Tinashe Implied That Being Lightskinned Has Hurt Her Career. But What Has She Done Besides Be Lightskinned?

Posted on June 14, 2017 by LEX LUTHER3 Comments
I know you’re probably gasping at that title, but here’s the thing: …it’s been that kind of week. And I’m here to play muthafucking ball.

Hey y’all!

Anyhow. It’s been a while since y’all have seen me on this side of the internets. Inspiration has been dry and my mental health has been all over the place this year, but there were several points—before this—where I debated chiming in.

Miley returning her performative Blackness to the bargain bin she stole it from at Target. Katy Perry’s old ass going on some redemption tour to sell her Quadruple Cardboard Box™ album and using willfully gullible Black men to do it. The Kardashian’s breathing–aka shamelessly stealing from Black women. Again. And, you know, that bomb ass Black Panther teaser and everyone who is mad about it.

Still. I decided to lay low. Like lower than Goku in a healing chamber.

Until today.

If you haven’t heard, Tinashe recently sat down with The Guardian to say a whole bunch of headass shit. Admittedly, she made like one good point about Black entertainers being pigeonholed or the “there can only be one” rule. But all of that gets lost in what most would call “Light-skinned Tears”.

Granted, it would be very easy for me to dismiss her comments as such, but because there’s way more nuance here than that and because I have some semblance of home-training, lemme explain what exactly went wrong with her sit-down. Starting with this:

1. Since when has being mixed in the music business been a bad thing?

One of her assertions in that fuck ass interview was that “the Black community does not accept her” because she is both lightskinned AND mixed. When I read that snippet of the interview yesterday morning, my first instinct was not only to laugh but to GUFFAW. Like, y’all. I laughed so hard that I peed a little.


I find it very humorous that she is asserting that her mixedness (as well as lightskinned-ness) is the reason that she is on the outs with the Black community, because for starters, I didn’t know *anyone* was beefing with her like that, talmbout an entire group of people. I say this because she is not even that relevant enough for a beef of that magnitude (although, she might be after this headass interview and maybe that’s what she wanted all along). Secondly, even if that was the reason for the riff…I’m pretty sure we’d actually have to know she was mixed to “not accept” her for it.

Seriously. No one knew. If you go on Twitter right at this very second and just search Tinashe, you’ll see various people—including myself—saying that no one knew that Tinashe was mixed until she brought it up. And because no one knew, it is a reach for her to maintain that that is one of the reasons that she is denied a place in the community.

There’s that and the fact that when has being either lightskinned and/or mixed ever hurt one’s success in the business ever? I mean, if she wants to go there, she’d have to go up against the likes of folx like Zendaya, Alicia Keys, and Mariah Carey first…with Mariah Carey being the final boss battle, since she wants to play games.

If anything, folx are always arguing that we can be a bit too accepting when it comes to our musical/entertainment spaces. I mean, in a world where people keep letting [old and new] folx like Justin Timberlake, Teena Marie, JoJo, Gwen Stefani and etc through the rickety back door of The Cookout™ , how can Tinashe say with the straightest of faces that she is not successful—or rather, famous—because of her hue?

It’s complete bullshit really (and violently anti-Black), and also coincidentally brings me to my next point:

2. C-O-L-O-R-I-S-M, do you know what that mean, mayne?

This explains itself.

In all seriousness, this is what I really wanted to tackle about Tinashe’s statements. Tinashe, in her complaints about her lack of success, invokes the centuries old, systematic issue of colorism. Or rather, she invokes reverse colorism.

Granted, the word “reverse” never leaves her lips. She is way too smart for that. Instead, she flips the script just like a Susan would and fudges the definition of it on purpose with her usage of it. To explain, she drops the word “colorism”, stating that it’s a real problem in the Black community and then goes on to explain how it specifically affects her, a lightskinned, mixed-race Black woman.

She does not make space for an actual definition. She just focuses on how she is the victim. And boyyyyyyy, does she got me all the way fucked up.

Here’s the thing:

Colorism is not a two-way street. Colorism does not have two sides. Colorism does not “affect” lightskinned Black folx “just as much” as it affects darkskinned Black folx.


Colorism is defined as the discrimination, bias, and prejudice leveled against folx with darker skin tones. And that phenomenon usually only occurs among folx of the same racial or ethnic makeup. Meaning that it isn’t even unique to only the Black American community. This is something that all communities of color under White supremacy (aka The Darth Vader of all these problems) struggle with.

And this is per Oxford, so y’all can kick rocks.


Based on that definition alone, let’s make some inferences. If colorism is defined as bias against dark-skinned folx, who is automatically gonna benefit from said bias?

If you guessed lightskinned and mixed-race folx like headass Tinashe, IT’S A BINGO BIH.

Lightskinned folx who do not agree or remain in denial of this fact are only proving a bigger point. Because just like we can’t trust White folx to be honest about systematic racism in this country because they are its chief benefactors, it is very hard to trust lightskinned Black folx to do the same in regards to colorism.

You know why? Because when colorism comes up, lightskinned folx often hijack the conversation and purposefully fuck up the definition so that the issue becomes chiefly about them. They somehow become the sole victims in a system—that was crafted by White supremacy and made more potent by anti-Blackness—that BENEFITS. THEM. THE. MOST.

It’s a classic move that would usually be reserved for a Darth Susan™ or an Emperor Chet™ , but why not make that move when you are at the top of the color-gradient pyramid in the community?

Pictured: A Darth Susan

And while we’re sharing some hard truths here, I am well-aware that lightskinned folx and mixed folx have a whole set of other problems that they have to deal with. These usually include fetishization (in lightskinned femmes/women), emasculation (in lightskinned mascs/men) and having Blackness questioned and measured at every turn.

None of that sounds good. But it’s not colorism.

It’s just not. You can acknowledge that you also have a struggle and also acknowledge that fact. You can acknowledge that you have it hard and also acknowledge that someone else has it worse than you.

3. Even with her examples of Rihanna and Beyoncé, they did not coast on *just* being lightskinned.

Just like Tinashe could have made a very good point about colorism and how she’s managed to stay semi-relevant even though she hasn’t enjoyed the success that she figures she should, Tinashe initially looked like she was gonna make a good point with the cases of Rihanna and Beyoncé. She attempted to comment on the “there can be only one” rule (usually) in entertainment and that when Black entertainers attempt to come up, there are compared to the “chosen one” at the moment and not really allowed to carve out their own niche.

Which, this is true. If you listen, you’re always hearing comments about The Next Beyoncé, The Next Halle Berry, The Next Denzel Washington, The Next Rihanna, The Next Prince, The Next Michael Jackson, The Next Janet Jackson, The Next Whitney Houston etc.

The business is very cut-throat for that reason, because it forces you to fight for that “one true spot”.

However, she loses me by not explaining those comments, especially in the context of the colorism point that she raised. Beyoncé and Rihanna are both lightskinned and very successful. This is true. But they have not remained on top just because of those reasons.

Beyoncé is one of the most hardworking people in the business. And she possesses monster vocals. She is also very meticulous (for good reason) about her music AND her image. She has cultivated a following which would literally follow her to the ends of the Earth. Rihanna possesses a golden ear. Say what you want about her pipes, but girl could spot a hit record from Mars. She is also a fashion icon and looks to bring the same talent and passion to the acting biz as well.

And to top that off? Both women are very adamant about having management teams on deck that are invested in their well-being and success as much as they are. And when they are not ruling the world in their respective corners of the business, they are reaching back to the people who have held them down for so long: Black femmes. Both have been adamant about putting that section of their fanbase first. Beyoncé did this recently through her musical magnum opus Lemonade and her founding the “Formation Scholars”, where Beyoncé plans to send four women to college (and two specifically to HBCUS). Rihanna recently accomplished this through her continued philanthropic work of bringing breast cancer screening and treatment centers to Barbados and prioritizing girls who are affected by the lack of educational access throughout the globe through her partnership with the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project.

With all that said…what the fuck is Tinashe doing?

I mean, if you are going to assert that the business only leaves room for very few to shine (which is true), you also have to acknowledge that you can’t be mediocre if you want to stay on top. For all of Tinashe’s lamenting about being pigeonholed into being Bey or Rih Rih, she did not once mention what she was doing to distinguish herself from them…or any other [lightskinned] Black woman in the business.

What is she known for? What are her most famous bops? This is not to say she does not work hard, but every time someone mentions her name, even I am tempted to say “who???”.

I don’t know her.

When glancing at my timeline on Twitter, lots of people only remember her as:

a. That one girl who is NOT FKA Twigs
b. That one girl who is NOT Zendaya.
c. That one girl in those Proactive commercials (which is still not helpful, because Zendaya also reps for Proactive)
d. That one girl who was in that Nick Jonas song (was it the Jealous remix? Hell if I know).

It also doesn’t help that it looks like she is still trying to figure out how she wants to sound. When she first came out, she looked like she was about to call Tyrone again, and then you had a brief point where she drew comparisons to Janet Jackson, and to be quite honest, I have no earthly idea what she’s doing as of right now.

But I do know one thing:

In a business that many would argue is oversaturated with folx of a lighter hue, Tinashe has simply failed to set herself apart. Period.

Now, she can continue to blame the Black community and “reverse” colorism for this personal failing OR…she can do what smarter entertainers have done before her and fire her trash ass management team.

The choice is entirely hers.

Images From: Giphy, Billboard, Hollywire, Vanity Fair, Tumblr