This week the world saw – via that new, visual means of wildfire gossip-mongering known as “trending on social media” – Lil Kim’s new face and hair.
For anyone who doesn’t know Lil Kim, she isn’t a teenage Instagram model – born Kimberly Jones in 1974, she’s one of the most successful female rappers the world has ever seen. And, assuming it matters, she used to be a black woman.
But after years of plastic surgery and progressive skin-bleaching, and who only knows what she’s done to her hair, she’s not black any more. Kim, who seems like a genuinely sweet, if vulnerable woman, explained back in 2000 that she’d always been told by men – “even the ones I was dating” – that she wasn’t pretty enough. Well, OK. But I doubt there was a single black person on this earth – male or female – who didn’t look at Lil’ Kim’s new, white face and feel a deep, inscrutable pain. Because Lil’ Kim just announced to the whole world that as far as she’s concerned, Black just isn’t Beautiful.
Now, we can blame “racist”, “sexist”, “heteronormative” society for this. We can blame Instagram. We can blame the unrealistic photoshopped advertising images that saturate our screens and, by extension, psyches. We can bleat about “intersectionality” and “patriarchy”. We can blame the music industry.
We can blame Barbie, Mattel and Malibu Stacey. If we were really struggling we could do our best to blame Kim Kardashian. But just for a moment, let’s not blame anyone for the fact that Lil Kim has such a compromised self-image – and let’s not equate Kim with Rachel Dolezal, the white NAACP leader who purported to be black, last year claiming a controversial “transracial” identity. Dolezal may have permed her hair but she never changed her features or her skin tone, nor was she filled with tragic self-loathing.