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?
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.
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.