Do Music Video Producers Discriminate Against Dark-Skinned Black Girls?

A million years from now, what will scientists be digging up in order to get an unfiltered, “straight from the horse’s mouth” view of today’s values, beliefs and aspirations of urban culture?

Music videos, of course.

Music videos are perhaps the ultimate barometer for what is desirable, in vogue and current within popular culture. From slang, fashion and beauty ideals, music videos both reflect and influence what the masses envy and lust after.

So how do the movers and shakers within the industry decide what and who to include? A short feature video just out, “Complexion Obsession” by host Joy Daily, addresses a controversial issue of music video casting that isn’t talked about much, but clearly comes into play: light-skinned vs. dark-skinned models.

In this video, rappers Rick Ross, Cassidy, Paul Wall, video vixens and industry insiders shed light on why dark-skinned girls get less love in the casting world for music videos.

Some say it is an attempt to portray a “multi-cultural look” in order to appeal to a wider audience. Others claim it is a lighting issue: it’s allegedly harder to make out facial features and expressions of darker-complexed girls in video. So dark girls are used for body shots, and light-skinned girls for the “pretty features”.

In my opinion, it’s a truly ridiculous standard set for the definition of beauty, and I can only wonder what today’s darker complexioned girl thinks about all of this. Anyways, check out the video below (10 minutes long):

Says BET producer Thembisa Mshaka:

“When people are cast, it’s very specific… [the music video producers’ and artists’] preference is not diverse, their preference is for light-skinned, bi-racial or women with long hair. There’s nothing wrong with that but don’t hide behind marketability… you’re just casting what you want.”

This starts to get annoying when you start to really dive into the issue. Will a foul be called if a dark-skinned girl doesn’t show up every time in your favorite artist’s videos?

You could argue that skin color preference is determined by society as a whole and it’s been an issue previous to the days of hip hop, even going back to when the first slave traders arrived with their cargo. So if men (aka consumers) want to see mixed/Spanish/white girls, that is what will get shown. To me, beauty starts within yourself anyways: if your type isn’t displayed on the TV, you are still beautiful if you believe you are beautiful.

Part of me thinks that the media jumping on this juicy topic and fanning the flames is the reason for this beef in the first place. Surround yourself with positive things and you will think positive about yourself and others. But easier said than done though, without a doubt!

In another related segment, Joy Daily breaks down a popular and very relevant music video “Pretty Girls” by rapper Wale. Wale’s lyrics often address his experiences as a son of African immigrants. Ironically, Ms. Daily lights up Wale for depicting approximately two dozen women throughout the video who are mostly light-skinned and appear to be of mixed or Spanish descent.

“From a light skin girl to a dark skin brotha
Shade doesn’t matter, heart makes the lover
Boy, you so beautiful, boy, you so beautiful
Shade doesn’t matter, heart makes the lover”

–Chorus from from “Shades”, Wale

Last but not least, it’s probably better anyways that our sistas aren’t in some of these exploitative rap videos! Though I do understand the need to protect our own, I think people are crying foul a little too much. But let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

40 thoughts on “Do Music Video Producers Discriminate Against Dark-Skinned Black Girls?”

  1. I think anyone who screams racism needs to get over it especially dark skinned people (not a racist comment!)

    There are over 2 billion asian people, we are a majority yet do you hear us calling foul on everything? I think the ethnic groups who are "supporting minorities" need to look at other "minority" groups before they call foul on their own. Of all the black people screaming foul, how many of them screamed foul for other minority groups, not many is my guess.

  2. They're missing out, im white and I love black chicks, the real really dark black chicks – not the ones that look italian with a July tan.

    Sucks to be them. If you want a white chick get a white chick. Asians are cool too. But these white-black chicks? meh.. its a copout.

  3. isn't the selection of dark skinned black girls also a form of discrimination?
    if they select specifically dark skinned black against say whiite girls, then that is also a form of discrimination?

  4. I work in video but not music videos and for the record it IS a lot more difficult to work with dark skin tone combined with dark hair. It all comes back to contrast…for example as soon as an image is switched from full colour to black and white it becomes much easier to distinguish finer features. The more you punch up the contrast the more distinct the eyebrows, eyes and overall face shape become.

    If the skin and hair and eye colour are all quite similar then it's harder to achieve those contrasts and lines.

    Having said that, the video music industry is full of lighting professionals who should be able to light a cigar and make it look beautiful :-/

    I also believe in the marketing reason. It's not fair but it's true. These people don't just pick waht they personally find attractive…they have very specific and clear marketing research telling them that 'this look' and 'that look' is what's popular now and will sell the artist and the music.

    The music video after all is just a selling tool and all the extras in it are also selling tools. There are no lead roles…all women are generically – if not equally – exploited in them.

  5. this just in. black people we need more dark-skinned video hoes! Is that really the message the black community needs?

  6. I say get over it! Nobody was trying hard to get dark skinned black men positive media exposure but dark skinned black men. Sidney Portier (sp?) and Wesly Snipes did not sit around talkin about “How come there aren’t any black men in movies” They went out there and made it happen and forced the standard for masculine attractiveness to include brown and dark skinned men. What so many people fail to acknowledge is that there are many dark skinned women that are behind the scenes making more than the $100 these video “vixens” make. And believe it or not they are just as actively involved in the casting process in many cases. Dark and brown skin women just need to get over it or start pushing the doors down to get their faces seen just like us black men did. But, instead of doing that they would rather just blame it on the black man, like being a vidoe ho is the ideal job!! Please.

  7. I don't believe in segregation in the entertainment sector. It is saying basically that we must stay with our own kind. Many people of diverse ethnicities do this exact thing, but it doesn't mean that others who choose to do otherwise are in the wrong. I do find that a video titled "Pretty Girls" excluding dark skinned women a kind of form of self loathing..The main character in the video is the recording artist, a dark skinned man. Perhaps he hates his own browness..Let's face it, a video from an american artist could include tens of ethnities of men and women. Many ethnicities are under-represented. There are actresses like Lucy Lui but no male asian equivalent. Without an entertainment desegregation there will always be societies within societies.

  8. did have the solution respons to this issue but the adminitrators got there own agendaon the topic.
    my comments have neber been released and nothing inconsiderate within???
    this link will shade light on yours doubts
    when the the romans invaded kemt they learnt from the kem people that the color white represented( innocence,purity etc ) dummy like they where the said so we a white,when the did learn from the african (kem) that the west side of the river Nil is where the souls goes after death the romans said so we are from the west then, the white from from the west is born, so simple.remember that so called white people come in existence in the history of humany with the odessey of homer or the republic platon (380 BC) before that the white man did really exist in th history of humanity . @ that time you got to look dark ,black to civilized

  9. I hope you are still reading responses to this article. I am very disappointed at the apathy noted from you and your commenters, but then again, black folks love burying their heads in the sand. Apathy is our middle name. Of course when black men aren't the "victims" of such discrimination (and that's exactly what this is, yet we excuse it all in the name of money), all is well, but when it's open season on black women, we should just "get over it."

  10. cont. We are one mentally ill race of people. No other race of people would excude their own like black people do – namely our wonderful (sarcastically said) black men. Supposedly there's much ado about nothing here, huh. I mean, we all have preferences, right? Well let's just say a black man takes his dark skinned black behind to a job interview. The white employer takes one good look at him and says, "Sorry, no darkies will darken the door of my business." Of course he doesn't say that directly to your face. WHY? Because there would be a discrimination lawsuit as fast as you could say, "I want my attorney." There is nothing wrong with excluding dark skinned sisters from their videos due to lighting issues (funny how that's not a problem with the dark skinned black men in the same video) or the fact that there's nothing wrong with intraracial racism. Let's call a spade a spade.

  11. We black people hate to look at the truth. We cover it up with, "Love yourself and all will return," nonesense. "Just ignore it black women; you just aren't marketable," blah, blah, blah. I guess that same dark skinned black man who would allow someone to call his own women "not marketable" must think the same about himself since his dark skin is seen everyday his black behind looks in the mirror. This sentiment coming from black men, mainly, DARK black men is comical. It's obvious they must compensate for their self-loathing by getting a white, light, mixed, Spanish, whatever girl in their videos. I guess these women are an extension of his lack self-esteem. It's funny how we "scream racism" when we are the direct target, yet the sick part is we do it to ourselves and then we're told to, "get over it."

    What goes around, comes around, and remember those words, when you are the one in the crosshairs.

    P.S. I don't watch music videos, and being a darker skinned sister – if we aren't good enough for their videos, my green money isn't good enough to purchase their music.

    Thank you.

  12. Is Teri serious? Were talking about MUSIC VIDEOS. Women are selected as props to give young men boners so they watch. If you are fat or have a flat ass, you're getting sent home way before an attractive dark skinned woman. Should these women be enraged too?? Who gives a shit what the reason is? Its a shallow industry just like fashion and movies. Anyone who is sitting home catching feelings because they don't feel represented as a dick tease in a rap video needs to get a fuckin life and focus on something a bit more important.

    Furthermore – Black folks who keep crying racism at any instance need to step back and check out all the successful, inspirational people out there DOING it. K'lajh is right. I own a clothing line and almost all the stylist I've worked with are dark skinned women who prob make 10x what a video girl makes.

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  14. Oppinions are like arse holes…well this is mine.
    Although this is regarding hiphop/r&b or black music videos the emphasis here which I think most have missed is on identity and labelling.
    Most educated will understand that black is beautiful regardless of skin tone, because we were brought up not just on BET (or MTV Base in the UK), we identify with Babyface, Gabriel Union, Halle Berry and Lionell Richie (all forms of beautiful black.
    The new and box facing youths will identify beauty with light skinned black women or even latina women, which is really crude and awful for the dark skinned black girl who might want to be a video vixen, actress, runway model etc (all forms for good living). It is also crude and awful for the young boy who will fail to attain the essence of a beautiful dark skinned woman.
    We need videos which celebrate, black people (regardless of skin tone), white women, oriental women, asian women, latin women and any which I may have missed. This is not 1948 where we only know two colours, video producers dont dum down your audience.


  15. idk wat side im on im dark n peopek tell me im beautiful n yea its a shame n yea if u on BET then u sood c all sides off black light,MEDIUM, and dark unfourtunetly i c more of every other race on BET n yea they pretty but they never show pretty dark gurls sooo im not trippin i just think they sood stop disrespecting allll the women they put in the videos

  16. i like ur comment n im a dark skinned black women they sood make it happen but lmao not in music videos as hoes

  17. u rght 2 im dark n people will tell me im pretty from all races n hell if i c a fine asian,latino,white,black,indian boi ill get at um ;)

  18. um trey songz neighbors know my name video features a dark skinned female andd umm i c her face up close just fine so the producers r sprouting bulllllpoopie!! but lol its lik watev people dark girls lik me needa no they beautiful despite wat they c arpound them as much light peoples i c everyday if i had low self esteem that wood suck 4 me but i no im pretty n people tell me i am but even if th4ey didnt i wood still believe im lovely!!!!!GO GURLS AND WOMEN OF EVERY SKIN COLOR HAVE SELF ESTEEM NO MATTER WAT!!!!lol

  19. The issue with the marketability argument is that if DARK SKIN in a general way was hard to shoot on film or market then why does that bias only apply to the women? The rappers and male artists themselves are successful and shot on film and marketed DESPITE being the very tone that seems difficult when it comes to their female counterparts this doesn't apply to only video vixens but as female artists. They seem to market and shoot dark skinned men just fine. It's only the women that bogus argument gets used fo

  20. That comment is a bit of a slap in the face to the black women who fought for the positive images of black men as well. There were dark skinned men in positive leading roles before Portier and Snipes. But you neglect to mention the massive positive presence Cecily Tyson was and she WAS the first black skinned black woman in a leading role in cinema and that should have been a kicked in door but we have slid back into the mire for the recognition of African American women collectively. While the issue may have started regarding video vixens it can be a hot button because it's a link in the chain related to other issues of the same hue. As for dark skinned African American women behind the scenes making the money, that is wonderful, but all of us live in a visual and media dominated society and for them not to use their influence to help give dark skinned women visibility or change the misogynistic or over sexed tone of these videos is a damn shame. Trust and believe issue isn't always that people just sit around talking about it

  21. I agree with you Tonii. While the posting started with the subject about Video vixens it's addressed because it connects to so many other things that seem to parallel. I found this article and thread of responses after being inspired by seeing a lack of roles in castings for FILMS! I am dark skinned and have no interest nor have I ever had an interest in being a video vixen. But the same problem applies in films. Even one that address subject matters you want to be involved in. It's frustrating and you wonder to express character (not be eye candy) why does the shade a black woman is have to be specified to even audition for a role? If I can act and emote and I am attractive what does skin tone have to do with that? And I came across this. I recognized the common thread even in this over sexed industry and had to respond. The excuses are amazing! And to have people follow up with opinions that echo the sentiment? Even more amazing. Can't see dark skin on film? Remember when Lauren Hill's Miseducation of Laren Hill came out. They had to shoot videos for her and the videos they shot were some of the most beautiful. She showed up just fine and in Ex-Factor she was stunning. The issue is we have spurts of consciousness. It just doesn't stick. Old habits die hard. We've gone through "I'm Black and I'm Proud" in the 60's and 70's with the likes of James Brown and "Fight the Power" "U.N.I.T.Y" with the like of Public Enemy BDP, Queen Latifah and so on for the 80's and 90's. Those eras ushered in love of self, all shades and respect and love of black women. In current decades those sentiments aren't as popular and we suffer for it. The men are lucky that their images don't get shut down the way ours have.

  22. Im dark skinned and I am beautiful. F what Wale did in his pretty girls video. I could care less who doesnt like dark skinned because I know that I will always be beautiful and no one can change that. Being black is only one color because when the white people see us they dont go by dark skinned or light skinned. All they know is that we are all black. It is really sad how we discriminate within our own race.

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