Beyoncé Challenges ‘Light Skin, Long Hair’ Trope with New Pixie Cut

beyonce-short-haircutOn Wednesday night, Beyoncé fans all over the world went into shock when the songstress posted a few pics of her new look on Instagram. Her normally flowing tresses of brown and blonde were snipped and shaped into a cute little pixie cut. She looks just as Queen Bey as before, but her new look says a lot more than folks are realizing.

Beyoncé has been criticized for wearing the blonde extensions in the past. Not only that, her variations in skin tone in advertising campaigns and album releases over the years has come in the question. Because of this, some have said that her unnatural looks could lead some young women of color to believe that they have to mimic traditionally Caucasian notions of beauty in order to be acknowledged as such. This commonly held notion has been made manifest in terms like “light skin, long hair,” a phrase denoting a preference for women of paler skin who have longer hair lengths. Because crooked images like these abound in communities of color, Beyoncé’s new hairstyle deals with the topic of light skin versus dark skin, long hair versus short hair, natural versus chemically treated locs, and colorism in general.

A seemingly shallow conversation, many outside of communities of color have said that hair is hair. Not recognizing the centuries old identity politics associated with kinky and curlier hair textures, these folks have little understanding as to why a change in hairstyle could cause such a raucous. But, it really is quite simple: If, for so long, women of color have been defined, measured, and weighed by their likeness with traditionally white beauty, darker skin tones, kinkier hair, wider lips and backsides, and overall African-esque features would necessarily provoke the sense of feeling less than, ugly, or, frankly, unworthy.

Beyoncé, though still very blonde, seems to be toying with that sense of traditional beauty. She is a single name star. She has no one to impress or to answer to. She could literally do whatever she wants with her hair and still maintain the level of stardom she has attained. But, what is so great about her new look is that it steps away from those traditional definitions toward individuality. Instead of wearing hair that looks like Jennifer Aniston’s or Taylor Swift’s, she has an edgy look suiting for someone stepping away from the Hollywood elitist crowd. It certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

There are plenty of starlets of color who have donned the short cuts over the years. Stunning actresses like Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, and Nicole Ari Parker have shined on red carpets with their flirty cuts. Beyoncé isn’t doing anything particularly new. But, given the fact that she has reached such a high level of stardom while rocking her signature style and recently has taken over the airwaves like never before, it is commendable that she chose to make such a drastic change away from the cookie-cutter-ness of her long, Barbie doll-like tresses.

 

Black women hair collage

Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, and Nicole Ari Parker

The “light skin, long hair” trope may never go away. It is obvious that women of color still suffer from being devalued because of these types of narrow external measurements. Yet, as more and more women of color present themselves as exceptions to the common wisdom on beauty, long standing misnomers about these beautiful women will have less and less oxygen on which to thrive.

Beyoncé can’t change the world with her haircut. To add, this fashion move won’t do much to change the minds of her detractors. But, for women of color rocking the TWAs (teenie weenie afros), textured styles, and tiered tapered pixie cuts out there, this change certainly doesn’t hurt. It is great to see someone who looks a little like you on the big or small screen any day. But, when that person is Queen Bey herself, it has got to make those feelings that much sweeter.

What do you think about the new cut? Is it just media hype or does it get to some deeper notions about beauty?

worthSignature