Kerry Washington is beautiful. Whether dressed up or dressed down, whether with minimal makeup or dramatic bright hues, the woman is certainly beautiful. But, many feel Kerry Washington is not attractive – and even a “scandal” – on the cover of the new InStyle magazine, because her skin looks startlingly light, which sheds new attention to colorism.
Washington proudly posted the cover on her Instagram page stating, “I’m THRILLED to share with you all that I’m on the cover of this year’s March @instylemagazine!” She proudly added that she could not wait for people “to see it and read it! So honored. And crazy excited.” March issues are the second most important ones of the year, behind September, because of their fashion influence resulting in more advertising and sales. The star of the TV show Scandal clearly did not think her attempt to pump up interest in her major March cover issue would spark a controversy, but it did.
Readers jumped all over the photo on social media blasting the magazine for how light her skin color appears on the cover. One fan decried that the magazine was “trying to make you look white. This is severely Photoshopped. You know better than this Kerry!! Anther who claimed to be a professional photographer added, “it’s very obvious that it was intentional either via post production or lightening whilst on set to alter your normal look.”
Colorism, the preference some have for lighter skin looks in many cultures – is a controversial issue. Many successful African-American actresses have somewhat lighter skin, largely because of Caucasian ancestors, including Washington. But many successful Black women today, such as Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o, have darker skin. So, social media went wild with accusations that this was a deliberate attempt to make Washington appear even lighter skinned.
InStyle insisted that it did not digitally lighten her skin on the cover. They defended the cover shot, noting that they are big fans of the actress too. “To feature her on the cover of our March spring fashion issue is both an honor and a delight.”
That said, the magazine’s management did concede that their photographer’s lighting may have created the light skinned illusion. In a statement promising that they did not do anything digitally to the actress’ skin tone, the editors said, “Our cover lighting has likely contributed to this concern.”
The magazine publicly indicated that they heard from the people who heavily criticized their cover photograph because Washington’s skin tone appears to have been lightened. As the magazine editors further noted that they understand that the cover disappointed many, even if it was not created via Photoshop but the effect was done through lighting.
While the situation many have raised hackles, the Kerry Washington InStyle cover also raised awareness and sheds new light on both colorism and sensitivity to fake photos. The editors of InStyle commented that “the feedback has been valuable. We are committed to ensuring that this experience has a positive influence on the ways in which we present all women going forward.”
By Dyanne Weiss