The India Arie skin bleaching rumor: Is skin tone part of her personal brand?

Black_Copy_india-arie-cocoa-legs Is India Arie truly loving the skin she’s in? I can’t think of any other artist or celebrity whose skin tone is tied so significantly to what they do and who they are. The realization of that fact struck me a few days ago, as I read about the brouhaha over the image from India’s new single, Cocoa Butter . India sports a hot bronze and black mini against a bronze background. Her skin glows golden brown instead of her usual dark cocoa. Questions fluttered throughout the Internet whether India succumbed to the “lure” of skin lightening treatments. She is the example for all women who refuse to subscribe to society’s standard of beauty. Didn’t she write Brown Skin, I Am Not My Hair and Video? The very thing that I think kept India from winning any of her seven Grammy nominations in 2002, is the very thing that makes her an icon: The unapologetic embracing of her brown skin and all that goes with it.  It is what keeps us waiting patiently for her occasional hit singles. And to think she would renege on what is true. What a profound betrayal that would be, and an irreversible screw-up of her brand.

What she sings, how she sings, Who she is, right down to that mahogany skin is what we identify with.  This is India’s brand equity. It defines her image in the minds of her fans and admirers.  Can skin tone be so important that it becomes not only the person but the persona? I thinks so.  Just like logos have a consistent style code e.g. specific colors, font, size, etc. So does one’s  image.  That person is a walking logo. In India’s case, her hair, features, and yes the tone of her skin, has always stayed congruent to the message in her songs. Straying from that, ruins her brand.

Personal branding always starts with three questions: Black_Copy_India_guitar

  • Who is your target?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How do you communicate that message to the “who”?

India’s brand has enjoyed a point of distinction, that has stayed consistent throughout her career.  India’s brand has been successful because it’s authentic.  Altering any of it is disrespecting the brand…and us.

I know this sounds silly but one “color-of-skin-as-a-brand” example that comes to mind just as strongly is the Grinch,  if his green turned beige, that would ruin his whole grouchy Seuss-y vibe.

India Arie quickly squashed that nasty rumor with a laugh via Twitter and Facebook. Here is what she wrote on fb:

Love to all #SoulBirdsWorldWide are you ready for this #SongVersation ?

Personally speaking! I’m happy to say I have NOT BLEACHED my skin LOL! ROTF at the thought.

1. I wouldn’t endanger my health that way

2. i’m so in love with myself I have no DESIRE to BLEACH myself. Lol

3. The GLOW you see IS (magnificent) lighting

4. THE LIGHT you see, Well thats all ME!!

Politically speaking racism/colorism in the black community is a MUUUUUUUCH larger #SongVersation #skinversaton

THAT I’d LOVE to “shed light on”..that conversation IS REAL, …let’s keep talking. #SongVersation #soulbirdsworldwide

Big love to ALL #soulbirdsworldwide

Do you think the skin bleaching rumor damaged India Arie’s personal brand?


  1. Kushite Prince

    I love India too. I thought maybe the pressure got to her and she caved. That would be a huge disappointment. She is a beautiful sista and an inspiration to many young girls. We already have Beyonce,Rihanna,Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim putting out the negative energy. We need more artists like India that have uplifting and inspiring music for the young generation. India needs to keep her head and stay the proud black woman she is. She needs to stay focused and stay on her grind to make beautiful music.

    • eldhughes

      Her song Coaco Butter is beautiful. It’s Classic India. She says it’s lighting, and I’m sure some Photoshopping too. It’s hard to be a dark brown sistah in this industry. If she succumbs to the pressure to fit in, I think it will damage her brand.

  2. Adiba nelson

    I would not have initially believed the “lighting” thing, except that last night, as I shot a video and then watched the playback, I noticed that I looked significant shades lighter. And I’m the same chocolate brown shade as India.Arie. So it is definitely possible.

    • eldhughes

      True, lighting can brighten you up. But I think there was a deliberate aim to make her lighter, sexier and therefore more appealing to the masses. She better watch out. Going down that road will erode the trust she’s earned with her core fan base.

    • eldhughes

      Yeah, I thought about that. But I thought it would be a strange and risky approach seeing that it could damage her brand. I’m still buying her album anyway. She’s my favorite.

  3. Rona

    I think that the reason her skin looks lighter is simply down to the photographer touching up the photo. Skin lightening is a personal choice but many women may feel that they prefer to have a slightly lighter skin tone.

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