As I continue to explore the many facets of the entertainment profession, I cannot help but notice the game-like nature of the industry. I then begin to question my own contribution and participation in what seems like an industry impervious to change. When I think of artists who compromise their own heritage for the sake of seeming relevant to a Euro-centric audience, I can’t help but think of female artists in the Black entertainment industry.
It might seem like an exhausted argument, but the issue has yet to be properly addressed. I find the dichotomy of this paradox fascinating and baffling at the same time. Within the Black community there are perceptions of physical beauty that sometimes vary from the norm; these perceptions are heavily skewed by European standards of beauty. History shows the damaging effects that America’s racial climate had and still has on minority women and their self-image as well as their self esteem. So often we see compromising representations of Black women that have us question their racial identification.
But what happens when someone from outside the racial group is able to profit from abandoned modes of self-beautification?
Stacy Ferguson, also known as Fergie, is a singer, rapper, dancer, and the fourth member of hip-hop/pop quartet group Black Eyed Peas. The 34-year old singer, who was a former child actor, is known for her soulful bellows and retro flavored wardrobe. Being the only female member of a group allows her to stand out easily, with her gaudy jewelry, towering hairstyles, and clawing nails, she is hard to ignore. Though these qualities might seem reminiscent of outdated ‘ghetto’ styles that have been deemed tawdry, Fergie still manages to make it commercially appealing.
I find it incredibly ironic that Black female artists are on the endless pursuit of class and that which will not offend those with the most buying power as well as appease those who wish to identify with a group other than their own. Fergie’s Black counterparts would never be able to compete in the mainstream market with her image. Fergie however has reversed the roles and transitions comfortably between the two categories of self-representation. In music videos and in album books, she can be an urban queen with no reservations, but on the red carpet and in interviews she adheres to the standards of being a lady.
I cannot say she is inauthentic because I have no knowledge of her background. What I can say is Fergie utilizes various ‘racial representations’ to create her brand. What amazes me is how quickly she transitions from the various modes of self-portrayal and why it goes unnoticed.