Beyonce may be People’s first black “most beautiful” in 9 yrs, but why is she blonde?

Jezebel reports:

The new issue of People magazine features Beyoncé on the cover as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman. As People editor Janet Mock notes, it’s the “first time in 9 years that a black woman lands this coveted cover.” In 2003, Halle Berry was named World’s Most Beautiful Woman; she and Beyoncé are the only two black women to hold the honor in 22 years.

So are white people prettier than black people?

Clearly, our culture’s standards of beauty are racist and have nothing much to do with “beauty” and everything to do with replicating the power structure.

People’s “most beautiful” cover women are predominantly actresses. Those actresses are culled from Hollywood movies, most of which feature casts of white people and are also directed and produced by white people. Those movies are then awarded prizes and accolades by committees of white people. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%. (source LA Times)

What about TV, which is often a crucial stepping stone to making it into movies?

Women and Hollywood reports:

Of the 2,600 episodes analyzed of scripted series for the 2010-2011 season (which comprise of over 170 series), white males directed 77% of all the shows. White women directed 11% and women of color only 1%. The numbers women were the same from the previous season.Breaking it down a bit further, white men directed 80% of all one hour shows and 74% of half hour series (source Director’s Guild of America)

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why so few women of color make it to People’s “Most Beautiful” cover.

Jezebel reports:

A look back at the celebrities People has called “most beautiful” reveals that past honorees are ladies like Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford. Michelle Pfeiffer has been called Most Beautiful twice; Julia Roberts has been the cover gal four times. Jennifer Lopez, the 2011 Most Beautiful, is the lone Latina on the list. And there have been zero Asian women.

It creeps me out that, so often, the more “successful” people of color get, the “whiter” they often look. Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, and of course, tragically, Michael Jackson all adopted a more Caucasian look as they became more well known. Did they get more “beautiful?”

Beyonce may be People’s first “most beautiful” black woman in nine years, and she’s talented and gorgeous, but why is one of the only two black women EVER to get this award shown as a blonde? What does People’s cover say about our culture’s biased standards of “beauty?”

If the directors, producers, casts of movies, and awards committees of Hollywood were mostly made up of African-Americans, who do do you think would be on People’s covers year and after year? What would those women look like?

And if women ran Hollywood, would People create a “most beautiful” issue at all? Or would the magazine come out with something more like “The Sexiest Woman Alive” featuring older stars on its cover? Real life “Sexiest Man Alive” winners include Pierce Brosnan at age 48, Harrison Ford at age 56, and Sean Connery at age 59.

It helps quite a bit to come off as “sexy” when you’re portrayed in movie after movie as a hero and shown with “hot” sidekicks who are desperately in love with you. Though People covermen do have one thing in common with the women: Denzel Washington is the only African-American ever deemed “sexy” enough to win.

8 thoughts on “Beyonce may be People’s first black “most beautiful” in 9 yrs, but why is she blonde?

  1. I’m not going to argue the race issue, because, frankly, I agree with your point.

    However, as to your argument about “People” being sexist, you say, “And if women ran Hollywood, would People create a “most beautiful” issue at all? Or would the magazine come out with something more like “The Sexiest Woman Alive” featuring older stars on its cover?”

    A (very) brief look at People’s masthead on their website shows that of the top 38 people (basically, everybody listed before the reporting staff) approximately 21 of them are women. I say approximately because several of the names are either just initials or non-gender-specific. That’s more than half the executive editorial staff. The positions represented by women include: Chairman & CEO (Ann S. Moore), Exec. VPs, Exec. Editors, Design Director, and multiple dept. editors.

    A further (easy) search brings up their online media kit showing their demographic skews 70% female, a median age of 38, 80% with at least some college, and a median household income of $72K, with 26% of the readership reporting a household income of over $100K.

    It would be easy to say these women are “internalizing the patriarchy” or some other pat pseudo-feminist quip, but the reality has to be far more nuanced. The editors of the magazine are selling what their audience of college educated, middle-aged women wants. Women presumably not so different from you. Women who very likely self-identify as feminists.

    Women may not run Hollywood, but they do run “People” and they sell it to women.

    • Hi paganpup,

      Totally agree People Magazine is produced mostly by women, mostly for women. So are fashion magazines. I see this media all as a reflection of what is valued in the culture/ power structure. Most women are very concerned about “beauty” because “beauty” means you are powerful, safe, important, that you EXIST. Look at the article in Vogue that Dara Lynn Weiss wrote about putting her 7 yr old daughter on a diet. A mom doing that to her daughter! It is horrible. You can’t simplify patriarchy into men vs women because its so internalized. Many men are feminists, many women are not, but all over the world, women are the ones without power and money. Here’s the other issue that complicates matters: People is about women. So are fashion magazines. In Vogue, you are also likely to find articles about female artists and CEOs. I read many of these magazines. Its kind of like when people say, “Girls just love princesses.” No, they don’t. Girls want to see themselves reflected out there. Being a princess is one of the only ways girls get to exist, get to star, get to be the center of the action. Girls are into models for the same reason. This is another place where females are portrayed as powerful. But of course, they’re really not.

      Thanks for your comment.


  2. What I notice most is that both black women to have been selected are actually mixed race (Halle Berry’s mother is of European descent, Beyoncé’s is mixed race with some European thrown in there; both fathers are black). I’m going to be magnanimous and assume that People refers to them as black because they identify as black, and not because of some racist BS. Let’s not even start on the fact that this isn’t the first time Beyoncé’s skin has been Photoshopped lighter than it is naturally.

    Anyway, I’m not denying that both women are gorgeous, but so are women with more stereotypically ‘black’ features, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Of course, as an author and not an actress Adichie is maybe not eligible for the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Woman’ award…

  3. I have the answer for u why beyonce is blonde.. Because she chooses to be.. Ever since beyonce came on the scene she has been blonde..her tresses may darken from time to time but she has had blonde for the longest time.. I think before writing an article you need to at least know about the person..its rare beyonce changes her hair color she is not rihanna

    • Hi justme,
      I’ve been a fan of beyonce since destiny’s child. She has been blonde for a long time but her hair has gotten blonder and straighter. And why was she ever blonde? I guess I can see trying it out “for fun” but why almost never (ever?) her natural hair?


  4. That’s a very good question. And also if you look at the picture and look at Beyonce in real life you will probably notice that even her SKIN is darker in real life. That’s right, ladies. They even made her skin whiter so she can be more ‘beutiful’ for the picture. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this to people of darker skin. I actually find her skin in the picture really disturbing. It makes her look ill 🙁

    What disturbs me even more is when children and even adults crap their pants when they find out their favorate star has always been dark skinned. Such as the Ancient Eygptians. And Jesus Christ. All brown!

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