In a wide-ranging interview with Ebony, Cameroonian pop artist Dencia is finally setting the record straight about her “skin care line” Whitenicious.
When Whitenicious hit the web back in December it caused quite a stir. Many saw the cream—which the singer argues is not meant to be a bleaching agent, but rather a treatment for dark spots—as yet another skin-lightening product targeting Black people, but the musician-turned-beauty pro says it’s not. Selling for upwards of $150 per bottle, Dencia claims the cream sold out in just 24-hours, and has since sold over 15,000 units, proving many are hungry for her product.
In a conversation with Dr. Yaba Blay, Dencia says the backlash surrounding Whitenicious has only strengthened sales.
I have more important things going on in my life. I have my health, I have my career, I have so many things. I have an orphanage I’m trying to build. Where do I have time to sit and think of these people? I don’t. Because I don’t really feel bad about everything you guys are saying, I don’t. Because “she, me, her I don’t care” in my Tamar voice. You guys talk sh*t about everybody. You guys have said too much sh*t about Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, but guess what? They’re winning. They’re at the top of their game. Why don’t you just see that what you’re doing is not helping you or them and just try to better yourself and be successful and bring out something. Instead of sitting there and bashing Whitenicious how about somebody bring out Blackenicious? Then we’ll know that you’re doing something instead of being ignorant. So keep talking. I don’t care because my sales are skyrocketing. They have all these stories talking so much s*it and it’s funny because people come and they’ll tweet, “Where can I buy Whitenicious? I just read about it on Bossip.” I take negative and turn it into positive.
One of the reasons many reacted so negatively to Whitenicious (besides its ridiculous name) were the pictures of Dencia herself. Though the singer says dark skin is beautiful and admits to lightening her skin “a few shades,” she says images showing her as much darker are a result of tanning, not genetics.
The picture they’re passing around where I’m wearing the animal print underwear, that picture was three years ago and that was a tan. If anybody looks at that picture and you look at the oil on my skin, you would know it’s a tan. And it’s funny because one of my friends who was at the photo shoot with me that actually oiled me up with the tan sent me a message yesterday. She was like “Why are people going crazy about this picture when you were tanned on this picture?” I was never that dark in real life and I can send EBONY pictures of me when I was like 15, 16. And guess what? I don’t even care because they’re bringing me business. Because when you take that picture and you put a picture of Dencia darker, this is what you’re telling people – the product really works. And guess what? People really want to buy it. It’s what it is. I don’t really care.
EBONY: So…you haven’t bleached your skin, is what you’re saying? You were tan in the before pictures?
Dencia: Have I…Has my skin lightened from when…like from the past five years? Yes it has. It has. Has it drastically lightened? No it hasn’t. Is it what people are saying? No it’s not.
One of the most troubling parts of the interview came when Dr. Blay challenged Dencia about the adverse health effects of skin-bleaching. Dencia claimed there was no link between skin-bleaching and cancer, but as Dr. Blay pointed out, that’s just not true. Bleaching creams can cause various cancers, liver disease, and permanent abrasions to the skin, something Dencia seems completely wholly unaware of.
I’m always constantly sick and from the time I was a little girl. I’m not going to do anything that will put my life at risk because God has given me so many opportunities to be alive. Contrary to what people are saying “Oh, this is going to cause you cancer.” No, it wouldn’t. Whitening your skin will not cause you cancer. There is no, how do they call this thing?
EBONY: Medical research?
Dencia: Yes, there is no medical research!
EBONY: But there is.
Dencia: That it causes cancer?
Dencia: But guess what? The air you breathe outside causes you cancer. Everything in the world causes cancer.
EBONY: If I tell you that for the last 40 years dermatologists all over the world, many of whom are in Senegal, in Nigeria, in Ghana, have done research to show that bleaching products, particularly those products with hydroquinone and corticosteroids, those products stop the production of melanin. And you know in West Africa we need melanin to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Naturally African people don’t get skin cancer because of how much melanin we have. But when we stop producing melanin, we make ourselves susceptible to skin cancer. And so because of that, because of skin bleaching, and because of the use of these products, we see an increase in the numbers of cases of skin cancer in Africa, when that wasn’t a medical issue that we suffered from before. Do you understand? So if I tell you, Dencia, yes you can get skin cancer from lightening your skin, are you concerned?
Dencia; You know what? I’m not. First of all, body lotion cannot stop melanin. Melanin comes from inside, not externally. That’s why people still have hyperpigmentation. You can bleach your skin all you want you will still produce melanin. Body lotion does not stop your melanin from coming. It does not.
EBONY: But it does.
In the end, Dencia says the criticism about Whitenicious have only made her sales stronger. According to the singer most of her sales come from African Americans because, in her words, Africans “don’t have credit cards.”
As of now 80% of people that buy my products are African American. It’s not Africans. People are saying that it’s Africans because they think I live in Africa. I go back and forth but I live here. I can send you the stats – it is African Americans. I have to be honest with you – I have TV personalities buying Whitenicious for over $1000. People who work for TV stations like Fox. I have celebrities buying Whitenicous and all of these people are African Americans, they are not Africans. My African market is just 10% because guess what? They don’t have credit cards to buy the products and I’m only taking credit cards or PayPal. And they don’t have that access, do you get what I’m saying? It’s these people that can access that.
While she admits the product hasn’t quite made her rich just yet, it has helped her achieve one goal: be talked about.