Amber Rose irked some people this week when an interview she did for the podcast “Drink Champs” revealed the star’s apparent opinions about women from her hometown of Philadelphia.
In the interview, Rose stated that people often didn’t believe that she was a native of her South Philly home because she was “blessed with beauty,” implying that other South Philly natives were not so “blessed.”
“I don’t know how I could say this without sounding f***ed up,” Rose stated before sounding f***ed up; “but the people where I’m from aren’t traditionally attractive people.”
The interview from June gained enough traction this week that Rose was pressured to issue an apology and a clarification.
With recent discussions spreading across the Internet about colorism, with celebrities like Sammy Sosa appearing with significantly altered (lightened) skin tones, many critics accused Rose of feeding into this light-skinned privileging system by implying that her lighter skin tone was what made her more “traditionally attractive.” The mixed-raced celebrity is most recognizable for her short, bleached hair and light skin.
Rose didn’t necessarily apologize, in fact, but stated that she was not articulating her own feelings or beliefs, but rather those of others she had encountered as well as the beauty standards that are mainstream–i.e. Eurocentric aesthetics.
In an Instagram video addressing the controversy, Rose said that it’s not easy doing interviews and saying everything correctly, potentially implying that she could have clarified that the various industries she works in and the society we live in have a specific standard of beauty that favors her looks over others she grew up with. She could have said that but didn’t, an understandable if flimsy excuse.
There have been countless cases, both confirmed and strongly suspected, of celebrities bleaching their skin (in addition to their hair and having cosmetic surgeries) to attain this “traditional” beauty standard, including famously the Jacksons and even Beyoncé and Rihanna. The skin bleaching industry is a billion dollar global industry that is both defended and decried across the board.
Rose’s comments speak to this ongoing debate about what “traditional” beauty is, what it should be, and what even having ideas about traditional beauty can do to people’s sense of self-love and identity. Skin bleaching can be dangerous, leading to various side-effects that can be detrimental in some cases. The greater mental and emotional implications involved as well as the larger racial politics make this a sticky subject that will likely continue to be debated for a long time to come.