Is wearing too much fake tan RACIST? Experts reveal

Is it RACIST to wear too much fake tan? Campaigners tell Femail it’s ‘just a trend’ and say it’s ‘dangerous and tyrannical’ to dictate what women do with their bodies amid Jesy Nelson blackfishing row

  • Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne is alleged to have spoken to Jesy about ‘blackfishing’ 
  • Term used to describe white person attempting to appear to have black heritage
  • Insiders have claimed the pair discussed why wearing tan could be offensive
  • Celebrity makeup artist Keisha East defended Jesy’s actions to FEMAIL 
  • Said: ‘Some people prefer a more tanned look – there is nothing wrong with that’ 

Dictating that white women should not use dark fake tan is ‘dangerous and tyrannical’, according to a political commentator, amid the ongoing row over singer Jesy Nelson’s ‘blackfishing’ video with Nicki Minaj. 

It has emerged Jesy, who released her debut solo song earlier this week, was reportedly warned by her former Little Mix bandmate Leigh-Anne not to use dark fake tan because it’s offensive to black people. 

The pair reportedly had a frank conversation about blackfishing during their time in the band, but the conversation ‘fell on deaf ears’.  

Jesy has been under fire this week after releasing the music video to her new single, Boyz – a remake of Diddy’s 2001 video Bad Boy For Life – in which she looks noticably dark-skinned. 

The issue has been causing controversy on social media in recent years as bloggers and influencers jump on the trend for ultra dark fake tan, resulting in accusations of cultureal appropriation.  

Experts have now weighed in on the debate, with diversity and inclusion expert Rani Khalon telling FEMAIL that ‘altering your skin to appear significantly darker’ while taking ‘other style elements from black culture’ is ‘offensive.’

However, others have defended Jesy, arguing that the ‘deeply tanned’ look has been popular for years, including commentator Dominique Samuels who says that it’s ‘dangerous’ to dictate what women do with their bodies to ‘further some sort of warped social justice cause’. 

Shocking: Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson (left) was ‘warned by Leigh-Anne Pinnock not to use fake tan because it’s offensive to black people’ as blackfishing claims rumble on

Social media trend for ultra dark fake tan sees influencers accused of cultural appropriation and blackfishing  

In 2019, Hannah Tittensor, 22, from Belfast, made headlines when it was revealed she became addicted to sunbeds and tanning injections in a bid to maintain a dark bronze skin tone. 

After uploading the snap of herself on the 2015 holiday in Turkey – when she revealed her new ultra-dark skin for the first time – the torrent of negative messages ensued.

Speaking in 2019, she said: ‘I had an amazing tan but I felt like dying. People told me I looked like an alien and that I looked ugly.’

In January 2017, when Hannah combined her new skin colour with box braids – a type of hair braiding more commonly worn by African and African-American people – she received a fresh waves of attacks and was accused of racial appropriation.

‘Some people have accused me of trying to look like a black woman,’ she said. ‘I’m not trying to do that at all, I just like the way my skin looks healthy and glowing with a tan. Some girls can’t live without getting their nails or hair done and for me its tanning.


In 2019, Hannah Tittensor, 22, from Belfast, made headlines when it was revealed she became addicted to sunbeds and tanning injections in a bid to maintain a dark bronze skin tone (pictured left, before she began tanning, and right, after)  

‘People were commenting on my photos accusing me of cultural appropriation and even saying that I was racist, just because of how I looked.

‘I’m not racist at all. I’m just a white girl who likes to be overly-tanned’, she added.

Meanwhile Polish-born Aga Brzostowska who is known as Alicja and describes herself as ‘olive skinned’, has previously revealed how she received death threats after a photo of her aged 13 went viral, when followers pointed out how different it looked to her current photos. 


Polish-born Aga Brzostowska who is known as Alicja and describes herself as ‘olive skinned’, has previously revealed how she received death threats after a photo of her aged 13 went viral, when followers pointed out how different it looked to her current photos 

The photos shared on her Instagram account appear to show extreme changes to her appearance commonly attributed to those of black descent – such as darker skin, curvy thighs and hips, and full lips.

But the University of Birmingham student, who moved to London from Poland as a baby, has denied accusations of cultural appropriation, arguing that she has not had any surgery and is not ‘trying to look black’.

The Polish born blogger told the BBC she’s ‘not “white” white’, explaining that while she does use fake tan she’s naturally olive skinned, adding that her lips are not surgically enhanced.

‘Beauty standards are borrowed from all sorts of different cultures!’ 

Political commentator Dominique Samuels said: ‘I don’t think wearing excessive amounts of fake tan is ‘offensive’, because it’s just not a new thing for people to do.

‘Being ‘pale’ is seen as an undesirable beauty standard, so its no wonder the first self-tanning product, Man-Tan, hit the market as long ago as the 1950s, and sun beds became popular in the 1970s.’

Calling the levels of controversy around excessive amounts of fake tan ‘insane’, she continued: ‘Can we really hold every single white woman accountable for wider societal problems, especially when there is no way of proving that white women like Jesy Nelson are using fake tan to make themselves look more ‘black’? 

‘She herself has said that she naturally has quite tanned skin, and whilst the ‘natural’ element of that can certainly be up to for debate, you only need to look to many countries in Southern Europe where having tanned skin is the norm.’

She added: ‘In my view this sort of argument is dangerous precisely because it seeks to dictate what people do with their bodies in order to further some sort of warped social justice cause, which is divisive and quite frankly tyrannical. 

‘Beauty standards are borrowed from all sorts of different cultures, whether it be black women wearing blonde wigs and weaves, or white women deciding to wear fake tan.’

Political commentator Dominique Samuels argued the levels of controversy around excessive amounts of fake tan is ‘insane’

‘No: It’s just a beauty trend – everyone does it!’ 

Many have defended Jesy’s actions, and argued that looking tanned is just part of a current beauty trend. 

Celebrity makeup artist and founder of the No Knot, Keisha East, who is biracial, explained: ‘Wearing too much fake tan is not racist – some people prefer a more tanned look, and there is nothing wrong with that.   

‘Sometimes, we look for and try and create things that are not there.’

She added that people should be ‘free to choose what to do’ with their own skin’, adding: ‘Besides, people don’t always wear darker fake tan, sometimes, they vary it.

‘As long it’s applied right, there is nothing wrong with it.’

Celebrity makeup artist and founder of the No Knot, Keisha East, said wearing ‘too much fake tan’ was ‘not racist and said people should feel ‘free to choose what to do with their skin’ 

‘Half of Essex wears fake tan and curled hair! Are they all racist too?’

Ex-model and influencer Carla Bellucci agreed, saying: ‘I do not think wearing too much tan is racist. I think they should lay off Jesy, she is awesome!’

Carla, from Hertfordshire, who has previously hit the headlines after admitting to faking depression to get a £7,000 nose job on the NHS, previously revealed cruel tolls tell her children they’re ‘adopted’ due to their different skin colour – despite the fact they all have the same father.

What is ‘blackfishing’? 

A newly coined phrase in 2018, ‘blackfishing’ describes someone who pretends to be black on social media for social or financial gain – using make-up, hairstyles, or even surgery to alter their appearance and adopt characteristics typically associated with women of colour. 

The term came to prominence after a post calling out the ‘alarming’ amount of ‘white girls cosplaying as black women on Instagram’ was liked nearly 50,000 times on Twitter. 

It prompted users to flood the thread with before and after snaps revealing drastic changes to certain influencers’ appearance.    

She has three children – Jermaine, 16, Tanisha, 14 and Jayden, 12 – with ex-husband Cornel Nurse, 41, who is of Caribbean heritage.

The mother-of-three, whose children look white, bi-racial and black, previously told how trolls have subjected her kids to vile racial abuse – with the family even being ‘threatened with being stabbed’.

As such, she believes there are more important issues that should be focused on when it comes to tackling racism.

She said: ‘Jesy’s new song is banging. I think it’s up to the individual and everyone fake fans and wears curly hair. Half of Essex fake tans and wear curls – does that make them racist?’ 

She continued: ‘[I] think it’s all stupid and she should be left alone and people should concentrate on her amazing talent. She is beautiful regardless.’

Carla continued: ‘There is so much more important issues going on other then race I think it’s so stupid cause her song is more RnB/hip hop she is getting this sort of stick!’

Meanwhile the mother-of-three continued: ‘The amount of racism we receive as a family is unreal and I find it so sad people can’t get away from colour of skin in this day and age.

‘For example my eldest daughter is more black in looks and culture and I just leave to let them find their own way if that makes sense. 

‘As long as they grow up loving themselves and they know we are all equal regardless of skin colour or taste in music I just want them to indulge in self love.’ 

Ex-model and influencer Carla Bellucci said her children, who are mixed-race, receive an ‘unreal’ amount of racism

‘Altering your skin to appear significantly darker is offensive’ 

However despite some claiming that the idea of wearing excessive fake tan was not offensive, others suggested it amounted to ‘blackfishing.’

Rani, who works as a consultant at Included, a global, impact-led D&I consultancy, explained: ‘The discourse around Jesy Nelson is part of a larger conversation about Black exploitation and ethnic ambiguity trends that has been seen in the context of other famous figures such as Ariana Grande and Rita Ora. 

‘Beauty trends popularised by Instagram that include lip fillers and fake tan can be seen to be appropriating features such as fuller lips that Black women have been stigmatised or called unattractive for.’

She continued: ‘Jesy, during UK Black History month, released a music video featuring her in tight coiled curls, fake tan significantly deeper than her skin tone, and a group of young black men she refers to as ‘bad boys’ in her lyrics. 

Rani, who works as a consultant at Included, a global, impact-led D&I consultancy, argued the discourse around Jesy was ‘part of a larger conversation about Black exploitation’ 

‘She also received backlash for posting a photo of her with a full head of dreadlocks. 

‘It looks like a conscious decision to utilize popular elements of Black culture and beauty trends to promote her single. 

Jesy Nelson branded ’embarrassing’ by Loose Women’s Charlene White over Nicki Minaj livestream tirade against Leigh-Anne Pinnock 

As the ‘blackfishing’ feud surrounding Jesy Nelson continued, Loose Women’s Charlene White, 41, branded the former Little Mix singer ’embarrassing’ over her recent livestream with Nicki Minaj. 

While the rapper went on a tirade against Leigh-Anne Pinnock on Monday night, broadcaster Charlene took to Twitter to vent her feelings.

In the livestream, Nicki accused the girlband star of trying to ruin Jesy’s new solo career and branded the new mother and the rest of Little Mix ‘jealous miserable clowns’.

While watching the chat between Jesy and Nicki unfold, Charlene tweeted: ‘*That* IG live is just… wow. Hugely embarrassing.’

Earlier in the day, the Loose Women host liked a tweet which read: ‘I don’t use “Blackfishing” anymore because it’s an inaccurate catch-all’ and indicated that she prefers the term: ‘ethnic smudging.’

‘Nelson’s ex-bandmate, Leigh-Anne Pinnock is a Black woman and has warned Nelson against the excessive use of fake tan.’

She continued: ‘This is not to say that fake tan is inherently racist, but that altering your skin to appear significantly darker, alongside appropriating other aesthetic and style elements associated with Black culture in a music video, appears appropriative and offensive. 

‘Nelson is able to take off her make up, change her hair, and opt out of the bullying that her bandmate Pinnock and other Black women face, but that they are unable to escape from.’

Addressing the claims in an interview with Vulture, Jesy claimed that she was never targeted with ‘blackfishing’ claims while she was in Little Mix and has only faced such criticism following her departure from the girlband. 

‘I’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t,’ she said, defended herself from the accusations.

‘But I mean, like, I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on.’      

In an Instagram Live with her collaborator on the song Nicki Minaj, Jesy defended herself, saying: ‘I just personally want to say, it was never intention to offend people of colour with this video – this is what I grew up with. 

‘In my opinion, 90/00s R’n’B is the best era of music. I just wanted to celebrate that. My intentions were never to offend anyone. It really hurts me that I have hurt people’s feelings.’    

She then went onto reveal that she didn’t even have any fake tan on in the music video, which was released in conjunction with the new song. 

Jesy said that she had a natural tan from being in Antigua a few weeks prior to the shoot, and she even claimed that Leigh-Anne once asked her if she was sure she wasn’t mixed race because she tanned so easily in the sun. 

Blackfishing? Jesy was accused of blackfihing after releasing the music video to her single, Boyz – a remake of Diddy’s 2001 video Bad Boy For Life, which she samples in her new track

It has emerged the singer, who released her debut song earlier this week, was reportedly warned by her former Little Mix bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock not to use dark fake tan because it’s offensive to black people 

She went on: ‘I have naturally curly hair. In this industry if you keep putting s*** on your hair it gets damaged. I wanted to get a wig that emulated my hair for the video.’ 

Jesy is far from the first celebrity to be accused of being racist because of her excessive use of fake tan. 

In July, Iggy Azalea hit back at people accusing her of blackfishing in her new music video I Am The Stripclub.

The rapper, 31, was criticised by those who believed she had used make-up and a dark wig to pretend to be black or mixed-race, but she blasted her accusers and called the claims ‘ridiculous and baseless’. 

Hitting back: Defending herself in a series of tweets on Friday, Iggy told her critics that she was using the ‘same shade’ make-up she’s used for three years (pictured in August last year


Footage: The music video saw Iggy rap and dance in a make-shift truck with male dancers in fishnet stockings and leotards dancing behind her

Defending herself in a series of tweets, Iggy told her critics that she was using the ‘same shade’ make-up she’s used for three years.

When someone shared a snap of the pair together and claimed she didn’t ‘look tanned’ then, she hit back: ‘I’m the same color as I always am, just in a dimly lit room with red lights.

‘It’s the same makeup from every other part of the video just with a Smokey eye and different wig. Just ignore them, who cares? Let em talk.’

Denied: The girlfriend of Scott Disick, 19, took to her Instagram Story to deny the claims left in the comment section of her post, while noting that she tans ‘very easily’ due to her Italian heritage


NOT facing the music: ‘im receiving a lot of comments in regards to my latest photo,’ began Hamlin, who has since disabled comments on her post

WHAT IS MELANOTAN?

Melanotan increases the levels of the pigment melanin in the skin. This pigment is part of the body’s natural response to the sun, and increasing levels of melanin results in skin darkening or tanning. There are two forms available, Melanotan I and II, which are diluted in water before being injected.

Melanotan is not legal in the UK. It has not undergone the stringent safety and effectiveness testing that all medicines have to undergo before they can be licensed for use. This means that the side effects of this treatment are not known. In addition to the possible side effects of Melanotan itself, there are also other potential dangers.

Using non-sterile water to prepare the injections can cause serious blood infections, and sharing needles spreads blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Injections by untrained individuals can cause skin and tissue damage, and might result in permanent or life-threatening injury. 

Source: NHS Choices 

Meanwhile Amelia Hamlin was also accused of ‘blackfishing’ in February after sharing a slew of ultra bronzed self-portraits to her Instagram page.

The ex-girlfriend of Scott Disick, 19, took to her Instagram Story to deny the claims left in the comment section of her post, while noting that she tans ‘very easily’ due to her Italian heritage.

‘I’m receiving a lot of comments in regards to my latest photo,’ began Hamlin, who has since disabled comments on her post.

‘I am being told that I am “black fishing”  — thank you for educating me on this topic,’ she continued, before citing a recent vacation to Miami she took with beau Scott as the reason for her deeper complexion.

‘I recently went on a vacation to the sun, and with my Italian heritage I tan very easily.

‘there is no self tanner involved. or intention of looking darker than my own natural skin color,’ Amelia insisted.

According to the reality star, she was just having fun with her look and had no intention of causing such an uproar online. 

Molly-Mae came under fire in 2019 after she wore a dark foundation shade usually used by women of colour. 

During the tutorial, Molly-Mae admitted she ‘often gets a lot of comments her face is too dark’ as she explained she uses a darker shade to stop her looking so pale in winter.  

After the video went live, the reality star sparked controversy and was accused by some trolls of blackfishing- a term used to describe people, usually women, who are accused of pretending to be black or mixed-race on social media.  

Fans: Molly-Mae Hague received a wave of support from fans after she was accused of ‘blackfishing’ during a YouTube make-up tutorial

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