By Contributor Evette Dionne
Last night, I stumbled on an interview with crooner Dawn Richards, while prowling for intellectually engaging articles on TMZ and a few other credible websites. The former member of both Danity Kane and Diddy Dirty Money was chatting with Carlton Jordan about her shorter than short singing career, hair ‘do, and miniskirts.
While discussing all of the common rhetoric that plagues celeb interviews, Richards hit the nerve when she suggested that it’s difficult for a woman with a combination of her complexion, hair length, and swag to be successful in the entertainment business. Since Richards 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 has 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 Jordan.
Well, though Puff Daddy, or whatever name he prefers tonight, is the most significant reason why Richards’ star isn’t shining, her perspective is valid. The collective Twitterverse might think that Richards is bitter because she hasn’t had much success since launching a solo career, but the truth is, brown-skin, edgy women, with short haircuts aren’t the rage in music – or in most beholder’s eyes.
Even with the strides that the world has made in race relations, colorism still persists, particularly in the African American community. The “color complex” phenomenon, which dates back to the infamous “paper bag test,” is still prevalent. One of the leading industries where it 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.
What about King Beyoncé and Princess Kelly Rowland? Both are talented, ambitious, and beautiful, but overall, only one member of Destiny’s Child is still influencing the world through music. Some attribute Beyoncé’s success to her dedicated female fans that flock to the stores to support her albums and concert DVDs, but I think it has more to do with an overall appeal that stems from her Indian American, French, and African American heritage. Bey has fans fainting from New York to Sri Lanka while Kelly is performing at Minnesota’s Pride festival. Those angular features, light complexion, blonde hair, and slim nose have the world singing King Beyonce’s praises. Meanwhile, her former group member is eternally immersed in the shadows of the spotlight.
This analysis could viably compare Rihanna to a wealth of other artists as well, but the point is proven.
Being brown-complexioned and unique aren’t characteristics that will ensure success in the music business or in life. For black women of all heritages, the war still wages against colorism. Dawn is just the latest entertainer to add her two cents to the eternal battle. Who will be next?
Evette Dionne is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Science in Professional Media and Media Management and a Masters in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The recent graduate of Bennett College is a lover of words, tattoos, fashion, magazines, politics, social media, and afros. She is the managing editor for Full Figured News and HBCU Buzz, the editorial director of The Glam Life, and a contributor to several print and digital publications including Urban Cusp, UPTOWN, and Vibe Vixen. Check out Evette Dionne’s blog Life. Fashion. Curves. and her website Evette Dionne. For more of her quirky thoughts, follow her on Twitter @EvetteDionne.