Why We Can’t Really Judge Lil’ Kim Without Confronting Misogynoir

The former rapper’s transformation is emblematic of internalized anti-blackness and Misogynoir.

Lil' Kim's transformation

Though she didn’t quite break the internet, many were left speechless in the wake of Lil Kim’s most recent photos, revealing her  new look of blonde hair and significantly lighter skin. Unsurprisingly, many were quick to judge her for ‘selling out’.  Many find it hard to believe that this was the same quick-spitting woman we all loved in the early 90s.

This change is hard to swallow after the overwhelming praise of black women following the debut of Beyoncé’s Lemonade project. Despite the outrage, despair, and even pity that has followed her recent photos, the most overwhelming sentiment is confusing as to why Lil’ Kim would do this. However we feel about her, if we really think about it, the reasons aren’t all that surprising.

Misogynoir – defined as the intersection between anti-woman and anti-blackness – is one of the central motivations that likely propelled Lil’ Kim’s decision. Black women are constantly made to question themselves, particularly darker skinned black women, and are certainly liable to question how beautiful they really are, just because they are darker skinned. This works in tandem with colorism – the preference for lighter skin: in a society where we have been force-fed the notion that “white is right”, it isn’t hard to see the appeal of possessing lighter skin.

It’s no secret that black women are simultaneously the most fetishized and least desirable women, at least within the confines of the United States. From beauty ads where make-up is displayed on pale or olive-toned flesh to movies and television shows where the primary female love interest is white; it’s hard not to see ads or television shows where black women take center stage as anything more than anomalistic. We live in a society thoroughly inundated with the eurocentric, which means that while we can all get on board with the ‘Black is beautiful’ train in theory, it is not the reality black women walk into on a daily basis.

In my personal experience as a darker skinned black woman typically surrounded by lighter skinned women of various ethnicities, it is a constant struggle to feel like I could ever be considered beautiful – in spite of all the media trends endorsing that we as black women are beautiful and should love ourselves. When I see Lil’ Kim’s transformation, I was just as shocked as the next person – and while I may never really understand her motivations or feel similarly inclined, I do understand how much easier it can feel to desire to be lighter, to feel like you can be in the spotlight as what is normal, not as a commodity.

We may want to judge Lil’ Kim, but we can’t really do that unless we’re willing to consider how colorism and misogynoir likely influenced her decisions. No matter our skin colors, we all have to be willing to engage in the fact that Lil’ Kim to some extent bought into the message that mass media gives us: white is right, light skin is the right skin, lighter skinned women are more beautiful.  Lil’ Kim’s transformation is emblematic of how far we still have to go in order for black women to really own their blackness with pride, to really feel beautiful without embellishment.

There are many issues we choose to feign ignorance about – why Donald Trump’s candidacy is such a debacle, what the rampant number of police fatalities reveals about which people in this world we care about as a nation – but if we continue to ignore that the black woman has time and again been belittled and undervalued, to the point that she struggles with her own beauty on a daily basis, we should all expect many more skin color transformations that, while drastic, aren’t really all that surprising.

Photo source.

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