Dawn Richard, former member of Danity and Diddy Dirty Money, has either discovered a transformative Instagram filter or she’s visited a plastic surgeon’s office. The songstress uploaded several photos to Instagram showcasing an altered nose and lighter complexion. No, she didn’t nip her nose to fix cartilage or lighten her photo; her transformation is much more noticeable and disturbing.
Richard’s devoted Twitter base of 1 million immediately noticed her slimmer, angular nose and lighter skin and as is common on the social network, lambasted her with their criticism. The “Making the Band” songstress defensively retorted the derision.
Dawn Richard is entitled to bleach her skin and reconstruct her face, but it doesn’t undermine what her decision symbolizes. Her decision to trim her nose and lighten her skin speaks to a deeper pressure from Westernized society to be “mainstream” and “idealistic.”
Richard has equated physical appeal to music in the past.
She hit a nerve when she suggested it’s difficult for a woman with a combination of her complexion, hair length, and swag to be successful in the entertainment business. Since Richard is brown-complexioned, wears a cropped cut, and chooses to deck her thin frame in combat boots instead of platform stilettos, she believes that her career had not launched as quickly as others in the music world.
“It was a difficult road being this color and having the edge that I have: the short hair, the vibe. […] I would like to represent for those girls who people say nah, you can’t be edgy and brown and have a new sound and make it big,” the recording artist told Carlton Jordan in a 2011 interview.
There’s validity to her argument. One of the leading industries where the color complex rears its divisive head is in the music business, where the lighter-complexioned entertainers reign supreme.
Remember the Alicia Keys and India.Arie conflict that was birthed during the 2002 Grammy Awards? Alicia was nominated for six awards, India for seven; Alicia won five of those six awards, India left without a single statuette. Overall, Alicia has also forged the more lucrative career, though India is equally as talented and soulful. It led neo-soul fans to question the reason behind The Recording Academy’s decision.
Hana Riazuddin, a black feminist, sums up the misconceptions of Western beauty ideals and how it impacts women of color well.
“Western concepts of beauty not only advocate a patriarchy that determines the worth/role/place of women in general, but for Black women in particular it is precisely such constructions that have been used to devalue and ultimately dehumanize them. Many people forget that the White Supremacy that accompanied colonization and slavery was founded and dependent on the academic work behind race and ethnology.”
Beauty is constructed, packaged and shoved down our throats to determine gender politics for women, particularly women of color. “Black women’s bodies in the West have been the grounds for public speculation and degradation for centuries, dismissing the idea that binaries such as the public/private separation exist for gender or sexual politics,” Riazuddin explains.
The white mainstream media, which also success merits for the recording industry, has placed beauty in a historically genderized and racialized framework that it is impossible to escape.
“For White women Eurocentric concepts of beauty do not have the same impact. For Black women living and growing up in the West it is pertinent that we address both if we are to liberate ourselves from gendered and sexist binaries, if we are to live as real, full, human beings with agency, worth, purpose and power – something the mainstream Feminist movement has failed to take seriously for far too long,” Riazuddin explains.
So it’s not surprising Dawn caved to the pressure. It just leaves an open-ended question: Who will be next?