India.Arie found herself in the middle of a swirl of internet rumors after releasing the artwork for her latest single, “Cocoa Butter.” The cover shows her looking a few shades lighter than usual.

Critics and fans alike, including rapper Rhymefest, played the “Did She or Didn’t She?” game that has become all too common in our physical assessments of black women celebrities and their varied skin colors.

We predicted that India.Arie didn’t succumb to the skin bleaching epidemic, and her lighter complexion was just an offshoot of lighting. It turns out we were right.

The singer tweeted to address the rumors, saying:

Personally speaking! I’m happy to say I have NOT BLEACHED my skin. 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 that’s all ME!

Politically speaking racism/colorism in the black community is a MUUUUUUUCH large.#SongVersation #skinversaton THAT I’d LOVE to “shed light on”..that conversation IS REAL, …let’s keep talking.

We love her response for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that she encouraged a conversation about racism and colorism in the black community. It clearly needs to be addressed as it is the impetus behind rumors like these. The public is sensitive toward any image that shows a celebrity appearing lighter because it’s interpreted to mean they’ve subscribed to that dominant beauty standard that light is better.

India.Arie is one of the few who always championed defining beauty from the inside out and loving herself just as she is. This unfortunate debacle could be an opportunity for her to continue to spread that message to help women love themselves and their skin color just as it is. What are your thoughts on her comments, Clutchettes?

  • Cocochanel31

    Okay again, if that is the case, why okay this cover with the bad lighting that looks nothing like you?? Makes no sense!

    She neeeds to fire this photographer asap and stick with whoever did her old album covers. #Twodifferentpeople

  • No_chaser

    Okay, but where is she? We’re seeing these tweets and hearing whispers, but no pics? Is she actively promoting her album? Can’t we at least get an instagram pic or an interview?

  • Yvette

    I’d like for a professional photographer to answer this question… Is it necessary to make someone look several shades lighter than their natural skin tone in order to have “good lighting?” This doesn’t make sense to me.

  • jamesfrmphilly


  • jamesfrmphilly

    she did not bleach her skin. however, the image is definitely a different or lighter tone than she is naturally. somebody did something.

  • Yeah OK

    She thinks she looks better and honestly she does. Anyone who says she doesn’t look better is lying. Another one of these “strong, independent, out spoken” black female empowerment entertainers is exposed and shows her true colors…..Alice Walker, Mo’Nique, Jill Scott, Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu….. Black women need to know “who” they’re following.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    say wha???

  • Irma

    Okay… Then why allow this photo to be circulated when you know this does not reflect your actual color?

  • jamesfrmphilly

    if you just look around you at the images on CLUTCH, you will see many brown skin people with proper exposure.
    not rocket science. somebody just made her, her dress and the background all about the same tone. it’s a mono tone. i like the picture, myself.

    is it reality? is anything visual these days real? hell no.

  • Oshoveli

    Why does it even matter? Black comes in different shades so even if she is lighter in the picture, so what? There could be simple explanation (My skin gets lighter in the winter when I am not outside as much and gets darker in the summer), but we always have to jump to the negative ones. I am sure the same people who were saying she is too dark when she first came out are the ones now criticizing her. #candonoright.

  • mary j

    If the lighting was bright enough to make her as light as it did, she should be wearing shades in this photo. There is still the issue that someone thought it would be better to use a lightened image that is nowhere near her actual complexion.

  • Yuppers

    Huh? You made this same dumb comment on and you sounded as clueless an hour ago as you do now :/

  • pinklipstick227

    I too am shocked by some people’s reactions. I’m a young woman with a deep skin tone and my skin color appears to be different in various types of lighting. I am telling you I could take a picture in the bathroom or the living room on the same day and the pictures will appear to be completely different.

    Some of the African-American security guards on my campus often give me a hard time because the photo on my ID is lighter than I appear to be in person. This obsession with skin color needs to stop.

  • noir45

    Ah, yeah, it really does matter. Colorism is a real deal in our society. Many women all over the world have issues with their identity. A doll study was done with black children that showed them a black doll and a white doll. These children were asked which doll was more desirable/attractive. Most, if not all, picked the white doll, so obvious, we have some identify issues.

    Now, is that India’s fault? No. I think parents need to sit down with their daughters AND sons and explain to them that they are not inferior because of their skin color.

    Being that India discussed the Nine Simone issue with hiring Zoe Saldana, who looks NOTHING like NS, to play her, is very telling. So, yes, it matters. I don’t believe she bleached her skin, but being that she’s a very outspoken person on how darker skin is seen, it’s not surprising people are questioning this photo.

  • noir45

    pinklipstick, it won’t stop because people refuse to not only discuss it, but to change their viewpoints. Racism and colorism are two very hard subjects to discuss because some people think that if we don’t talk about it, it will go away. It won’t. It’s very hard to undo the mental brainwashing that women all over the world experience believing that their dark skin equates being inferior. This is not only an AA issue; this is a worldwide issue, and until the process of undoing all that crap that even our children have been exposed to, “this obsession with skin color” will not stop.

    It starts in the home. Parents have got to look at how they perceive themselves, change their perception if it’s negative, and teach their children to do the same.

  • noir45

    From what I’m seeing is that it’s not that people believe she bleached her skin. I believe we can all agree that she did not bleach her skin and that the lighting or photoshopping made her lighter, but the issue some have is that the picture is an antithesis of her message of one being comfortable in one’s skin. That’s what I’m taking from many who have spoken on this topic.

  • Echi

    hmpf – could be the winter. I get some shaders lighter when I am indoors for months on end.

  • Not convinced

    She okay’ed this image. Why did she approve that? BTW the cover looks terrible, she looks sickly being whitescaled up like that. Here’s a pic of her performing with her regular more beautiful skin

  • Sanura Rose

    utter nonsense..

  • Jonah

    I completely agree with you pinklipstick. As a brown skinned woman, I look different in various types of lighting (lighter, darker, natural skin tone, sometimes even orange!). Also, with the popularity of instagram these days, a simple filter can alter the appearance of all of the colors in a photo. This includes skin tone. People with fairer complexions hardly ever get chastised for looking more fair or more tan due to the amount of exposure in a given photo. Why are the reactions so different for darker women? When I look at this photo of India, I don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that she has bleached herself. The skin tone that she has in this photo does not seem like one that a person would naturally have anyway. I just think whoever edited this was going for a cool effect. I don’t mind it. I also feel that the comments saying that she looks better darker are unnecessary. I don’t see how those are any different from a person saying that an individual looks better lighter. We need to focus on helping people to embrace their natural skin tones as beautiful.

  • Smug

    She may not be bleaching, but the fact of the matter is… She nor a member of her team didn’t say anything about the image. SHE (and/or THEY) knew this was stir trouble, yet, the cover was approved and dismissed as “O.K.” anyway. You pulled it, India, you really did.

  • Verity Reign

    To think India of ALLLLL artists bleached her skin is crazy and comical. That thought never entered my mind. Clearly the people who thought she did aren’t big fans and regular listeners of her lyrics. It was obviously the lighting, which is very common in high-quality, professional photography. Moving on, is this song out yet? Looked for it and couldn’t find it! I really wanna hear it!!!

  • chocolush

    @indiaarie………EW girl please stop trying to bring up colorism—NOBODY cares whose light or dark…are you serious in this economy……you are just doing this to get attention…please stop dividing and conquering…all of us are shaking in fear of getting a PINK slip we are not buying Coco Butter#theREALcolorisGREEN

  • Tania R

    Well I’m a pro makeup artist and no it’s not “common” in professional photography, nor is it really a photographic issue. That image went through a lot of post (photoshop). Not only did they lighten her skin unnecessarily, but they changed her features, etc. To me it just doesn’t even look like her. It’s just an odd image. I never thought for a minute that she was skin bleaching, but I did find myself wondering how they came to select/use that image.

  • kgo

    She might not have had the time to get a look at everything before it’s issued. She might have trusted some of her people.

  • Angela Jackson Engram

    I too liked India Arie’s response but I can’t get past the fact she allowed it to happen. Talk is cheap! I am not listening to what she said I am too busy watching what she allowed to happen. She allowed the “Magnificent lighting” to occur. Why was this necessary? She lovers herself herself and her skin color just as it is right…….RIGHT. Let’s keep the dialogue going!!

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