Pharrell has been causing quite the little controversy lately with his "lack of black women" on his recent album cover, his comments about what he calls "the new black" on his interview with Oprah and now his cover art for his new video for his single "Marilyn Monroe".
First of all, let’s get everyone up to speed who is not aware of what’s been going on. So, producer/singer/fashion designer… Pharrell recently came out with an album titled "G I R L". “G I R L” received a ton of backlash because it did not feature any black women on the cover. The cover was featured with Pharrell and what appeared to be three white women. Then Pharrell does an interview with Oprah and of course Oprah bought up the “G I R L” cover. Pharrell proceeded to explain that he did not understand what the big deal was about the cover, claimed that one of the girls on the cover is indeed black and then created a term called “the new black”. And I quote…
The “new black” doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “new black” dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.”
A tiny ounce of me understands what message Pharrell was trying to convey but it was definitely vague and poorly worded. I must say, as someone who has been a legit FAN of Pharrell since the early N.E.R.D days (N.E.R.D is his band), his comments were very disappointing and made me feel some type of way. I just thought he was more intelligent than that. I think Oprah caught Pharrell off guard and that was the first thing that came off the top of his head. Pharrell’s comments rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and even sparked a trending topic on Twitter, “#thenewblack” where people went in on Pharrell for his comments. Now, about a week and a half later, Pharrell has released the cover art for his new single “Marilyn Monroe” with a black women on the cover. Some people love it and some people hate it.
It’s a shame that it matters so much what “celebrities” think or say these days but they do shape and reflect the culture and society unfortunately. I think Pharrell was trying to say that his mentality is not one where he’s focused on proving anything to anyone yet I think it was ignorant of him to basically pretend racism doesn’t exist and that black people are the reason for our own issues. Let’s get this straight, any word with an "ism" at the end is a systematic practice or doctrine. So that means that racism was created and is a system set against a certain group of people. Racism is not something that is just going to go away out of thin air. It is practiced and enforced, especially in the United States. And that’s why it’s still around. The “race” topic is just one that will honestly never be solved. Everyone has there own opinions and are free to express them.
Now, Pharrell is either trying to clean up his “new black” comments by putting a black woman on the cover art for his new single or he wants to create controversy and get people to check it out. It could be a mixture of both. Who knows. Pharrell posted the cover art on his Instagram today and I decided to check out some of the comments. For the most part people were loving it but then there were those who were offended for some reason that Pharrell portrayed Marilyn as a black woman. If we are going to be offended by something like that then I guess black people should feel offended that Hollywood likes to portray Egyptians as white people (i.e. Elizabeth Taylor was Cleopatra in the 1963 film) in movies when they were historically dark skinned people. I mean Egypt is in Africa people. But I digress.
I think it is sad that in 2014 race is still one of the number one topics. It’s sad that young, innocent, black people are being killed because of the color of their skin. It’s sad that the lack of black women in the media is a legit issue and concern. I think it’s sad that a lot of wealthy black people forget the struggle once they’ve “made it” and act like it doesn’t exist just because it no longer affects them. It’s sad that we are still fighting this “race war” when we are all in the same country, breathing the same air just trying to live the “American dream”; whatever that is. Black women and black people in general need a better representation on television, in music, in the fashion world and in media period. But how can that happen? It’s up to the black people that are in power to do it to DO IT! It is the unwritten job of black entertainers to shed light on social and racial issues and not act like it does not exist. It is the job of black entertainers to remember where they came from, the struggles them and there family had to go through to get to where they are now and create some type of hope for the ones that are going through the same thing. Yes, Pharrel has the right to put whoever he wants on the cover of his album. But as far as this Marilyn Monroe cover art, put a black girl on the cover art because you genuinely want to Pharrell not just because that’s what people want you to do. Pharrell putting a black girl on his cover art is like putting a bandaid over a cut without putting peroxide on it. It’s just a quick fix. It’s going to take more than that for the issue to legitimately be addressed and understood.