It's also a big problem.
It’s not a word that easily rolls off the tongue, but it’s becoming the newest catchphrase in skin bleaching.
What exactly does it mean to get Whitenicious? It means to purchase the brand new, selling-like-hotcakes skin care line just launched by Nigerian-Cameroonian singer Dencia. Though the line claims to target “dark spots caused by anything from acne, wounds, hyperpigmentation bruises” as well as dark knuckles, knees and elbows, it seems like Dencia's pushing another agenda — turning brown skin white…or whitenicious.
Consider the shade journey of Dencia. The singer began her career as a Kelly Rowland chocolate, eventually becoming Beyoncé light brown and now she is more of a Katy Perry pale. Dencia is not just the owner of the line, but the spokes model, meaning her bright white skin is displayed all over the website, in various modes of barely dressed melanin-lite.
Whitenicious-ness does not come cheap, with prices ranging from $50 to $150. But the cost has not turned away the hordes who bought so many that the line sold out in days. And it’s not just women in her home country of Nigeria (though studies claim that as many as 77 percent of Nigerian women use skin lighteners regularly), but thanks to the Internet, it is available to anyone.
The World Wide Web has also made Whitenicious a popular target for outraged bloggers, Tweeters and others who believe there is a lot of self-hatred involved in a Black woman selling something that turns brown skin white. Much of the attention began after a Facebook post from author Dr. Yaba Blay, the co-director of Africana Studies at Drexel University who has extensively studied skin bleaching, and whose post led to over 100,000 views. Some of the resulting stories, like one on Clutch magazine, emphasized the many health risks in bleaching, from mercury poisoning to skin burns. Uptown didn’t mince any words, saying that the singer’s line exemplifies her “lack of self-love.” When Jezebel columnist Hillary Crosley caught wind of the product all she could muster was “Please kill me now.”
Dencia claims nothing but love for her critics. She has spent the past few days on Twitter thanking her detractors for writing "PhD worthy essays" that have increased her visibility. When one Twitter user said, "I don't see how ppl can support your skin line??? People should love what GOD gave them” Dencia dismissed them by saying “God didn't create darkspots.” She even had a special Twitter message to Americans, saying, “Damn I need to send media takeout a check .. Sales Up 1,000%! all Americans .. Can't wait 4 u ladies & Gents 2 say Goodbye 2 Dark spots.”
Or, if more angry Americans get their wish, we’ll be able to say goodbye to Dencia’s dangerous messages to embrace Whitenicious.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photos from Left: Allison Joyce/Reuters, Whitenicious)