Archived: Did Vanity Fair Lighten Lupita Nyong'o's Skin

By Chris Hoenig

Lupita Nyong’o is the new Hollywood “It” girl.

Her work in 12 Years a Slave, which won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and is a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars, has earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations herself. She has won awards from the African-American Film Critics Association (Best Breakout Performance), Alliance of Women Film Journalists; Black Film Critics Circle; Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Georgia film-critics associations, and Hollywood Film Festival (all Best Supporting Actress), just to name a few. Her natural beauty has gotten her cover spreads in W Magazine and Dazed & Confused and put her front and center for Miu Miu’s spring campaign.

Her latest portfolio addition was announced Wednesday night when Vanity Fair tweeted that Nyong’o will star in the “Vanities” section of the magazine’s February issue. But it’s the photo that Vanity Fair attached to the tweet that is causing controversy.

It wasn’t long before Twitter users began noticing that the 30-year-old Kenyan’s skin appeared lightened in the preview photo. Accusations against the magazine soon followed, with several users posting side-by-side images showing the distinct change in the tone of Nyong’o’s skin.

It’s not the first time Vanity Fair has been accused of such a move. A “Vanities” section featuring Indian actress Freida Pinto also appeared to have been Photoshopped. Other magazines have also been in the spotlight for the practice: Elle allegedly lightened actress Gabourey Sidibe’s skin, Harper’s Bazaar has done the same with Halle Berry. Rihanna and Kim Kardashian both appeared to have had their skin lightened for spreads in Vogue and Complex magazines, respectively.

Magazines are not alone. Beyonc has been the center of attention for her skin tone on album covers, tour posters and L’Oral ads that appear to have altered her appearance, while former Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland and singer India.Arie have also looked to have lighter skin on album covers.

The opposite practice, darkening a Black person’s skin, has also been charged. Time allegedly did it to O.J. Simpson, while a Hillary Clinton campaign ad appeared to show President Obama with a darker skin tone.

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