You know those scandals that sound bad, and then you see the photos for yourself, and it’s so much worse. Well, say hello to the Janeen Jewelry whitewashing scandal.
If you happened to scroll through the London-based brand’s Instagram over the weekend, you likely wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss. Their pink-lace-centric feed featuring lily-white hands wearing heart-shaped jewelry doesn’t really stand out. But, according to Chazlyn Yvonne, a Black brown-skinned fashion blogger, one of those white hands was hers… just ten shades lighter than her real hand.
According to Yvonne and her friend Hannah Elena Dahl’s Instagram stories, they’d helped shoot a partnership with the brand for a friend. But when they went to look at the now-deleted photo, they realized that Yvonne’s hand had been whitened to nearly the same shade as the two white girls in the image.
Nylah Akua, another friend of Yvonne’s, later posted about the incident in a very detailed and understandably outraged Tik Tok.
And since no good social media scandal is complete without a bizarre non-apology apology, things kept getting worse for the brand. According to screenshots circulating on social media, the company blamed the whitewashing on a filter they used to fit their “aesthetic.”
Now, I’m no expert, but I don’t know of a filter that turns a brown-skinned girl’s hands white and leaves everyone else more or less the same shade, but maybe I’m behind the times.
This isn’t the first or the last time a brand has been accused of lightening a Black woman’s skin to fit its aesthetic.
In 2014, Vanity Fair was accused of noticeably lightening dark-skinned beauty Lupita Nyong’o’s skin in her February magazine spread. And in 2008, a heavily whitewashed Beyonce was featured in a L’Oréal ad campaign.
The list of companies that have whitewashed Black women is honestly too long to count. And regardless of the intent, the message Black women get is that Black isn’t beautiful.
So for anyone tempted to pick up that airbrush tool and ruin a Black woman’s day, might we gently recommend leaving our beautiful hues alone.