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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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