Azealia Banks has been bleaching her skin.
As much as it pains me to say that and I was hoping it was an Internet conspiracy against good lighting, it’s apparently true.
There was a single cover for her track “Slay Z” where the musician appeared lighter than normal, but after a while, no one thought much of it. However, after posting images of herself recently in Brazil looking paler than usual, filters be damned, her followers began to make comments about bleaching being a possibility:
And not only did she admit to lightening her skin, but she admitted to using one of the more controversial products on the market–Whitenicious.
In an interview with Bossip, a rep for Whitenicious by the name of Rebecca Matamba also confirmed Banks’s use of their product, and stated that she’s not the first nor the last well-known star to use it:
She loves Whitenicious and has tweeted about it multiple times…She is one of our many celebrity clients but she is just one of the celebrities who uses it and doesn’t care who knows. She is just a beautiful woman experimenting and trying new things and she looks great. People should focus on her talent instead of her skin. After all she’s in an industry where everyone is getting a little nip and tuck here and there, the difference is others lie about it but she is open about it, because it’s her body not anyone’s and people should focus on her music.
As a former Banks fan, and a Black woman, I was definitely taken aback at the revelation that she had bleached her skin. Say what you want about her, but that’s just sad.
Whether it was makeup or good lighting, to me, the two things people couldn’t take away from Banks included her skill on the mic and her glowing skin. But to see her proudly tote Whitenicious on her page and use it as if it’s daily lotion is a testament to a warped view of herself. However, what really hurt my heart more in the conversation about her choice to lighten her skin was the number of people who defended such beauty measures, citing evening out skin tone as the reason Banks, and many others, would even consider using something that has, time and again, been cited as causing great health risks.
“Its [sic] called making your skin tone EVEN , a lot of us dark skinned women have dark spots and very uneven tones , so it would look HELLA dumb if she just fixed one area,” an Instagram follower noted. “yahll [sic] acting like she went full out , she is still brown . calm down”
In response, Banks said, “thank you! I am still brown” and would follow up on social media with “Because my p—y still purple” when someone asked how she could be so pro-Black but lighten her complexion.
Other women online also stated that it wasn’t a big deal.
“She uses it to even her complexion (black people often suffer from hyperpigmentation and bad acne scarring), darkened knees and elbows,” a woman said. “Much like a fade cream and she admitted she’s thought of using it to change her skintone but that she won’t.”
“I’m a proud dark skinned woman but my face is literally 2-3 shades darker than the rest of my body and I would totally do this (not necessarily bleach, but I’m looking into peels, fade creams, etc). It’s called evening out your skin tone. She only used it on her face to even it out,” another woman added.
Through Banks’s story, it became clear that more women than you would think are opting for lightening creams to deal with hyperpigmentation issues. However, there are numerous products on the market recommended by experts that don’t require completely morphing your skin tone to deal with dark spots. As pointed out by the UK’s The Guardian, there are serums and spot treatments that help to minimize the intensity of dark spots that can be applied. Products that are truly meant to just even things out by lightening up dark spots–not lightening up all of your skin.
Jennifer Linder, M.D., a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Ariz. told ELLE that using sunscreen could help to keep spots from darkening. And as Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd told Ebony, it’s about treating the spot–not your entire face or body. As she put it, “When people treat dark spots, they tend to get halos, which means the skin around the spot gets lighter. Treatment has to be more localized, so you have to get the active ingredient just on the spot.”
So evening out and completely lightening up skin? Two totally different things.
And I can’t help but wonder (aside from why we don’t tan instead of lighten) if a desire to appeal in this industry played a big part in her decision to lighten her skin. Or worse, if the treatment, past and possibly present, of men influenced this need to do something about these alleged spots. Banks, whose dermis always seemed pretty even, and dare I say, flawless in photographs and videos, has spoken openly, albeit, harshly about men, specifically Black men, when it comes to their treatment of her and Black women as a whole. During a heated back and forth with rapper Wale before her Twitter account was closed a few months ago, Banks had this to say when speaking on whether or not Black men protect her.
“But they don’t. Even when my suffering is public, no one steps out to protect me.”
And in tweets pointed out by Black Girl Long Hair, Banks also had this to say in the past about being mistreated:
“Seriously… The treatment I get for being a dark skinned woman just makes me want to lay down and die sometime”
“They hate us, and they treat us like dogs, then turn around and ask why we’re mad”
“I don’t care what anyone says: men in general despise dark skinned women.”
Her statements are very similar to those of fellow female MC Lil Kim, who has clearly altered not only her skin but her overall appearance over the years. Back in 2000, she spoke about the effect the comments of the men in her life had on her viewpoint with Newsweek:
“All my life men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough–even the men I was dating. And I’d be like, ‘Well, why are you with me, then?’ ” She winces. “It’s always been men putting me down just like my dad. To this day when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says.”
But as is the case with Kimberly Jones, attacking Banks for her decision to change her skin doesn’t do anything to help. At the end of the day, only she really knows what makes her happy and why she makes certain decisions. However, for other women who see her and comment that she “looks better” or that they’re looking to try the same methods, it’s important to know that there are other options. There are other options aside from a product that goes so far out of its way to push lighter as better that it puts “White” in its name. There are other options to help deal with hyperpigmentation. And as someone with a very uneven skin tone who came to the conclusion that I needed to embrace my bespectacled skin, trust me when I say there are other options.
As a strong woman who has spoken so openly and proudly about Blackness in the past, it honestly saddens me to see Banks, a beautiful woman, try and rid herself of a facet of that Blackness (even if she’s “still brown”) — and to see so many other women who see nothing wrong with doing the same.