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gabEssence Magazine hosted their 2014 upfronts this morning and part of their presentation featured a panel on beauty with Gabrielle Union, Bethann Hardison, Iman and Patrice Grell-Yursik, the founder of Afrobella.

During the spirited conversation which covered a range of topics from confidence to racism in fashion, Gabrielle Union revealed that she was criticized for dying her hair blonde for a movie role.

According to Glamazons Blog, she said: “It was a brouhaha when I changed my hair to blonde for a movie and [I received] questions about my character and my blackness. I was like, ‘umm, I thought that it was pretty clear that it was for a job.’ But even if it wasn’t for a job, it’d be my choice. It feels like my choice — or what they thought was my choice — to be closer to white somehow reflected on everybody.”

Though Gabrielle Union only dyed her hair blonde for a role, her experience sheds light on how many people perceive black women who have blonde hair. If a black woman colors her hair blonde, does it mean she is ashamed of her blackness or would rather look like a white woman? Or is it simply a style choice without any racial significance?

In addition to their talk about black beauty, Essence revealed plans for their 2014 Essence Festival, which marks the program’s 20th anniversary, the first-ever Essence Street Style Awards and another successful Essence Women Who Are Shaping The World Conference.

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  • for me it simply was a style choice. i got tired of the usual browns and reds and shot for something different. i liked the blonde color best because it brought out the natural undertones in my skin and gave my skin a glow. it was a honey blonde. my fave color. now my hair is brown and red-streaked but i’m going back to honey blonde soon as my roots grow out some more.