I’ve noticed this so much that’s it’s starting to become annoying. Next time you sit and watch commercials, notice if there is a multiracial group of people in it, that the icon of the black woman is a light-skinned beaming girl with bouncy fro-curls. Why do commercial producers default to this particular style that I don’t think I’ve ever seen out in public?
The light-skinned black girl with the bouncy hair in every commercial that contains a black woman...
Because most of the people working at ad agencies are white and cast people who are “attractive” (i.e. look like themselves.)
I think this is a controversial issue with mainstream black actresses in Hollywood as well. I can’t remember if there is a specific name for the issue being discussed, but it’s some sort of well known discrimination against casting black actresses with darker skin. At least it’s well known issue within the black actress community.
Hey, I’ve shared an elevator with that character type twice this last week.
But what they said - the ad/casting agencies go by a “standardized” pattern of “attractiveness” based on how they expect their market demographic to react.
I’ll be interested to hear some of our Black female posters join in but I have been led to believe that the bias is an issue within the Black community as well and in this case “Black” is the better term to use over “African American” as it applies within African populations as well. European beauty standards have long been internalized by historically colonized and dominated populations. I’ve heard before about many a current Black adult woman has had issues with mothers relaxing their hair and more.
Celebrating standards of beauty that are not European dominated, specifically in this case that are more Black standards of female beauty, (darker, tighter hair, curvier) is a big subject. See the long running media discussion about the Serena Williams and the reason she felt the need to write this open letter to her mom on Reddit.
Ad execs should do a better job celebrating beauty standards that are less Eurocentric but OTOH their job when they create the one commercial is to market what best sells product, not to fix society’s issues.
Another very recent example, Lupita Nyong’o, who I would say can meet any standard of beauty, calling out the digital editing of her hair for her cover shoot.
The photographer, An Le, subsequently apologized.
Thing is that I doubt An Le (not White himself) had conscious thought process to promote a Eurocentric beauty standard. It is more insidious than that. As Nyong’o put it:
What complete crap. Tire Rack or some other such place has an ad out with a very attractive young “black” female (who spends the whole commercial spilling her coffee all over herself or her car), who is not “light-skinned” at all. Numerous other examples can be found. I hypothesize that YOU simply home in on this particular phenotype and notice it more than you do darker-skinned women (or those with different hair-styles?). Which, if true, would simply prove why such women are included in a commercial, n’est-ce pas?
Like you’ve never seen a girl with pigtails?
You don’t know that parents do that because it’s cute?
And what’s this “black woman” thing - if she’s from the US she will be mixed heritage, or African i.e a heritage involving multiple, generational rapings (sic), or a first generation immigrant.
The anecdotes are most notable because they stand out so much. Even within media with a Black target demographic with Black ownership.
But this article is full of anecdotes too, along with actual studies.
Skin whitening is a $20-billion-a-year industry, and a lot of that is not in the US; tv commercials are just the tip of the iceberg.
People have been talking about this problem in the US since at least the 1940s, with the doll studies.
There has been a pervasive history, in the US as well as other cultures, to favor whiteness as more beautiful than blackness, and light-skinnedness is an offshoot of that. There is a big market for skin-lightening cream, weaves and other products that push black woman toward the lighter-skinned, white-woman beauty standard. DSeid has offered numerous examples of pushback against this trend. It is definitely reinforced by a racist society - for example, the discouragement of normal African American hairstyles in the workplace, as well as the fact that black women - even notoriously beautiful celebrities - find their skin whitened in photoshop.
Whether this preference is a direct result of colonization or some sort of innate biological preference I can’t say. But in the context of a racist, colonized society, it’s certainly problematic.
We’ve been noticing the light-skinned, bouncy-haired type in commercials, too.
I have to say, her hair is fabulous.
Yes, which all fall under “black” in the US. My cite: the entire history of African-Americans and their descendants in the United States.
Light-skinned black woman with bouncy hair signals diversity and hipness in a non-intimidating Eurocentric way.
You also see light-skinned black children (biracial or no) much more frequently than brown-skinned or dark-skinned black children in the media. Probably because to the average white person’s eye, the latter don’t appear as cute and innocent.
TV Tropes does a pretty good job dissecting all of this. There’s a link to this hilarious tampon commercial that intentionally pokes fun at the trope.
And yes, all of it pisses me off.
There is the Brown Paper Bag Test that some folks may be thinking of.
The average American of African descent has 23% European ancestry.
But that European ancestry might as well not exist to the average American, who only sees “black”.
“The light-skinned black girl with bouncy hair” does not have to be the offspring of an interracial relationship. Often she is not. Often she identifies as black because that’s the best way she knows how to identify herself, given the social boxes that are available to her.
I don’t think you’re getting it.
Sure, like Obama is black because his mother is white.
Not that the “entire history of African-Americans and their descendants in the United States” is fucked up or anything.
She looked so much prettier in the before picture, too.
Light-skinned black woman with bouncy hair turns to the fourth wall and smiles.
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