A friend recently called and asked me if I thought Beyonce’s skin was getting lighter? I remembered seeing a picture of her a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised that it was Beyonce but I didn’t dwell on it. I understand that camera lighting plays a major part in how photographed images are presented. But, being curious I went online to see if there was any validity in my friend’s question.

Where the heck have I been? It seems Beyonce’s appearance at the Grammy Awards in February caused a quite a stir. The main question, was Beyonce bleaching her skin? What followed was a slew of articles criticizing, or supporting what is apparently Beyonce’s new look.

Repeating Islands, a website celebrating the Island cultures shared with their readers an article from an United Kingdom newspaper; the article quotes English newspaper the Daily Mail’s criticism that Beyonce’s decision to change her skin tone was intended to deny her origin, in addition to being a example of racism. The Daily Mail article’s title is “My fair lady! Blonde bombshell Beyonce shows off her lighter side.”

Meanwhile, Hiphop.popcrunch exclaims, “Hell, she’s practically Pamela Anderson now.”

Women of color from other countries look to our Black/African American women as role models.

The Black woman’s beauty and courage is celebrated around the world, although American culture downplays our impact. When a Black woman appears to be denying her heritage, the disappointment is felt around the world.

Blogger (Her Blue Print: Art & Ideas for Women Everywhere) Ruby Singhrao, asked the question, Is Popular Culture Bleaching Out Cultural Identity?

Singhrao, of Pakistani descent, describes herself as a woman of color and adds “I have done all sorts of things with my hair. Naturally, I am dark chocolate with big waves.” Her parents, natives of East Africa dealt with the color issue when they were young. The writer says her mother used to tell her how they tried to straightened their hair and bleach their skin.

Singhrao writes; that was back then. The question now: do standards of European beauty still exist so deeply that current pop culture icons like Beyonce, a woman of wealth and power who potentially has the chance to break these “standards of beauty” still perpetuates them?

This (is) exactly why Beyonce’s recent “look” makes a huge impact in popular culture versus cultural identity. Her appearance at the Grammys seems to reinforce rather than rebel: she is perpetuating that in order to be successful; you need to be more Caucasian. In order to be accepted, you need to erase all trace of an ethnic background. For younger women of color, this is a persistent message and barrier they regularly face.

This recent picture of Beyonce made me gasp. She looks like a White woman. Maybe the black dress, and perhaps because she’s walking in the sun is making her skin appear White or the fact that the camera lights are flashing, maybe.

Beyonce is perhaps one of the hardest working women in show business, and I respect that. But I remember when Beyonce performed with Latin singer Shakira at a Latin awards show several years ago and she made the statement “I wish I was born a Latina.”

I was flabbergasted and unfortunately shut out anything else she had to say. I felt betrayed.

Beyonce gave away her power; it was like saying being a beautiful Black woman wasn’t good enough for her. Right then, I felt she had an identity crisis.

If Beyonce is bleaching her skin, she won’t be the first Black woman to do so. Ironically, White women are spending money and time darkening their skin. From expensive tanning sprays, foams and powders, to tanning salons cropping up everywhere, White women are realizing the beauty of a permanent tan.

Black women have got to start celebrating our beauty, and not let mainstream society continue to dictate to us what the standards of beauty are.

Gail can be reached at hollywoodbychoice_gail@yahoo.com.