Major Department

African American Studies


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Michael Hill

Thesis Mentor

Michael Hill


Colorism research over the American music industry has largely focused on the lyrics and music videos of male rappers and singers. This purposefully ignores the work of women, removing female artists of any complacency or responsibility within the perpetuation of the skin tone hierarchy of which lighter skinned female artists regularly benefit. Looking at the careers and music videos for prominent Black female artists, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, who have been largely successful within the contemporary industry, I find instances of colorism by the women themselves and the industry men who sign them. Examining the “Formation”, “Man Down”, and “Pound The Alarm” music videos, I witnessed colorist scripts in casting, makeup, lighting, and lyrics indicating that historical associations of light skin and Eurocentric features with beauty continue to be reflected in the music industry.


beyonce, rihanna, nicki minaj, colorism, music, formation

Total Pages

52 pages


Copyright © 2018 Aja Witt