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Hip-hop artist Lil Kim is caught in a whirlwind of controversy after posting a series of selfies on Instagram in which she is reportedly unrecognizable. Fans and critics alike took to social media to give their opinions on the rapper’s “new look,” which includes lightened skin and blonde hair.

Though the Twitterverse can be cruel, many responses were of concern rather than criticism, sparking a conversation about colorism and how Black women have historically viewed themselves in opposition to a European standard of beauty.

Yaba Blay, Ph.D. and author of the book (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race, joined guest host Angela Rae on NewsOne Now to discuss the controversy surrounding Lil Kim’s altered appearance and how colorism continues to have an impact on the psyche of African-American women.

Rae began the segment expressing her views on the Kardashian phenomenon: “We’re living in a society were everybody says Kim Kardashian is the way we need to look, when the way Kim Kardashian looks right now — that’s not the way she looked. She’s had so much plastic surgery.” Rae added, “Y’all need to quit with the Kardashian stuff.”

Dr. Blay said, “I was sad when I saw the image of Lil Kim on Sunday, because that’s not the Kim that so many of us Iook to. She thinks she’s always represented a kind of in-your-face unapologetic self-love for us and she’s carried us through some kind of sexual liberation.” 

“She’s ours,” Blay said. Later stating, “I really wanted to talk to her directly, because it makes me sad that there aren’t enough images, there’s not enough affirmation for her to know that she doesn’t have to do that — she doesn’t have to go through those extremes to be accepted, to be seen as beautiful.”

“The reality is within this context of history and colorism and White supremacy, she (Lil Kim) feels like she does,” said Blay. She continued, “I think we have to take a moment to step back from Kim the individual and think about Kim the reflection.”

Dr. Blay believes the extremes that Lil Kim has gone through to alter her appearance is a “reflection of the society we live in.” 

Guest host Rae also discussed the notion of African-American women conforming to a certain standard of beauty to attract Black men “because all of the African-American men that they may see are with Kim Kardashian or with Chrissy Teigen.”

She added, “There is this whole scenario where African-American women feel like African-American men are not interested in me as I am and I like Black men, so I am going to have to change who I am to that.” 

Blay explained that through her study on the practice in Ghana, many woman who bleach their skin believe “the men are out here are saying they prefer light-skin women and if you want to get a man, it’s just one of those ways that you do what you got to do.”

Later during their conversation on colorism, Rae said, “I feel sometimes as if that Black women are being excluded and we are not appreciated for who we are and what we bring to the table and our distinct beauty.”

Watch guest host Angela Rae and Dr. Yaba Blay discuss Lil Kim’s appearance and the impact of colorism on the Black community in the video clip above.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.


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Lil Kim’s Selfies Dredge Up Colorism Debate  was originally published on