Colorism Contributed to Beyoncé’s Success, Says Her Father

Mathew Knowles also admitted he dated his former wife, Tina, because he thought she was white.


Mathew Knowles, father of music industry superstars Beyoncé and Solange, believes his daughters’ light skin complexions have contributed to their success.

Knowles spoke to Ebony magazine about his new book, “Racism: From the Eyes of a Child,” which offers his thoughts on colorism in the music industry as well as in his personal life, including his “eroticized rage.”

Colorism is a legacy of slavery in the U.S., which lingers within American culture and has resulted in a significance of skin tone within the Black community. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker coined the term colorism in 1982, which she defined as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”

Lighter-skinned enslaved African Americans were more likely to work as house slaves and were given preferential treatment by white plantation owners and the overseers, while African Americans with darker complexions worked in the fields and were believed to be inferior to those with lighter skin.

Knowles believes colorism is still rampant in the music industry.

Solange and Beyoncé

“When it comes to Black females, who are the people who get their music played on pop radio?” he said to Ebony. “Mariah Carey, Rihanna, the female rapper Nicki Minaj, my kids [Beyoncé and Solange], and what do they all have in common?”

The chart-topping artists he mentioned are lighter-skinned Black women.

Growing up in the Deep South, just outside Birmingham, Ala., instilled in Knowles a preference for white or light-skinned women, he said.

“My mother used to say, ‘Don’t ever bring no nappy-head Black girl to my house,’” he said. “In the Deep South in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the shade of your Blackness was considered important. So I, unfortunately, grew up hearing that message.”

Knowles said during a therapy session, he had a “breakthrough” and realized his preference to date white women or “very high-complexion” Black women was “eroticized rage.”

He explained that “there was actual rage in me as a Black man, and I saw the white female as a way, subconsciously, of getting even or getting back. There are a lot of Black men of my era that are not aware of this thing.”

Tina Knowles with Matthew Knowles

Knowles also said that he thought his former wife, Tina, mother of Beyoncé and Solange, was white when he first met her. The couple divorced in 2011 after 31 years of marriage.

“Later I found out that she wasn’t, and she was actually very much in-tune with her Blackness,” he said.

Lori L. Tharps, associate professor of journalism at Temple University and author of “Same Family Different Colors,” said in a column for Time magazine that race still matters in the U.S., but “color matters, too.”

“In the 21st century, as America becomes less white and the multiracial community — formed by interracial unions and immigration — continues to expand, color will be even more significant than race in both public and private interactions,” she writes.

“Why? Because a person’s skin color is an irrefutable visual fact that is impossible to hide, whereas race is a constructed, quasi-scientific classification that is often only visible on a government form.”

Knowles, who currently teaches at Texas Southern University, is the former manager of the R&B trio of Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland were original members, with Michelle Williams later joining.

Related Story

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Beyoncé Is 2017’s Highest-paid Woman in Music with $105 Million

Beyoncé’s hit album “Lemonade” and world tour made her the highest-paid woman in music in 2017, according to an annual Forbes list on Monday.

In October 2010, Knowles was still Beyoncé’s manager. After Live Nation Entertainment advised Beyoncé that her father might be stealing money from her “I Am…” tour, she ordered an audit through law firm Reed Smith LLP. In March 2011, Beyoncé announced that she was officially severing professional ties with her father.

Knowles claimed that Live Nation made false claims about him to his daughter and filed a lawsuit. In October 2011, the court ruled in favor of Live Nation.

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  • It’s hard to believe that someone with Beyoncé’s beauty and talent — regardless of her color — would not be number one, but who knows?

    • Charity Dell

      GRANNYBUNNY–Unfortunately, this article is TRUE. Fairer-skinned African-Americans DO get “better breaks”
      than Black people who are browner, darker or tanner–this is ESPECIALLY true for females. Colorism is a REALITY
      in ALL the Americas and the Caribbean–thus the flowering of the skin-bleaching industry. Those with more MELANIN
      get LESS OPPORTUNITIES in education, the workplace, the arts/entertainment industry, the high-tech sector,
      finance, law/government, etc. Only dark brown MEN IN SPORTS are permitted to get opportunities–but even then, you
      see very few BLACK QUARTERBACKS in football. For African-American and Afro-Latina WOMEN, skin color darker
      than Halle Berry’s will tend to limit your opportunities in many arenas of American life.

      In addition to the COLOR issue, the fact is, most of Euro-American society is hung up on AFRICANITY. No matter what
      education/degrees you may have’ number of languages you may speak; religion you practice; or quantity of books you
      may have published, your AFRICANITY is what is despised by literally MILLIONS of Americans. Even though millions
      of Euro-Americans want what African-Americans have–and freely appropriate what they want–they still despise the
      originators of the culture and the people who inhabit the bodies they envy.

      • I second your post Charity Dell.

        Just to add: colorism is rampant across the globe, apparently being practiced by many groups not only black people. This includes various Asian and Latinx groups who tend to elevate lighter skinned members of their societies, creating color-based caste systems. Bleaching cream is widely advertised across India, the Philippines and various countries in Africa, just to name a few.

        What is even stranger to me is that white people practice their own type of colorism by elevating blond hair and blue eyes, no matter how homely the person looks (and despite fighting a war in Europe based on these silly ideologies). Growing up around non-white people, my surprise came as an adult living around mostly white people. Most of them would remark on someone eye color and hair color, particularly if they were blond. Blond people would often make reference to their hair color, as if they were special. I even had a white professor say in class that she hoped her child had blue eyes. LOL. Perhaps the elevation is that these features may be in part due to them being more rare in humans, but so is red hair which is often demonized. It is still as creepy to me as the fixation on lighter skin by people of color.

        White supremacy is a disease.

        • CHARITY DELL

          ALEX–Unfortunately, you are sooooo correct about weird forms of colorism found around the globe.
          I have always wondered why there is still this obsession among some Euro-Americans to have a
          blonde-haired, blue-eyed child–even when the parents themselves are brunettes with brown eyes!
          The only thing I could figure is that, since some kids are born as little towheads, maybe the obsession
          with blonde hair represents a longing for youth. I’ve never had kids–although I’m a generous godmother!–
          but I think that I would just be worried about my baby being NORMAL and DISEASE-FREE, as opposed
          to some artificial standard of “looks.” Frankly, most babies are cute BECAUSE THEY ARE BABIES.
          I have NEVER understood WHY a child has to look a certain way or be some “target color.”

  • When I first saw the header for this article, I thought “wtf, is Matthew Knowles crazy?” But, after reading it, I can see where he is coming from. Colorism is an old and I see, still alive, part of black America- heck, all of America. As black people we have all heard the sayings “if you’re brown stick around ,if you’re black go back and if you’re white you’re alright or, light, bright, damn near white.” I don’t know if he is correct about Beyoncé and that her career is somewhat due to her light skin, but I have thought that there are a lot better singers, but no harder worker and she is talented. Maybe to a point, he is correct. As Charity Dell broke it down in her post, fairer skinned blacks DO get better breaks than their darker brothers and sisters. Think of this- would Obama have been elected president if he were as dark a complexion as Wesley Snipes? Would the NFL invited Janet Jackson back if she looked like Mariah Carey?

  • Black people know that being light-skinned GETS YOU IN with racist white folKKKs. If Beyonce was 5 shades darker, she may NOT have been put on FRONT STREET, but with the Blacker Back Street Girls with no DESTINY.

    I’m glad that Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Mr. Knowles is bringing to light [pun intended] the destructive intraracial warfare that is most prevalent in the dirty South and Jamaica.

    Sumilarly, My high-yellow, ignorant, uneducated Mississippi mama told all us girls “NOT TO BRING NO BLACK-AZZED NI@@ER HOME and DARKEN UP THE FAMILY!” Black ignorant Southerners moved up North, East and West, and brought their backward, country, slave mentality with them to pollute the minds of their children. Like some Northern-born children, I [and all my sister’s] rebelled– thanks to Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and the Black Pride Movement. Although I despise Spike Lee, as a Morehouse graduate, his movie, “School Daze” exposed this intraracial warfare. In the 21st Century, it’s still prevalent among ignoramuses with slave mentalities in the dirty South.

    For almost four decades, Atlanta’s mayors [Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Bill Campbell, Shirley Franklin] had to be light, bright, and next to white! The standing joke when the dark-skinned Uncle Tom Kaseem Reed became mayor is that he broke the “light-skinned barrier.” Like the plantation dark-skinned mammy who rose from the fields to the Big House, they believe that they have to be a good, skinnin’ and grinnin’ Sambo [like Clarence ThomAss] to maintain their “honorary” status with white racists. The dark-skinned Black Republicans like Omarosa, Carson, Paris Dennard, and ThomAss are more apt to play the Aunt Jemima/Uncle Tom roles, seek revenge, and exclusively betray other Black people (especially light-skinned Blacks) to stay at the bottom of white racists like tRUMP’s sh!t pile. White supremacy created this divide and conquer competitiveness amongst Blacks and the highly ignorant light and dark-skinned among us play their diabolical roles very well.

    My Mississippi mama also blatantly showed favoritism toward her light-skinned grandchildren, especially the half-breeds. She lamented when she saw signs that a newborn would be “too dark.” Whites are as ignorant as my Mississippi mama–they PREFER lighter-skinned Blacks because they know that most of us have been the victims of their forefathers rape and have some white ancestry. The unfortunate result of having any Caucasian bloodline (i.e., from rape) is that lighter-skinned Blacks are more apt to be as sexually perverted, crazy, and ruthless as white people in their thoughts and behavior.

    Mr. Knowles is telling a silent truth and I just wanted to “second that e-motion.” Because of his dark skin, my Mississippi mama wouldn’t approve of him, but I’ve ALWAYS, EXCLUSIVELY been more attracted to and dated the darkest-skinned African or African-American men. I NEVER dated a white man– it’s not PREJUDICE, but PREFERENCE. Light- skinned attractive Blacks like me (and Beyonce) are given more opportunities by whites and are treated with more favoritism by Blacks, including the darker-skinned. Dark-skinned “MAMMY” types (i.e., “Imitation of Life”) perpetuate this light-skinned worship and favoritism to their own detriment.

    • Charity Dell

      ZAZIJAMS–A few thoughts:

      1. CONTINUITY OF THE PLANTATION SYSTEM–I encountered this when I was a graduate student in Atlanta
      for four years, 1979–1983. When I would talk to male students at ITC (Interdenominational Theological Center),
      some of them told me that “a few years ago women your color wouldn’t talk to me.” I looked at them as if I’d just
      seen some living fossil from the late Cretaceous era! When people insisted I was “light,” I would always correct
      them, stating that I was:

      A. Cafe au lait, with reddish undertones;
      B. Yellow-brown, like baked biscuits;
      C. Fried chicken color (tends toward reddish-brown;

      and that WE’RE ALL BLACK. I was SHOCKED that students I met were still clinging to these notions left over from the
      1940’s! I kept asking them, didn’t they get the message of the Black revolution of the 1960’s? Didn’t they hear James
      Brown sing “Say it loud, I’m BLACK and I’m PROUD!”? Apparently not….

      I would insist that my mother was “light”–she was ALWAYS mistaken for Italian, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Dominican,
      Rom, and “some kind of islander.” (Mind you, my mother was a civil rights freedom fighter and ALWAYS identified as “black,”
      and she married a medium-brown man. Poor Mom couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t accept that she was
      African-American and why folks constantly greeted her in Spanish!) Anyhoo, our family had Native American on both
      sides, along with tons of Portuguese, Middle Eastern groups AND North and Sub-Saharan African groups.

      2. Although your fairer skin may be the result of slave ship/plantation rapes, it is EQUALLY POSSIBLE that your
      fairer skin IS the original color of your African ancestry. Remember that African slaves came from the ENTIRE
      CONTINENT, and they were A COMPLETE SPECTRUM OF SHADES AND TONES, in addition to the darker shades
      of brown, mahogany and ebony among the myriad of ethnic groups.

      3. And speaking of those PORTUGUESE ancestors we New World Africans have, here’s a few more “untold facts”
      they don’t put in the history books:

      A. Many of those Portuguese sailors/navigators were already of mixed AFRICAN and MIDDLE EASTERN ancestry,
      and that includes SUB-SAHARAN AFRICAN ancestry. That’s why the Portuguese were not accepted or seen as “white”
      for centuries here in the US of A. They were ALREADY mixed heavily with 700 years of BLACK BERBER and TUAREG
      ancestry, in addition to other NORTH AFRICAN ethnic groups–AND, they had ancient PHOENICIAN and AFRO-ASIATIC
      HEBREW ancestry, again, dating from at least the 900’s BC in the Iberian peninsula. If you look at pictures of Portuguese
      folks in image files, you will clearly see both North African and Sub-saharan African ancestry in many faces–AND in the
      variety of SKIN TONES. Everyone from Portugal, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde JUST AIN’T CELTIC! :-)

      B. The Portuguese–in addition to the slave trade–started all their colonies with men, often MARRYING those Africans,
      Asians and Indigenous folks they encountered while establishing their trading posts. They often married the daughters
      of local chieftains, for example, so that they could continue “business as usual.” They were just as busy in EAST AFRICA
      as they were in WEST AFRICA. Their offspring were still considered PORTUGUESE at that time (1440’s–1700’s).

      C. If you descend from CABO VERDEAN people, you are automatically AFRO-HEBREW PORTUGUESE. The Iberian
      Jews who were shipped to these islands–including the 2000 Jewish children stripped from their families in Portugal–
      MARRIED the African women (who represented at least twenty-seven ethnic groups). That is why Cabo Verdeans
      resemble their African-American cousins. They, too, were called “Portuguese” until they gained independence in
      1975, with the fall of the Salazar regime in Portugal and the efforts of people like Amilcar Cabral.

      If you want to see what people are doing to defy colorism, check out the Black Brazilian women’s blog:
      Most of these articles are in English, but there is also a link to the Portuguese articles.

        • GRANNYBUNNY–You’re welcome! It’s an old librarian’s habit, left over from years of reference
          desk duty at the public library….

      • I do the same thing Charity Dell! I tell ppl “I’m not light skin. I’m caramel, cappuccino. My hand is brown! Look.” Anyway, I will def look at that blog and I really enjoyed your history lesson. I find all of this so fascinating and love to learn about it!

  • A popular, old racist saying still rings true today: “If you’re WHITE, you’re RIGHT; if you’re YELLOW, you’re MELLOW; if you’re BROWN (i.e., not too dark-skinned), STICK AROUND, but if you’re BLACK (i.e., very dark-skinned), STAY BACK!!”

    I would jump over 20 white men to get to a handsome, dark-skinned man like Mr. Knowles. The notion that many Black and/or dark-skinned men with slave mentalities prefer white or light- skinned women is true today. It’s rare that dark-skinned men date other dark- skinned women because their brains have been dirtied by Euro beauty standards, and need to be brainwashed.

    Biracial children, actors, and actresses are splattered across almost all advertising and movie screens. That’s why I love Benetton for using dark-skinned models that don’t fit the false European standard of beauty. I truly LOVE the strikingly gorgeous Lupita N’yongo for her proud, dark-skinned confidence. White men, unlike ignorant, brain-dirty BlacKKK men, have ALWAYS preferred dark-skinned Africans like Lupita; that’s why we range from high-yellow to light-bright and almost white because of these slave-owning white rapist pigs.

    White supremacy is so rampant, simpletons and ignorant Africans and Afri-Caribbeans are bleaching their beautiful Black skin to the detriment of their health. Skin-bleaching in the 21st Century denotes that Blacks are devolving into a sick white hole, not evolving into their own heavenly Black beauty. .

    It’s the dark-skinned women who suffer the most from colorism, white supremacy. Unfortunately, dark-skinned Black women like Omarosa, Oprah, Whoopie, and Sheryl Underwood believe that being a grinning Aunt Jemima “Mammy” is the key to maintaining their token, honorary place as the cherry at the top of the white supremacy sh!t pile.

    • How many books have you written Zazi James? You are amazingly talented with your wording.I love how you don’t sugarcoat things. It hurts my deeply that my “high-yellow mama” told my sister she will never get a man because her skin is too dark. And like you said, the men that is attractive to my sister are white or Spanish men.

      Still to this day, I will hear my mother belittling my sister skin color and told me to stay out the sun so I can keep my light skin. It hurts me to the core how I witnessed my race treat each other differently due to skin color. We can do better. In the end, we ALL BLEED RED.

  • Knowles is doing this to sell books. When black women, especially darker skinned black women, try to educate others on colorism, they are shot down, called jealous or just plain ignored. When a black man like Knowles brings this up, people act like it is an epiphany. Why is everyone patting him on the back for acknowledging what so many have been saying for ages? Colorism is something that he continues to contribute to.

    I personally believe that he is 1) trying desperately to remain relevant 2) using emotional manipulation to sell books 3) throwing his daughter under the bus because he was removed from his management role. If he is so enlightened, then why is his latest girl group “Blush” composed of three women who are the same skin tone as Beyonce? The lead singer even looks like Beyonce 2.

    No sell over here.

    • monique matthews

      Alex I agree with you…..

      I wonder if there can ever be true acceptance of “self”? We have women bleaching their skin to be lighter, injecting their skin to have fuller lips, bigger boobs and larger azzes, narrowing their noses, elongating their noses, wearing fake hair, straightening their hair, bleaching their hair…..DAG ON IT…WHEN DOES IT END.

      I wish I could turn everyone BLUE….even so, society would still find a way to set one’s self apart from the other.

      All of this is OBAMA’s fault….. (joke….)

    • Why is TEACHING at Texas Southern. I would NOT want a child of mine to be exposed to his brand of intellect…

    • ALEX–Good analysis! Books like these can be read at your local public library.
      Save your money for other things! :-)

    • Alex – I agree. I think Knowles has the colorism problem and I will not be wasting my money buying his stuff. Yor 2 points is what i was thinking and I didnt know about the girl group but it makes sense because he is hung up on complexion. Sickening. Just like BBKay said, why is he teaching at an HBCU, spewing his hate.

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