Do It For The Headline: Why Do We Care So Much About Dencia?

April 10, 2014  |  

The first time I was introduced to Dencia, it was through a dark-skinned before and light-skinned after picture of her. Then there were the articles about her skin whitening cream, which were floating around the Internet.

I, like the rest of black America (and those beyond these particular black borders), was intrigued.

What kind of Michael Jackson fantasies would posses a person to become the living embodiment of Kanye West’s light skinned/dark skinned friend? Forget all that mess about sun tanning and white people. Getting brown from the sun is a natural byproduct of being exposed to UV rays. Matter of fact, science tells us that Vitamin D production in the body is greatly aided by your daily exposure the sun and without our “sunshine vitamin” we run the risk of developing weak bones. Therefore sunbathing and such makes much more logical sense than completely stripping away the beneficial melanin from one’s own skin. Not to mention those white girls, who go to the extremes with the suntanning. (All end up looking a little oompa loompa-ish to me so it’s really not a flattering equivalent.)

However, I decided not to  jump in with the mix of folks, who were ready to stone the girl. After all, in this white supremacist, capitalistic society, we are all dealing with our own insecurities and attempting to maneuver the best we can. And then I read the interview between her and Dr. Yaba Blay in Ebony, which was conducted right after Dencia blasted Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o on TwitterI found myself shaking my head again. But this time, not in pity, but rather in sheer disbelief. Okay, I can roll with her on a some points. Her product, which is sold in small quantities at ridiculously high prices, might not technically be for the purpose of total body lightening. And although I adored Nyong’o’s beauty speech, you could make the case that Dencia and her product were painted as the villains in the story and not the larger white supremacist culture. However, Dencia displayed some impressive mental gymnastics in that piece, particularly as she explained her reasons why skin bleaching is not proof of some level of internalized hatred. Not to mention the arrogance and overall glee over the controversy, which she says has helped her move tons of product. It all was just too icky for my comfort.

I was ready to once and for all be done with her for good but then more Dencia-related stuff started showing up in my newsfeed. First there were the think pieces. Then there was more interviews particularly this one with UK-based Channel 4 News, in which Dencia made the headline grabbing statement that “white means pure.” As appalled as I wanted to be, I also found myself slightly amused. Not so much at what she was saying; truth be told I stopped listening the moment the camera panned around and we got to see Dencia in the flesh. And I was like, holy cow utters, Batman! The skin bleaching aside, how come nobody is talking about the strange body proportions, Dolly Parton-wig and House of Rainbow Shop-ensemble she was rocking? And the voice? She sounds like Rihanna, imitating Kim Kardashian, who is obviously trying to sound like Paris Hilton. Basically, her entire persona is just a hot behind mess. And yet, it is a hot mess that we can’t turn away from.

That’s why we keeping talking about her so much. And reading her tweets. I mean seriously, who is Dencia really? And I mean that in the sincerest form of a question? We don’t even know this child’s last name and yet she had become headline news here in the States. Prior to seeing her two-toned face on my computer screen, I couldn’t name, or sing, a single note from any of her songs. And when I went to YouTube to do research, I still had no idea what it was I was watching. Was it singing? Rap? I’m not even sure if that was Afro-Pop? And I’m pretty sure most of you, particularly you readers in America, didn’t know either.

But somehow, this previously unknown has been placed as the antithesis to N’yong’o and more generally, all that so-called ails black woman including: colorism, materialism and Beyoncé.  She is also audacious in tone and gaudy in appearance as well as strong-willed. In other respects, she might be regarded as a feminine hero. The whore to N’yong’o’s Madonna. A Grace Jones and actual Dolly Parton-figure meant to play with our ideas of beauty and womanhood. Instead, she is so abstract and contrary to everything our long-departed ancestors have told us about self-love, so we boo her like some adulterous side show freak on Jerry Springer. Still, we never dislike her enough to ignore her.

And early this week, again she took an opportunity to call out N’yong’o for being a hypocrite by inking a deal to become the face of Lancome, which is also the maker of skin lightening creams. I’m not going to lie, she does make an interesting point about folks looking down on her for outright hawking and using the creams, while at the same time giving a pass to the more subtle ways we support our own oppression. Although one could argue that none of the reports say that N’yong’o would be outright hawking skin lightening products. Therefore her deal and the Whitenicious deals are not the same. I think she knows that too. However in an attempt to stay relevant, why not say something right?

I think it is pretty clear now that Dencia, who clearly enjoys the attention, is doing it for the Vine – and the headlines. And probably for the checks too. But at this point, who can blame her? I really want to ignore her but admittedly I can’t turn away. She is horrible and silly and strangely entertaining. I don’t want her to win or her ideas of self-mutilation to win either; however, I don’t want her to go away quite yet. I mean, who else would I have to boo? And judging by how many times I’ve seen Dencia-related content shared across the blogosphere, I surmise that many of us are kind of caught up in the same weird space of fascination too.

My only question now is how long before she ends up in aTyler Perry flick? And how many of us would pay to see that?

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