The father and former manager of multibillionaire superstar Beyonce believes that the singer’s light-colored skin helped advance her career. In an interview with Ebony Magazine, Matthew Knowles broadly suggested that Beyonce would not have been popular if she had a darker skin tone.
Mr. Knowles discussed “colorism,” a prejudicial attitude and practice among members of the same race based on different skin tones, in the context of his new book, entitled Racism: From The Eyes Of A Child. He also admitted that when he was a young man, despite being black himself, he preferred dating only white women or black women who were light-skinned, having been deeply influenced by this kind of prejudice while growing up in 1950’s Gadsden, Alabama.
Mr. Knowles even recalled his mother telling him not to bring home dark-skinned black women. “In the Deep South in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the shade of your blackness was considered important. So I, unfortunately, grew up hearing that message.”
This led him to choose white women or light skinned black women as his partners, including Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, who appeared to be white to him when they first met.
“I had been conditioned from childhood with eroticized rage. There was actual rage in me as a black man, and I saw the white female as a way, subconsciously, of getting even or getting back. There are a lot of black men of my era that are not aware of this thing.”
Beyonce’s parents divorced in 2011, ending their marriage after 31 years. However, according to a statement made back then, the two would continue to be business partners and friends, as well as parents.
To prove his point, Mr. Knowles pointed out that recording artists as Rihanna, Nikki Minaj and Mariah Carey, as well as his own daughters Solange and Beyonce, are the ones whose music gets airtime on pop radio, and what they have in common is lighter skin.
The issue of colorism recently surfaced when VH1’s reality show Love & Hip Hop Miami, which began in January, showed how producer Elijah “Young Hollywood” Sarraga was reluctant to help advance the career of Afro-Latina artist Amara La Negra, who is dark-skinned.
While Mr. Sarraga, who is Latino, acknowledged Amara La Negra’s talent, he pointed out that she needed to “look a certain way… a little bit more Beyonce, a little less Macy Gray.”
On the show, Ms. La Negra continued to be on the receiving end of disparaging remarks from Mr. Sarraga. For example, in one instance he called her a “Nutella Queen,” a reference to her skin tone being close in shade to the popular hazelnut-chocolate spread.
Commenter online have criticized how Ms. La Negra has been treated on the show, but Mona Scott-Young, the show’s executive producer, welcomes the conversation on colorism, pointing out that fostering understanding would be impossible if such issues are never discussed.