Beauty norms historically varied from culture to culture. As migration and globalisation leads to homogenized international beauty standards internationally, however, various beauty trends have emerged to dominate. America, home to the most influential cultural norms, has spread its ideal of beauty into other cultures. Paler skin was historically associated with the bourgeoisie, and was thought to represent wealth and success. Darker skin was traditionally associated with menial labour and poverty, as skin was thought to darken under the harsh conditions of outdoor work.
It would be reasonable to believe that those preconceptions have long since disappeared. However, the beauty ideals established by these notions have endured. Women, in particular, feel the pressure to conform to a Western standard of beauty - and this can mean lighter skin.
While caucasian women and men often long for a tan, those born with dark skin see a preponderance of caucasian celebrities on TV and in film. This has led people, especially women, to go take drastic measures in order to conform to the generic, light-skinned conception of "beautiful". Hair relaxers, blonde dyes and skin lightening creams have become more and more prominent in the cosmetics industry.
This harmful trend, which often involves bleaching, has become worryingly common even among already wildly successful celebrities. The following celebrities have all been signaled out for apparently lightening their skin. Some of these may just be a case of makeup and lighting, but many have admitted to the use of skin bleaching products.
Mshoza, an African singer that has gained wide popularity, has openly admitted to bleaching her skin. She has said that it is not something she should be ashamed of though. “It is just something that I wanted to do. It has nothing to do with my esteem and issues with being black," she said.
The singer compared her skin bleaching with other aesthetic changes, such as wearing weaves. Mshoza also said that she was "tired of being ugly," admitting that being dark skinned made her feel less beautiful. Critics have said that her attitude toward her natural appearance is unhealthy and harmful for those who look up to her. Many have cited the singer as a source of negativity towards black empowerment.
9 Lil' Kim
Rapper Lil' Kim has definitely changed her skin tone over the years. Whether this is due to skin whitening or just makeup is up for debate though. She does not confirm or deny these rumors, though fans have noticed the change and have their own speculations. Her lightened skin may be caused by a combination of lighting changes and makeup to make her appear whiter, however, either way people have their concerns.
In addition to whitening rumors, there are also plastic surgery allegations floating around. In 2013 the singer made an appearance in West Hollywood with lighter skin and supposedly a smaller nose and fuller cheekbones.
8 Trina McGee
“Boy Meets World" actress Trina McGee made headlines when people began to notice her lighter complexion. Fans were speculating about her new appearance but the actress denies these allegations. She tweeted, “Black does not crack. The new look is still 100% ME" after the rumors came back to her.
Some buy it, others do not. If she has not used lightening cream, she has undeniably been using makeup to make her skin appear lighter. Her new look is apparently the result of a makeover she had done for a better and healthier life, however, fans across America are still arguing about it.
7 Vera Sidika
Vera Sidika is another celebrity who hasn't left fans guessing. The extremely popular Kenyan model openly admits to lightening her skin. Sidika became popular as a video model; she has been called the Kenyan Kim Kardashian. She gained even more fame though when she announced her skin whitening regime.
In total, she says that she spent over $170,000 on bleaching cream, and says that she is following the trend set by other stars. Who does she say lightens their skin? The model points out the both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj also whiten, and she does not think it is a bad thing. Whether this is true or not it open for debate.
6 Sammy Sosa
Former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa says that he whitened his skin. Sosa had a much darker complexion previous to using whitening cream, and this has not gone unnoticed. On a trip to Panama Nairobi Dacosta, a TV personality, posted a photo of the slugger on Twitter.
She tweeted that he looked “downright vampiric." Originally, it was thought that Sosa had a condition that made his skin turn lighter, however, he later said it was not due to any condition. Long term use of "skin cream" caused his skin to lighten, he told reporters, not any kind of ailment. "It's a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some," he admitted in an interview.
This next celeb is open about her endorsement and use of whitening cream. The Nigerian pop star even launched a cream called "Whitenicious," that is supposed to lighten complexions. Critics of the star have called it an "abomination," and outed her for endorsing an unhealthy and dangerous trend in beauty.
According to Dencia, the cream is only intended for dark spots, however, she also said that it could be used to whiten other areas. The star herself was much darker in skin tone previous to using the product, or others like it, but she says she doesn't care what others think of her or her beauty practices.
4 Nicki Minaj
Does pop sensation Nicki Minaj lighten her skin? It is still unclear, however, many fans and bloggers have noticed that her skin has been getting lighter over the years. These critics point to pictures of the star years apart and point to a drastic change in complexion.
Makeup and lighting have been used as an explanation for Minaj's change, however, others explain that this can only do so much. In 2010, when Nicki first began world famous, her skin is much darker than what it is now. Whether that's due to skin creams or just makeup is still debatable.
3 Keri Hilson
Keri Hilson has been accused of lightening her skin over the years, but has yet to speak out on these rumors. The singer and actress made waves when she appeared in public with a seemingly whiter complexion. Since then, fans have tweeted and debated on whether or not she has used any lightening products.
As always, some say it is just makeup and lighting, while others argue that this cannot account for so much of a drastic change in appearance. Hilson's songs often explore notions of womanhood and love, leading many to question her choices in terms of her appearance.
Rihanna is one Hollywood celebrity that Vera Sidika accused of lightening her skin, along with Nicki Minaj. Sidika used the singer as an example of beauty trends and as an excuse for whitening her own skin. Others have noticed Rihanna's change in appearance over the years as well.
The star has not commented on whether or not she whitens her skin, but fans became concerned when images surfaced showing Rihanna with her current complexion and her previous one. Critics who noticed have accused Rihanna of buying into Eurocentric ideas of beauty and womanhood. Whether or not Rihanna uses these products or not cannot be confirmed or denied at this time.
Beyonce has topped the list of hottest and most beautiful in Hollywood for years now. She has won dozens of awards for her music and is one of the wealthiest women in the world. But has she bought into a narrow idea of beauty? Has she whitened her skin? She has definitely dyed her hair blonde and followed other European beauty trends.
It is unclear whether or not the music sensation bleaches her skin, but fans have noticed that it has gotten progressively whiter as time goes on. She is called a confident and successful woman by people all over the world, but critics have pointed out that this image conflicts with the image of a woman who lightens her skin to conform to white beauty images.