They say it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white – but Beyonce has caused quite a stir by wearing blackface make-up in a recent photo shoot.
The singer darkened down her complexion to pay homage to Nigerian musician and humanitarian Fela Kuti – who has reportedly heavily influenced her fourth album – in French fashion magazine L’Officiel Paris.
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Focused on the theme of “African rituals”, the photos show Beyonce donned in tribal-style clothing and accessories for the 90th anniversary of the glossy.
In the photos her face is distinctly black in contrast with the rest of her body, which has been left in her natural caramel skin tones.
The Crazy in Love star was reportedly inspired by Broadway musical "Fela", based on the icon's life and brave defiance against government corruption and of which her husband, Jay-Z, is a producer.
But the “African Queen” themed photos have come under fire in the blogging world, including from feminist blogger Jezebel.
“When you paint your face darker in order to look more "African," aren't you reducing an entire continent, full of different nations, tribes, cultures and histories, into one brown color?” wrote Jezebel.
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“What makes someone black — or African, for that matter — is not her skin tone. The African diaspora reaches from Brazil to Haiti to the United Kingdom and Pakistan. It's one thing to feel moved by Fela Kuti, and quite another to treat blackness as a fashion accessory, like a pair of glittery heels you put on because it looks cool.”
Atlanta Post writer Charing Ball has also slammed the photos, saying: “While my adoration for Beyonce’s talent and work ethic are unparalleled, I’m not quite sure as to why she would agree to do a photo shoot that associates her with one of the most deeply rooted racist images in American history.”
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L’Officiel Paris has defended the shoot, saying the Beyonce star was “paying homage to African queens” by replicating several African rituals in which paint is used on the face.
The use of blackface make-up on white models has become something of a trend in the fashion world.
French Vogue caused a racism uproar in 2009 when they ran a 14-page editorial featuring Dutch model Lara Stone in black make-up in their October issue. The issue was dedicated to “Supermodels” but did not feature any models with naturally black skin.
Rumours that Beyonce had actually contrastingly lightened her skin circulated earlier this month when she appeared with bleached blonde hair and what seemed to be a paler complexion.
In 2008 L’Oreal was also accused of digitally lightening her skin tone for one its commercials.
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