We talk a lot about how the world has some catching up to do when it comes to seeing past darker skin, but the flip side of that colorism issue is when a person of a lighter hue attains success, people tend to assume it’s because of their complexion, rather than their talent.
That’s an issue Tinashe touched on in a recent chat with XONecole. The 22-year-old singer has racked up quite a number of achievements in the last two years, including being a part of the three-person Janet Jackson tribute at the BET Awards, having Chris Brown star in her latest music video, and being asked by Nicki Minaj to open for her Pink Print tour. But as Soraya Joseph unapologetically pointed out in her interview with Tinashe, plenty of people are asking how exactly the “2 On” singer got on — or better yet why.
Asked how she feels about people not being clear on how she made it in the industry, Tinashe said:
“It is clear to me, but people don’t take the time to do the research to try to get to know [me]. They just kind of take a look at me and form a perception of what they think it is. They probably assume like ‘Oh, she’s just a cute girl, she’s probably given these opportunities because of how she looks.’ I don’t know. But of course it bothers me.”
The issue of looks is a Pandora’s Box when it comes to the entertainment biz and Tinashe whose father is from Zimbabwe and whose mother is of Danish, Norwegian, and Irish descent. Asked whether she thinks her self-described cuteness is about looking young or having a certain look — you know the light-skinned, long-hair, petite, racially ambiguous look the music industry loves — she said:
“I think it’s a combination. I think it’s a ‘I look young, and sweet and I definitely don’t look like I’ve been through a bunch of sh-t.’
“I think being young is part of it. I think having any type of level of sexuality is part of it. If you do that, people want to take it and run with it and assume that’s all you’re about when it’s really just a level of what I’m about.”
On where she thinks some of the skepticism and criticism comes from, Tinashe added:
“I think it comes from a place of there is only room for one. Or there is only room for two. Again, the way I see it, obviously, is if a Black girl is winning–whether she is lightskin, darkskin, or any type of shade in-between, that should be a win for the Black community, period. But it’s not necessarily always perceived as such. It’s like ‘Oh, she’s on the more lighter spectrum, so that is why she wins.’
“For me, I feel like I still have to represent the [Black] community. That has been what has been my struggle because people do feel like there is only room for one. There is a Beyoncé, there is a Rihanna, there is Zendaya, there is a Jourdan Dunn. There is a Black girl in all of these positions and we don’t need another one.
“It’s just kind of ridiculous because there are like a hundred blonde, White actresses and leading ladies. There are a hundred rappers that all virtually look the same, sound the same, and dress the same and no one cares. But for some reason, when it comes to young women, they want to pit them against each other. There can’t be room [for us all]. There can’t be five Black girls winning. It’s weird.”
Weird, indeed, and deep rooted. For Tinashe, though, the lack of support may have more to do with her being just another pop artist with trap music undertones in a time where a lot of us are begging for traditional R&B to come back strong. But there likely is some merit to Tinashe’s point that a lot of people refuse to support her simply because they think she got where she is based on looks alone, rather than any talent. What do you think? Have you been guilty of assuming a light-skinned woman attained success simply because of her looks?