"There's a perception all around the world about color."

By Christopher Luu
Updated Jun 19, 2019 @ 9:30 pm

Top 40 radio isn't immune to prejudice and Matthew Knowles isn't afraid to talk about it. According to Page Six, Knowles explained that back in the days of Destiny's Child, members Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland were both affected by colorism and the music industry's inherent preference for light-skinned performers. It all went down during an appearance on SiriusXM's The Clay Cane Show, where he talked about a college course he taught on the subject.

Knowles said that students in his class looked at "colorism" in music, going back 15 years. What they found was that there was a benefit to being more light-skinned. He described the gap as "overwhelmingly" in favor of being lighter, saying that Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé were all treated differently because of how they looked. Because they have lighter complexions, they were embraced by Top 40 radio in a way that darker-skinned performers weren't. Knowles didn't name specific singers.

Michelle Williams, Beyonce Knowles, and Kelly Rowland (l. to
Credit: New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

His daughter being included led to a discussion of Destiny's Child. Knowles noted that Rowland was personally impacted by colorism, which could have been why her solo career didn't reach the success that it could have. He went on to add that Rowland is highly successful in other parts of the world, like Australia, where the bias wasn't necessarily the same.

"In the music industry there's still segregation," said Knowles. "Programmers, especially at pop radio, have this imagery of what beauty looks like. … If you look back even at Whitney Houston, if you look at those photos, how they lightened her to make her look lighter-complexioned … Because there's a perception and a colorism: the lighter that you are, the smarter and more economically (advantaged) … There's a perception all around the world about color — even with black folks, there's a perception."

Back in 2013 at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood luncheon, Rowland addressed the issue of her skin color, saying that it took her a long time to accept it, even though many of the people around her and many fans told her how beautiful it was. It was actually Tina Knowles — who else? — that helped her learn to love it.

"You know what, I had great women in my life to help me overcome that," Rowland said. "I remember I went through a period where I didn't embrace my 'chocolatiness.' I remember Tina Knowles, Bey's mom, and I being out in the sun and I was trying to shield myself from the sun and she said, 'Are you crazy?' She said, 'You are absolutely gorgeous' and she just told me how beautiful I was and how rare chocolate is and how gorgeous the skin is, all of this stuff. And I was just like, 'Yeah!' Like a light went off."