Magazines and ads have a bad habit of making people look darker- or lighter-skinned… sometimes for very unsavory reasons.
Longtime readers will know I love shining a light on corporate-approved racial conspiracies. One of the most popular lists in this site’s history is 11 Photos Where Black People Were Awkwardly Photoshopped In or Out and this list is its natural follow-up.
Late last week, a very minor… well, I don’t want to say controversy, so let’s say “Tweetable uprising”… happened when it appeared that Elle magazine had Photoshopped their cover photo of Gabourey Sidibe to make her skin look much lighter than it really is. Check it out, with a comparison photo I put next to it…
That got me going, and I went on a hunt to find other celebrities who have (seemingly) received the same treatment. And there were many.
One note before we get rolling. This list is only for celebrities whose skin was Photoshopped… not for celebrities like Sammy Sosa, Lil’ Kim, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, George Hamilton, or, of course, Michael Jackson whose skin actually changed colors. This is the work of The Man only.
With that, here are 11 photos of celebrities that were seemingly Photoshopped, airbrushed or otherwise altered to give the subject lighter or darker skin. So pull out your race card, ’cause the conductor’s comin’ around to punch it.
1 | OJ Simpson – darkened on a Time cover
This is probably the most famous case of skin tone-altering ever. When Time ran this cover after the OJ chase in 1994, people freaked out. The most common source of the freaking was that Time had clearly darkened OJ to make him look more sinister — and since this was before Photoshopping was a household word (and before the media lost all credibility) that was a big shocker.
Time issued a statement saying they wanted the photo to look “more artful, more compelling.” And fortunately, that would be the last time that race entered into the OJ Simpson saga.
2 | Beyonce – lightened in a L’Oreal ad
This ad for L’Oreal appeared in a 2008 edition of Elle magazine. It sure *looks* like she’s been caucasized… and the blonde hair isn’t really arguing anything different. L’Oreal denied messing with the photos — in which case, this was quite the lighting job. I guess Beyonce’s nonstop media appearances aren’t the only time she’s a victim of overexposure.
3 | Halle Berry – lightened for Bazaar
Halle Berry can look lighter under certain lighting — unlike the Liberal Media types who have previously written about these photo lightenings/darkenings, I didn’t spend an hour searching for the photo where Halle Berry has the darkest skin possible to try to bolster the strength of this comparison. But she looks extraordinarily whitewashed on the cover. And old. They seemed to lighten her face except in the spots that make her look old enough to be one of the trailblazers she’d thank in an Oscar speech.
4 | Freida Pinto – lightened in Vanity Fair
This one’s so over-the-top that when I first glanced at the Vanity Fair photo I thought it might be Katy Perry.
5 | Barack Obama – darkened in a Hillary Clinton ad
The image on the left is from an interview on MSNBC; the image on the right comes from a Hillary Clinton campaign ad, back when she and Obama were slap fighting for the Democratic nomination. It was somewhat controversial at the time… although I feel like this is nothing compared to the ads that are going to run in the next few years where Obama’s going to be Photoshopped in front of the Kremlin wearing a turban and a swastika armband.
6 | Brandy – lightened in YRB
This looks airbrushed to me, although it’s another case where it might just be lit like crazy. Either way, doesn’t it feel like we need a Very Special Episode of Moesha to figure things out?
7 | Kim Kardashian – lightened in Complex magazine
This one’s definitely a Photoshop job, since we actually have the original and retouched versions on hand. Complex originally Photoshopped Kim Kardashian for their April/May 2009 issue… then backpedaled and switched the photo online to the original. Besides the lightening, you can see they also made her a little slimmer, made her breasts a little smaller, and made her thighs more smooth and resembling those of an alien. In other words: They made her far more Bruce Jenner than Robert Kardashian.
8 | Kelly Rowland – lightened on her own album cover
Beyonce’s here, Kelly’s here… and once again, Michelle Williams gets left out of the party.
9 | Kelly Osbourne – darkened in a tanning lotion ad
Yes, believe it or not, Kelly Osbourne had to be darkened for this ad, for St. Tropez self tanner. She’s really that pale. After she posed for the ad and it ran, Kelly announced that she became addicted to the self tanner because it made her look thinner and that made her happier. And thus the ad was pulled — not because it was Photoshopped, but because “use self tanner to make yourself look thinner and therefore be happier” wasn’t part of the St. Tropez brand message.
10 | Mariah Carey – (allegedly) lightened on Saudi Arabian album covers
This one may be a hoax. (If it is, I have a good one of Rashida Jones ready to swap in.) But here, allegedly, Saudi Arabian officials lightened up Mariah Carey for her albums to be sold in their country. And they did such a good job lightening her, they managed to make her legs, back, midriff and arms really REALLY white.
11 | Kate Moss – darkened (offensively) on The Independent
For this ill-advised cover, the people at The Independent decided to deeply darken Kate Moss as a way of showing how Whitey is taking the plight of Africa seriously. Either that or they took Kanye’s “you can be my black Kate Moss tonight” lyric way too literally.