as a black immigrant as well. But I agree…no point in debating. We are all struggling.

        • Jill

          ‘Mexicans’ lived in this country before Europeans– I’m referring to the time before we stole and/or bought up all of Mexico’s land north of the Rio Grande or unfairly negotiated what is today Texas. But even after those borders were established, people still traveled both ways across the border. And I bet if you look real close, you’ll find anti-Mexican discrimination before and after the railroads were built.
          It may ‘[seem] like the beginning of time’, but if you look at the situations in an honest historical way, it’s not. However, you’re right to say that it has only recently become an ‘issue’ for American, but that has more to do with publicity than presence.

          • jmjg

            Native American tribes who are still present on the land North if the Rio Grand were there before The creation of Mexico. The US government simply did what the Spaniards did.

      • empress123

        Wtf they deport Black west indians and africand all the time! Are you serious?

      • enlightenment

        I agree that Mexicans definitely have their own struggles, but everything you just said was wrong. Black people from African and Caribbean countries get deported PLENTY of times. The anti-immigration laws in this country don’t only affect Mexicans? And there are PLENTY of Hispanic college scholarships and nationally-recognized organizations.

      • staygolden

        Just because you don’t know about Latino orgs don’t mean they don’t exist lol. They have a different language and they use it for a reason..

    • Live_in_LDN

      To compare the discrimination between mexican and blacks is to compare oranges and apples. We both suffer discimination but in different ways so you can’t really quantify who has it worse.
      In your comment below, you said Mexicans are not inundated with negative images of themselves. I disagree. Mexicans are regulary typecasted as illegal immigrants, lazy migrant workers, maids, gang members, highly s3xed, multiple children, etc.

  • “Let’s get together ourselves and support ourselves.”

    Yes fool this is why there is an uproar. Women that look like your mother not being represented on your cover.

    • Just saying!!

      Yea that comment doesn’t make sense. You’re not on someone else’s work, this is your own…so if you’re not doing it with your own then what do you mean by let’s do it ourselves? Lol

  • LaughtRiot88

    Ha, this is silly. I guess we forgot that the video “frontin” featured three black women. And if there are any N.E.R.D fans, he has songs on the album “Fly or Die” where he describes his love interest as dark skinned. Sorry his black friend wasn’t tan enough for ya on this one. lol.

    • SheDevilsRule

      IKR? Since when do you have to have a pitch black woman on your cover?? Isn’t any shade of black good enough? People will whine about anything.

      • chanela

        not really. light skinned or mixed black women are always seen as the ideal. if there was a choice of picking the light skinned black chick or dark skinned one, the light skinned one will ALWAYS get chosen.

        • SheDevilsRule

          Why is she not acceptable? Because she is not black enough?? That’s bull. Many men love dark skinned women. Pharrel just happens not to like women darker then him. It’s his cover, it’s his choice. Go find something else to nit pick over. SMHH

  • People are still butthurt over this? God, let the man do or have anybody whomever he wants on his album cover, no matter what race the women are! As long as the album is good, IDGAF! We got more import things to worry about in this world and in our own lives, just let it be!

  • Rashanda Newell

    Even though you don’t have to explain yourself I appreciate you clearing the air about it pharrell hopefully this topic will cease because its really pointless.

  • Tamira Bennett Volk

    Well said Pharell

  • sasha

    i’m sorry, but can we put this aside at the point when one of those girls is black anyway? plus pharrell is married to a black woman and regularly uses black women of all shades in his videos. i do not understand why black media is drawing this out when there are actual cases of famous black men explicitly and repeatedly dogging dark skinned black women. pharrell is one of the good ones. smh.

    • KIR12

      Black feminist started this with the black woman objectification with the Spelman Nelly protest. Before that black women (including dark black women) were in 80 to 90% of these videos and album covers. After the protest, Rappers stopped using black girls AS THEY ASKED. Black women are now complaining that black girls are not in these videos and blaming black men? Where are the Black Feminist to now to stand up and say this is what we wanted? smh

      There is no such thing as full black in America. Go take a DNA test if you don’t believe me. A dark Complexion does not equal 100% African DNA ancestry. 58% of American Black men have European ancestry, fact. You can have one parent, grandparent or great grandparent who was white or non black and the child or grandchild can have a dark or darker complexion. So the only thing these BLACK PURITY RETARDS are trying to do is CHANGE black from one drop to a second generation and complexion rule. Which makes no sense because everyone has family members who are as dark as Flava Flav and as light as Alicia Keys.

      • Beauty85

        Stop spreading lies. This is all propaganda bull. Most black people are not mixed, white people would like for you to believe that because they used mixed race people as a buffer. What happen to black Americans we weren
        This bad in the ninetys. We better wake up, every since the First Lady came into office, there has been this agenda against black wome. Like for instance, black women are the ugliest. C’mon does anyone believe that, when those women are buying our cheekbones, lips, botoxing and butt implants. Yeah ok, you believe that if you want to. Our black men as a whole are just pure cowards, obviously there are good, intelligent black men out there but they can’t do it all by themselves!. I’m more sad than anything else.

        • KIR12

          58% of American Black men have AT LEAST 13% European Ancestry and 30% of Southern White men have African Ancestry, fact.

      • Courtney Banks

        You’re basically implying that black men lack the capability to properly care for or in the very least properly represent dark skin black women. It’s easy to ignore eurocentric beauty myths, and colorism having an impact on black people, by just calling it a preference. That has been around long before music videos were invented or around…Instead of disrespecting black women, they rather just prefer to disrespect other races of women.

        • KIR12

          Newflash, You act as if black women (including dark black women) weren’t in these videos and album covers before the Black Feminist Nelly Spellman objectification protest. Which is absolutely NOT TRUE! The truth is, yes some of the videos were vulgar but a lot of them were also about love and affection, fact. Do I need to start naming videos? Last I checked these rappers didn’t stop making vulgar music and videos. What did Black Feminist think was going to happen? They got what they wanted.

          Are Black Feminist saying you only want black women in music videos about love and affection? You’ve got to take the good with the bad. These white and non black girls have no problem with twerking or playing the love interest in these videos. As usual, Black Feminist want it both ways. It’s Fantasyland nonsense…

          • Courtney Banks

            I never said they weren’t in those videos. But the light-skin/dark skin issue goes deeper and has lasted longer, before music videos were around. In this scenario the music just gave the issue a different outlet. There is a difference between shaking your rear and being cast as a love interest. The hyper-sexualized image that’s cast on dark skin black women have been around since slavery times. And there weren’t any so called “black feminist” then. It certainly doesn’t help that black men have picked up that torch and continued with it. Just to be clear why is your issue against the people who are complaining, rather than the issue itself? Let’s not be obtuse here, you know damn well colorism and internalized racism issues have plagued black men and women for decades. But instead of attacking the problem at its root, it’s easier to just attack the people instead. Because if you really were to attack it at it’s root. Black men would also be caught in the cross hairs too.

            • KIR12

              #1 Name one minority race that doesn’t have complexion issues. Asians, East Indians, Hispanics. This is not a perfect world. Adjust, live your life.
              #2 Name one community where an in shape, friendly, average to attractive, YOUNG, non baby mama, black girl doesn’t have multiple guys chasing after her.

              The dark girls who can’t get a man have other issues. Fat, bad attitude, baby mama, over 30, ect.