Mathew Knowles, the father and former manager of Beyoncé, is speaking out about “colorism” within the music community — claiming that his daughter’s lighter skin tone contributed to her success, and that her Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland suffered due to her darker complexion.
Speaking with Clay Cane on his self-titled SiriusXM Urban View show, Mathew, 67, opened up about the issue, citing research his students did on the subject at Texas Southern University’s School of Communication (where he helped created an Entertainment Recording Management degree).
“In the music industry there’s still segregation,” said Knowles, explaining that his students found, over a 15 year period, that light-skinned black women found more success on Top 40 radio than their darker-toned contemporaries.
“Programmers, especially at pop radio, have this imagery of what beauty looks like,” Knowles added. “If you look back even at Whitney Houston, if you look at those photos, how they lightened her to make her look [like she had a] lighter-complexioned. Because there’s a perception and a colorism: the lighter that you are, the smarter and more economically (advantaged) — there’s a perception all around the world about color. Even with black folks, there’s a perception.”
To help illustrate the point, Cane and Mathew cited examples including Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna.
Asked if Beyoncé would have had the same career if she had darker skin, Knowles said no — and pointed to Rowland as an example.
“I think it would’ve affected her success,” Knowles said. “And I use Kelly Rowland as an example. She’s a great example. But you know, the great thing is, Kelly did exceptional outside of America, especially in Australia. Kelly sold over 4 million records. She just got off-script.”
Rowland herself had spoken out about this issue in the past, telling Cherise Nicole from Cnikky.com at the 2013 Essence Black Women In Hollywood luncheon that Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, actually helped her embrace her skin tone.
“I had great women in my life to help me overcome that,” Rowland said. “I remember I went through a period where I didn’t embrace my ‘chocolatiness.’ I don’t know if that’s a word, but I didn’t embrace my chocolate lifestyle. Just being a chocolate, lovely brown skin girl and being proud of that. I remember Tina Knowles, Bey’s mom and I remember being out in the sun and I was trying to shield myself from the sun and she said, ‘Are you crazy?’ She said ‘You are absolutely gorgeous’ and she just told me how beautiful I was and how rare chocolate is and how gorgeous the skin is, all of this stuff.”
“I was just like ‘Yeah!’ Like a light went off,” Rowland recalled. “So between her and my mother and then me sitting out in the sun a little more, just to be a little more chocolate. You just embrace it. You embrace everything that you are as a woman, even your flaws too.”
The Clay Cane Show airs on SiriusXM Urban View (Ch. 126).
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