Nigerian Actress Thelma Omone O’khaz Sets Record Straight on Skin Lightening Pictures

January 30, 2014  |  

The topic of skin whitening has become so monstrous in the global black community (and for good reason, I might add) that even the mere accusation of bleaching has the potential hurt careers.

Just ask Fantasia. Or Beyonce. Or Tempestt Bledsoe. And more recently Nigerian (Nollywood) actress Thelma Omone O’khaz. If the name doesn’t sound familiar than you might be better acquainted with the picture of a ghostly white version of her face, bleached blonde hair and green eyes, which have been blowing up on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and on the blogs.

The blogs accused O’khaz of skin bleaching and features earlier pictures of a much more natural and darker version of the Lagos-born actress as proof. By yesterday morning, outrage and disgust over the skin changing pictures have managed to seep out of the usual network of Naija based bloggers and gossip sites and into the horrified yet poorly contextualized eyesight of mostly Western black viewers, who prior to the lurid picture, had no idea who she was. Admittedly, I too was part of the confusion.

Hoping to make sense of what I was seeing, I reached out to O’khaz via Facebook, about the controversial images. Initially, she was hesitant about speaking out on the rumors, citing the age old adage: “they can talk as much as they want and believe what they want.” And she has been pretty much mocking the controversy on both her Facebook and Twitter accounts with such tweets as:

My nose doesn’t fit my new white skin so I need a very good plastic surgeon 2 fix it up. Who has Dr 90210’s number? Money no be problem.”

However not everyone is familiar with O’khaz this side of the Atlantic. Moreover, the topic of skin bleaching on the continent, as well as elsewhere in the black Diaspora, has recently garnered lots of attention among Western black audiences. The most recent example is the viral images of Cameroon pop star Dencia, whose recently lightened skin, hair and eyes served as pitch person for a cosmetic line of skin bleaching creams called “Whitenicious.” Black folks in the West, scared by legacy of slavery as well as continued systematic racism and colorism, generally frown upon the practice and associate skin lightening with an extreme example of self-hate (Dr. Yaba Blay has a litany of great essays and research on various topics related to colorism). As such O’khaz thought it best to not be introduced to new Western audiences by rumors of skin bleaching.

O’khaz said that while she is naturally lighter skinned, she is not Casper-white as we see in the picture. She also emphatically denies ever bleaching her skin. Instead, she says that the ghostly white image making its way around the Internet is photoshopped.

“I take a lot of pictures for different purposes, some for movie posters. And this one is for a movie so when its out I’ll let u know,’ she writes.

O’khaz, who has appeared in dozens of Nollywood films including Costly Mistakes, White Hunters and Return of the White Hunters (the latter two are available for free streaming), couldn’t go into much detail about the yet to be titled film for which the photos were taken. However, O’khaz can be seen in the upcoming films projects: Street Money: Occultic Sister and 89 Years in Bondage, which are due out next month. Also a much more natural skin toned O’khaz can be seen in her new video for the song, “I Like the Way,” which from her debut album Ready For You.

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