Mathew Knowles On Beyonce's Skin Colour

The Beyoncé Complex and Black Girls in Britain

So, Matthew Knowles says that his daughter, Beyoncé, would not be as famous or popular globally if she were dark-skinned. Well, tell us something we didn’t already know, Matthew. It might be useful to some to hear you finally admit it, after the aggressive marketing campaign to push your daughter onto the world as The Blonde Bombshell and All-American Showgirl, but that information can only be news to white folks or certain delusional people of colour. Beyonce is black? Really? Well, hell, what do you know?


“The Beyoncé Complex,” as I see it, has been sending black girls rushing for the skin-lightening creams and blonde-hair weaves for decades now. The manifestation of Beyoncé’s dominance and influence on popular culture has caused irreparable damage to the psyche of black women and girls all around the world. It’s not her fault. Her father saw an opportunity to promote his white-looking, black-performing daughter and took it. He took it to the extent where it is now impossible to imagine Beyoncé without blonde hair, a crucial signifier of the ‘all-American showgirl’ look.

But what do you do when your nieces in England come home to tell you there is a hierarchy of favouritism at school that places white girls on top, followed by mixed-race girls, then light-skinned girls, and black girls at the bottom? Do you start to wonder if you’re living in a type of post-Brexit apartheid system right here in multicultural Great Britain?

What do you say to them when these young black girls explain that this racist attitude runs throughout school life from how teachers treat you to the number of followers you may or may not have on Instagram? When they say that it’s not so bad for them because they’re lighter. Are you supposed to feel better?

Are you supposed to feel better even when you can see for yourself that everything on TV and in the media promotes the progenies of black men partnered with white women as diversity while ignoring black couples and making dark-skinned girls feel invisible? Is that what this country calls a job well done; a home goal?

The black boys in our school won’t date anybody darker than themselves, they say. They are mainly into white girls exclusively. The black boys see it as a form of social acceptance that people don’t hold on to their handbags or their Rolex when they see them walking with a white girl in the streets. Seems they can’t advance in society outside of being a famous footballer or a thug, so bedding white girls and having half-white children is the closest thing to success for them in this environment. But don’t you worry, Uncle, we’re like you, we like our own.

It’s hard to turn the black boys’ heads if you’re not wearing three-foot-long fake hair with fake nails, windscreen-wiper eyelashes, and decked out like a Christmas tree. It’s like all the black girls are auditioning for MTV or some cheap reality show. But that’s not how you and Mum and nan brought us up to be. So we’ll just concentrate on our books and our studies for now, and we won’t worry about wearing fake-hair to school or trying to match a standard of beauty that doesn’t see us as beautiful.

At the end of the day, if we’ve got our degree and we’ve got our education, England isn’t the only place to be somebody in the world. Even if we were born here. You just came back from five years in West Africa. You weren’t at the bottom of the social ladder there, were you? You were at the top. You had a chauffeur. You had a very good job. You played golf with your bank manager. You lived a very good life in a beautiful home in the sun near the sea.

You come back here, and people are holding onto their handbags when you walk down the street. You are fifty-five years old. Who are you going to be chasing down the road for their bag? Idiots!

2 comments On The Beyoncé Complex and Black Girls in Britain

  • Great piece-all of it.

    I saw a clip on Facebook where black boys were saying they only date light skin girls, latinas and especially Brazilians (a big yes-yes) and dark skin girls were a no-no.

    Also, the bit about being in Africa and treated royally, then returning to the UK to have people grasp their handbags resonated with me.

    • Glad you like the piece and saddened by its reality at the same time. I wish more of us would talk about these issues.

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