After listening to the song for the first time, I knew that I loved it – the vocals, the flow, the lyrics, everything. The second time around, I still bobbed my head to the beat with the usual thoughts of how talented Bey is, but I sort of felt something within me begin to stir. By the third listen, tears were streaming down my face as the song’s message really set in.
Beyoncé dropped her new Lion King-inspired album The Gift on July 19, and as expected, it’s amazing. Standout songs such as “SPIRIT” and “BIGGER” are like cocoa butter for the soul – smooth, soft, healing – but one track has especially been receiving a lot of buzz from the Beyhive: “Brown Skin Girl.” The song, which features Bey’s daughter Blue Ivy, is a love letter to black girls and black women everywhere, telling us that our natural selves are beautiful and worthy of being exalted.
I was suddenly taken back to my childhood, when my mom made me wear my natural hair to school, but I was too embarrassed to be proud of it. I was taken back to wishing my curly locks and gravity-defying fro didn’t make me stick out like a sore thumb in a classroom full of long, straight hair. I was taken back to thinking that maybe if my skin was lighter, I’d be prettier.
My parents always told my sisters and me to be proud of who we are, but it was much easier said than done when we were constantly bombarded with media that glorified a specific type of beauty over another. Although my mom didn’t allow magazines with nonblack women on the cover in our house, I always noticed that those were the ones placed front and center at grocery stores. In popular movies and TV shows, most of the desired women were fair-skinned with Eurocentric features. No matter how hard my parents tried to protect me from the toxicity of normalized white supremacy, there were traces of it everywhere, planting seeds of insufficiency in my mind.
After repeatedly listening to “Brown Skin Girl” and having my own little crying session, I was excited to head into work and ask some of my fellow melanin-infused colleagues if they had the same visceral response to the song. And, well, they most certainly did.
“I started getting a little emotional on my second listen, not just because of how much it means to me right now, but because I wish something like it existed when I was Blue’s age,” Content Director Britt Stephens said. “Being brought up in mostly white spaces and ingesting mostly white media can make black girls feel less than at such an early age, and 7-year-old me absolutely would have stanned a song like ‘Brown Skin Girl.'”
Assistant editor Mekishana Pierre echoed the same sentiment of appreciation for the song’s celebration of black girls. “It’s a message reminding us that regardless of what anyone else says or thinks, we are blessings,” she said. “We are beautiful; we are made of the sun and the earth and our skin is ‘just like pearls.’ By making this song, Beyoncé tells everyone that black women are untouchable. In a world where people try to make brown skin something ugly, it reminds us what the truth is: we are the realest magic there ever was!”
The Afrocentric bop’s outpouring of acceptance and validation is something social media coordinator Rachael Edwards also enjoyed. “I feel seen,” she said. “We often hear these songs with the general ‘you’re beautiful’ message, but ‘Brown Skin Girl’ is a direct love song to us. Beyoncé’s affirming anthem makes me feel detached from all the insecurities that racism and misogynoir tend to bring. It feels like I’m singing love over myself and young Black and Brown women. There is so much power behind that alone. I’ll be singing this forever, I’m sure of it!”
This is why “Brown Skin Girl” is unequivocally important for women of color to hear. I, too, wish my younger self could have listened to the song during those moments in which I felt inferior simply because of the way I naturally look. I appreciated the love and support from my parents greatly – and it certainly helped to have their reassurance – but there’s something especially significant about being uplifted by someone with a broad, influential platform; someone who can help to reconstruct the perceptions of blackness by showing that it deserves to be valued and respected, because it’s a part of who we are as human beings.
More than anything, I hope that other young black girls won’t have to go through what I went through to the same degree. I hope they hear “Brown Skin Girl” and unapologetically adore themselves for who they are inside and out. Because while there are complexities in our complexion, our skin glows like diamonds.