Upon the release of the single ‘Brown Skin Girl’, from Beyoncé’s new Lion King album ‘The Gift’, Teen Vogue published an article outlining the specific intent of the song and who it was especially intent on empowering.
Namely, dark skin Black women, as evidenced by particular reverence of famous, gorgeous dark skin women; where Beyoncé sings ‘pretty like Lupita when the camera close in’, she is elevating an entire sect of POC women who have been marginalized more than any other BAME ethnicity.
However, whilst I fully comprehend the purposeful manner in which ‘Brown Skin Girl’ is written, the notion that other brown skin women cannot find parity of ownership of a song that celebrates their skin jars against the whole message of the piece: that they, as brown skin girls are not only just as beautiful as Caucasian women, but hold a special magic that makes their skin ‘glow like diamonds’.
Being a very unusual and hard-to-place mix has meant that over the course of my childhood there was never any narrative in popular culture that was geared at me, for me, and the feeling that I got whilst listening to Brown Skin Girl belonged to the dark-eyed six-year-old girl nicknamed ‘Tinker Bell’.
Personally, moments like that never made me feel excluded, but I know a common feeling among POC is the memory of never having anyone on your TV screen looking like you. I loved Tinker Bell; the reason that that was my childhood nickname was her personality, not her blonde hair and blue eyes. However, seeing Moana at sixteen was a novel experience; and I realised for me, it isn’t the absence of representation so much as the joy of inclusivity.
Nevertheless, I get mistaken for anything from Brazilian to Hawaiian to Arab , and the reasons behind these assumptions are not normally pejorative in the way commentary about the ethnicity or skin tone of Dark Skin Black Women is often thoughtless. So, I’m not trying to say, ‘I understand what it’s like.’ I’m just trying to celebrate feeling included and seen.
‘Brown Skin Girl’ is an anthem for Dark Skin Black women, and women like Beyoncé are already higher up the Western Beauty totem pole because of lighter skin-but it doesn’t stop wanting to broadcast the song to every black, Asian, mixed-race, other BAME minority who believed in bleaching cream or baby powder- and to any brown skin girl or boy who ever felt lesser–than because of their colour.
In fact, in creating a story solely, or largely, for dark skin women, Beyoncé is shining a spotlight on a group of women that do not see one very often, and that is inspiring even to people who don’t, and shouldn’t, fully identify with the song. For being told that brown is beautiful is never not going to feel special and rare for those who never heard music remotely celebratory of them, and only them.
Image: Ana y María Quintana y González via Flickr