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.

Latest News

WOCA 2022 Research: How to Improve Representation of Women of Color in the Workplace 

Capital One and DiversityInc shared the results of their collaborative research report on women of color in the workplace at the 2022 annual Women of Color and Their Allies event held in Louisville on Sept. 21 in conjunction with Humana. Dr. Chris Parker, Head of Research & Data, DiversityInc, confirmed…

WOCA 2022: Executive Leaders Share Stories of Allyship for Women of Color

One of the best indicators of an organization’s success around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is leadership accountability for DEI. At our 2022 Women of Color and Their Allies event, DiversityInc’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, Anita Ricketts, was joined on stage by leaders who are holding themselves and their contemporaries…

The Dollar Divide

Too Poor to Die: The Rising Cost of Funerals 

Death is expensive.  For more than two decades, I have extensively written and reported about money-related content and even I was surprised at the cost of my mother’s funeral.  The median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial is approximately $7,848. That doesn’t include the cost of the…

Video: How Companies Are Ensuring Equity for People With Disabilities

The National Organization on Disability held its annual forum in Washington, D.C. last week, bringing together community leaders, advocates, government officials and corporate leaders and influencers to focus on the advancement of people with disabilities in the workplace. DiversityInc also met up with leaders from Capital One Financial (No. 22…

Validated Allies wallpaper

DiversityInc Announces 2022 Validated Allies

Allyship is a journey rather than a destination. The work of an ally never really ends and allies understand they are not necessarily always working toward a goal, but rather, serving a greater purpose. Each year, as part of our Women of Color and Their Allies event, DiversityInc recognizes a…

CDO Series: Sysco’s Adrienne Trimble

Following the murder of George Floyd, the role of Chief Diversity Officers has become more important as companies started to be more intentional with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has made the last few years tumultuous for many CDOs. In the latest installment of a series of articles…