Last week saw the star-studded live action of The Lion King hit cinemas in the UK. Whilst I found the hyper-realistic CGI stunning to look at, I must admit that it's realism and blank feline faces left me feeling little emotion for my favourite childhood film. Having said that, the music was obviously incredible. Beyoncé and Donald Glover sang their soulful rendition of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?," which lessened the blow of my favourite song, "Be Prepared," being reduced to what felt like 15 seconds of spoken word.
To accompany the film, Beyoncé released a new album, The Lion King: The Gift. While there's lots to be said about an album created for a film about fictional animals, there's a deeper meaning behind the release. Beyoncé herself called the album "a love letter to Africa," with the record including guest appearances by numerous African artists who helped write, produce, and perform on the track. And there are some songs that I loved, especially the one track I believe to be a song dedicated to dark skinned women, "Brown Skin Girl."
The upbeat record featuring Beyoncé, SAINt JHN, Wizkid, and the adorable Blue Ivy Carter, made me smile from ear to ear the second I heard it. There's even a wonderful video of actor Lupita Nyong'o, radiant and joyful, dancing along to the song in which she is mentioned.
For me, on first listen, "Brown Skin Girl" clearly felt like an ode to black women, but I could see how those of other ethnicities with brown skin might relate to the song, too, with the chorus proclaiming: "Brown skin girl / Your skin just like pearls / The best thing in the world / Never trade you for anybody else." But after a few more listens and truly deeping the lyrics, I was sure that this song was specifically an ode to dark skinned black women.
The intersection of colourism and misogynoir means the dark skinned black woman doesn't have it easy. Whether they're existing outside Euro-centric beauty standards, or simply trying to progress in their career, the barriers can be extremely tough. While Beyoncé benefits from being of a lighter complexion, I'd like to think she knows the importance of uplifting dark skinned black women, and that's why she created this song.
Beyoncé sings the lyrics: "Pose like a trophy when Naomi walk in / She need an Oscar for that pretty dark skin / Pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in / Drip broke the levee when my Kellys roll in." She's intentional with her words, and only named dark skinned black women for a reason, finishing off with "melanin too dark to throw her shade."
Lupita is one of the only dark skinned women I've ever seen as the love interest in a Hollywood film, most notably playing Nakia in Black Panther. Vogue Paris' first started publishing in 1920, and Naomi Campbell became the first black model to grace the cover in 1988. And Kelly Rowland has always been a role model for black girls since her Destiny's Child days. Beyoncé knows this and wants us to see this.
Yes, both Blue Ivy and Beyoncé are of lighter complexion, so why would they sing this if it wasn't about them, too? Well, the parts they sing are in second person. They aren't just saying "our skin just like pearls" collectively — I believe they're singing this out of love and appreciation for darker skinned black women. Whilst the song is catchy and I'm sure a number of people can relate to the idea of loving your skin, for me "Brown Skin Girl" is a deserving love letter to dark skinned black women in a world that still prioritises women of a lighter complexion, and I am here for it.