When Jamaican singer Spice posted a picture of herself with bleached skin and blond hair, it created a serious public outrage. Some were infuriated, some shocked—but no one felt indifferent about it.
The picture appeared after the Queen of Dancehall went on a social media detox, deleting all of her previous Instagram posts. Why did she do it? Wasn't she a proud Black woman? Or did something get to her head on the “Love and Hip Hop” show she is a part of, as one fan assumed in the comments?
A few days later the answer came from Spice’s music video, “Black Hypocrisy.”
“I had a dream that one day Black women will start supporting each other rather than bashing each other,” Spice says in the beginning. In the video, the singer appeared with a bleached complexion a few more times, contrasting it with her natural beauty and talking about something that isn’t being discussed enough: colourism.
Spice acknowledges the lack of recognition of this issue by starting the song with “It’s not what you expect me to say but imma go ahead and say it anyway.” She then goes on to highlight the problems that exist within the Black community itself and her personal experiences with it.
For example, she “was told I would reach further if the colour of my skin was lighter.” Spice goes on to point out that it is non-Caucasian people who make negative and even belittling comments about her skin tone being “too black.” And yet the same people gave her hate for bleaching her skin—and that’s what she calls “Black hypocrisy.” The aforementioned Instagram post was there to start a conversation and to attract attention to the issue.
The song brings up the need for self-love, with Spice saying that she loves her Blackness and encouraging young girls to do the same. She also challenges societal perception of a pretty woman having to be of a lighter shade.
Colourism, sometimes referred to as skin-tone discrimination, is a prejudice—especially within a racial or ethnic group—favouring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.
Unfortunately, colourism has become ingrained in many societies, meaning that lighter skin tones are sometimes seen as more beautiful and desirable overall, even among people of the same ethnic background. Jamaica is one of the societies where colourism bias is alive and well, although more and more people are starting to stand up against it.
Colourism leads to an idea—which becomes a reality in some contexts and industries—that a lighter complexion can open more doors and give more opportunities to the person who has it. This type of discrimination is deeply rooted in colonial history.
“Black girls lose self-confidence cause they attach the word ‘ugly’ to our complexion," she sings, emphasizing the effect colourism has on mental health and preaching self-love and appreciation.
Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Spice spent a few years in London growing up. Her initial ambition was to become a chartered accountant but she chose to follow her bigger passion and ended up studying music and drama. Her music journey led her to become one of the most influential dancehall artists in the world.
Spice is a great example of an artist using her voice to promote social change. Her insightful and talented commentary reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Reduced Inequalities.