Should Folks Lighten Up About India Arie’s Cocoa Butter?

I’m a fan of India Arie’s music and her songs are all in my iPod. I own her first 3 CDs and I couldn’t tell you a favorite song if you begged me. SO MANY! But y’all know I love overly sappy and uplifting music. I’m a jerk with a heart like that. Yes, she sings music that makes me think of slavery sometimes but I like her.

Anyway, for the past couple of weeks, people have been all up in arms about India Arie and it’s because of her new single “Cocoa Butter.” Folks saw the cover of the single and they’re startled by the different India we’re all seeing.

India Arie Cocoa Butter

I admit that when I first saw this, I was all “HARPO, WHO DIS WOMAN?!?” Not only is she lighter, but she’s rocking a short dress and staring at us like she’s gonna send this picture into America’s Next Top Model Season 108. She’s outchea tryna give us fierce, as opposed to the Mother Earth we’re used to, looking to the sun for life’s answers.

In ALL her years in music, I ain’t never seen India Arie’s knees. She’s always in linen or hemp sheets she wrapped into a dress and they flow behind her as she walks barefoot on a beach. They come all the way down to her ankles and all’at. This new new they’re trying got me shook. India’s rocking a short dress with pockets and dramatic shoulders and Christian Louboutins! Chile… ALL THEM CHANGES AT THE SAME TAHM!

That’s the part that has me like “Oh girl, nawl.” But everyone is currently concerned with if she bleached her skin, and I think they should lighten up. I wasn’t perplexed by that because I thought the answer was obvious.


The granola India Arie we’re all used to.

Yes, she does look much lighter on the cover than we’re used to but I never thought she bleached her skin. This is the same woman whose whole career has been based on preaching the good word about being proud of her brown skin. SHE HAS A SONG CALLED “BROWN SKIN!”

In fact, India’s entire fan base are women who are probably on Team Natural and love to talk about how they dig the skin they’re in. To lighten her skin permanently would be true career suicide because who gon check for her then?

Why did people think she bleached her skin when they know damb well we live in the Instagram world? Y’all know she hit this with a “RISE” filter and kept it moving. Some of your selfies (and mine) make me look 4 shades lighter because of filters. STAWP IT.

India finally spoke out about this and she re-confirmed that she did not bleach her skin and it was just lighting. According to Necole Bitche’s site, she said “1. I wouldn’t endanger my health that way 2. I’m so in love with myself I have no DESIRE to BLEACH myself. Lol 3. The GLOW you see IS (magnificent) lighting 4. THE LIGHT you see, well that’s all ME!”

Aight cool. Can we end that discussion and talk about her new song “Cocoa Butter?” Yes, let’s.

Ok. So like I said earlier, I am a fan. But I am not blindly loyal and this is one of those times I wanna call Ms. Arie to the carpet to explain herself. I understand she isn’t known for the depth of her metaphors but she’s comparing love to cocoa butter.

Your love is like cocoa butter on my heart
Your touch is like cocoa butter on my heart
Your kiss is like cocoa butter on my heart
Oh, boy, you are like cocoa butter on my heart

I show you my burns, you show me lessons learned
I show you my scars, you show me works of art
I show you a blemish, you show me that God’s not finished
With every imperfection you showed me your blessing

Hmmmmm gif

So love is like a creamy butter that moisturizes your situation and keeps the ash away, especially in these cold winters? And it also helps the scar from burns go away quicker. Got it. Duly noted, India. Also, NAWL.

Is shea butter somewhere offended by this? Shea’s like “why wasn’t I the butter of choice?” Is olive oil butthurt? What about Neosporin?

Times like this is when it’s hard to e’em give India Arie props. And then she puts it with a cover that makes her look much different from what we’re used to.

But as far as the skin lightening issues, folks should chill on that. India said she didn’t lighten it and I believe her. You know filters and lightening do the most with the least. She shoulda told her team to chill on that though because the final product is the same effect. And this new look too. It’s a WOMP instead of a win.

So whatcha’ll think about the song and this new look of hers?

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  1. March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    after seeing the cover photo with the “good lighting” india arie, i personally thought the cocoa butter lyrics were gonna be about her newly exposed, shiny shins…but ok..whatevs. the song likely fits her fan base, tho.

  2. March 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    OMG All of this. I absolutely love India.Arie. I can admit her music is kind of cheesy, but damn it’s pretty and that’s good enough for me. The lightness were clearly a result of lighting/ filter, so I really didn’t see the big deal.

    That being said, I need India to not be writing a song as if she just got an endorsement from Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. I’m gonna politely pass on “cocoa butter” and wait on the rest of the album.

  3. March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I have to agree with you. When I first heard the title of the song, I was confused. Cocoa butter? WTH is she going to sing about? Is it going to be an ode to childhood and ashy knees? Then I heard the song and it wasn’t for me. Like you, I’m a huge India.Arie fan. For 9 years now, I’ve been team natural, team brown skin, and now I’m on team locs. But I just wasn’t feeling it. The metaphor didn’t work for me. 🙁 And it’s sad, because I really wanted to love it.

  4. Fifi
    March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I like it. I think it goes along with her be yourself/love yourself mentality. People change. And, if this change was all her and something she loves, more power to her. Also, I like that she has changed her look, but it still has a little bit of her flavour.

  5. Milaxx
    March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I’m still feeling her. She also lost a bit of weight so I figured the cover was just India feeling cute. As for the song, I don’t necessarily stan for Indie, but it’s gonna take worse lyrics than this for me to dislike one of her songs.

  6. minacakes
    March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Before I dive into my monologue, let me preface this with: Before reading this article, I knew nothing of this whole situation and my opinion is based on what I know of India thus far and this post. That being said….

    I don’t believe India lightened her skin BUT this type of imagery is the EXACT reason why we needed to hear songs like “Brown Skin” and “Video” I KNOW she is aware of that so her choice to let the image go to print like that is indeed perplexing.- Folks gon hate

    I think her look – knees showing, more fashion forward, etc isn’t a bad thing or something that she should be criticized for. Part of her message is self acceptance and just like she’s changed her hair, her sense of fashion is allowed to change and she should be able to embrace that. If you like wearing Kente cloth- cool. If you’d rather rock Louboutin- cool also. It’s the reason behind your decisions and less the decisions themselves. – Folks should chill

    The song- which I haven’t heard and only know these 2 stanzas..ummm well, I think maybe she is talking about cocoa butter in the sense that black folks tend to think it fixes everything from severe ash and stretch marks to acne and 3rd degree burns (not all black people but ya’ll know what I’m sayin). So this dude’s love is like the all encompassing salve that is only cocoa butter….right? make sense to me. idk- Folks might hate but I’mma chill.

  7. Sheryl
    March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I don’t think she looks lighter. In that older picture, it looks like it’s just the makeup distorting her and the new one is distorted by lighting and editing.

    I like the new look though. I’m not gonna listen to that song though. Sounds like a stupid concept.

  8. Jabari
    March 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Ya know what, I kinda like this new India song….I mean it’s not “Ready for Love” (which has to be God’s love speaking through) but it’s decent….as far as the CD cover, let India give her heat, she actually looks good…I mean, it’s a shock seeing her like this but she wants to try something and I support her….Now for ya’ll that thought she bleached her skin… o_____o like for reals, roll that around in your brains for a second, did that mess even sound logical to you? _/ _/ _/ _/ <——-here are your seats, please have them…..

  9. deedee
    March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Funny…nobody says squat when white people spray paint themselves orange…..

    • March 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Not true. Many of us make fun of white folks who look orange b/c of bad tans. Also, what’s that gotta do w/ the price of tea in China?

  10. March 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    that maxi look is so afrobella!

    • March 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      HA! I was just thinking “hmmm I’d rock that maxi with the faux leather jacket in her granola look.” You know my spirit! LOL

    • March 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      It looks like Afrobella’s TED talk #alphet, actually! I prefer my India Arie in that look.

  11. isonprize
    March 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    from minacakes

    I don’t believe India lightened her skin BUT this type of imagery is the EXACT reason why we needed to hear songs like “Brown Skin” and “Video” I KNOW she is aware of that so her choice to let the image go to print like that is indeed perplexing.- Folks gon hate

    I guess I’m one of ’em. She could have had a professional shot in that SAME alphet, same sexy pose, WITH HER BROWN SKIN.

    I’m not saying that she bleached her skin, but lighting? NAWL. Or I guess, more accurately — WHY??

  12. April 1, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I don’t think the two pics look all that different. One was done in a studio, the other on the red carpet. No biggie.

  13. April 1, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I don’t care for the looks but the song I like. It’s simple.

  14. Me Talk Pretty
    April 1, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I tend to like the idea of India Arie more than I like her actual music lately. This song is not really making a dent in that dynamic for me. Creatively I think she’s in a bit of a rut. But I still like her and I’ll check out the album when it drops.

    The whole lighening controversey did seem silly, it was obviously the lighting.

  15. Stella
    April 1, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Funny no one is putting Nene on blast for her nose job and blonder by the minute hair hats. You can’t take the crunch out of India, she is the real deal 100. No fancy pants jacket can change that. I am sure her underwoos are organic in that cover pic.

    As for the song…I listen to her instrumental skills more… She is competing with the likes of the stuff they play on the radio these days. Most other singers can’t even do what she has done in this song lyrically. A metaphor? let alone a comparison…that would go above the RiRi’s and bey bey’s world any day.

  16. TajMahal
    April 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I don’t stan for India, but I respect her. So, upon seeing this image, I was disappointed. I’m dark skinned myself, and lighting has made me a little lighter than in real life, but not that damn much! I don’t think she bleached, but for her to be on team brown skin and team love yourself in the U.S. of Hate Yourself North America, she couldn’t possibly think this was smart. She okay’d the light make-up, she okay’d the lighting, and then okay’d the photo proofs. Clearly, she approves of the lighter image, because she surely didn’t object. The new wardrobe combined with the lighter appearance and song name screams publicity stunt and a grab for mainstream attention.

  17. April 3, 2013 at 9:02 am

    This new song gives singing in the shower a new meaning. I can imagine her grabbing her cocoa butter after a relaxing bath and thinking.. hmmm my new hit! Or Not

    I love India and what her image stand for. I also agree with TajMahal that this is a publicity stunt. People who don’t really like India are going to listen to the album and google this picture just because others are talking about it. Just like that, the person who has been out for a while is back on the radar.

    I just hope she uses this to put out some substantial music and leave the bathroom “hits” where they belong, sinking down the drain.

  18. Jan
    April 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    great article! great commentary! two very enthusiastic thumbs up! p.s. i listened to the first line of the song and turned it off. no, ma’am.

  19. April 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I like it, her skin is amazing!

  20. Brenda
    April 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I love the song…I think it’s creative. And I think she looks fabulous! Go India!

  21. Cauzin
    April 10, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Check out my director’s cut video India.Arie COCOA BUTTER here:

  22. soliver
    April 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Orrrr…. maybe this was just a method to get a conversation started. I mean, we know that Momma A is always trying to get us brown babies to have open dialogs about things they we often ignore, like respecting those who came before us, or black looooooove, so maybe this was just her way of doing something that would shock her fan base. This way we can have a real conversation about how someone, that most would consider enlightened, or down for the cause, or whatever, could may feel the pressure to conform to societal/industry standards or even how small changes, like your clothing, or hair, or makeup, and yes the color of your skin, can have major impacts on those who may be inspired by your personal movement leading to them possibly questioning where they fall in the spectrum of whats considered beautiful…

  23. Rasheena
    May 25, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Love India. Not a fan of the album cover, but then i dont like change although it is inevitable…she has to compete in this industry; hopefully she wont conform to it…India is a lyricist–the lyrics are metaphoric and coming from where we come from really, cocoa butter was the go to then and still applies today. I am all natural (hair, skin, nails, lashes) and i only use natural products including shea, olive and tea tree oils, but staying TRUE to who i am, i grew up having cocoa butter used; I use it still today (Palmers Real cococa butter) It is never that serious to deny her art as talent. Lil Wayne uses metaphors of oozies and AK’s…what about 380’s, 38’s, etc. its really never that serious and the song is cute. If nothing else, cocoa butter smells nice.