The cover of his March 3 release, G I R L, has been kicking around for about a week now, but the outcry seemed to reach a fever pitch on Wednesday (February 26), as wounded women, angry-tweets (and a few hilarious memes) flooded my timeline over P's failure to include any black women in his LP photography. The image, framed up with canary yellow borders, features the super-producer/artist and three beauties of various complexions in terry-cloth bathrobes and sunnies.
Want to be on the cover of PHARELL's next album? Submit now at http://t.co/e2WqxXofxl !— The Agency (@theagencyOnline) January 28, 2014
But, to the naked eye, it would appear none of the trio of girls on the G I R L cover is black. On January 28, an open call went out, including via Twitter, from The Agency, asking "Want to be on the cover of PHARELL's next album? Submit now!" Whether Williams and/or members of his team were involved in the casting process is unclear but what we do know is that no black girls made the final cut — and that just didn't sit well with some fans.
If You're Having G I R L Problems ...
A producer/musician writing under the pen name Mr. DaMention hoped to "spark discussion" about the marginalization of black women in pop culture. He asserted in a blog post that:
"Pharell would have done well to positively add to the ever going argument about the idea of beauty and the representation of black women in the media, to decry this lingering notion that black women are an acquired taste or better yet, some sort of abstract art that only a selected few would possibly ever like."
For veteran hip-hop journalist/filmmaker dream hampton, who like many dissenters described herself as a Pharrell fan, the omission was just disappointing: "Couldn't be more disappointed by @Pharrell's album cover. I was so looking forward to it too. Just, wow."
I'm sure Pharrell's album is great, he's been making the best music of his life. Cover was disappointing. Google Chokwe Lumumba.— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) February 26, 2014
hampton's disillusionment over the cover was echoed by other women who not only found the image lacking, but said it represented a pervasive trend toward making black girls invisible.
Well... I can only speak for me. Here's what I want: For Black women of all hues to be represented proportionately in popular culture.— Alanis Whoreisette (@CorporateBarbie) February 26, 2014
99 Problems ... But The G I R L Album Cover Ain't One
As swiftly as the side-eyes and condemnation came down, so did overwhelming support for the mountain hat-loving Grammy winner. Many just couldn't see the big deal, while others derided what they perceived as a reactionary, black feminist class inclined to see the world through racially-tinted glasses.
"Why are y'all complaining abt the lack of black women in Pharell's ALBUM COVER?!? like srsly? is this how y'all's days go normally?" @BloodyKnuckls wrote.
If pharell put female smurfs on the album cover, black women would still mad they didn't get represented : |— NOBODY (@KuroFuturist) February 26, 2014
@MarieAlicia_ thought that critics of Skateboard P were overlooking the root of the problem, making the artist the wrong target.
"If you engaged in the "dark skin vs light skin" meme war, know that Pharell's album cover is NOT the real issue," she argued."
We gone focus on getting ON Pharell album cover, or getting OFF of the Real Housewives of Atlanta... Which representation is more important?— My Name Is My Name (@KooolAidPapi) February 26, 2014
G I R L, Get Yo' Life
And because the Internet can always be counted on to serve up awesome, some users jumped into the fray to lend some comic relief to the fiery debate. Full disclosure: It wasn't the first or second viewing, but I soon noticed there were no girls who looked like P's model wife Helen Lasichanh on the cover.
It's the kind of thing you pick up on when you're not only an entertainment journalist but a voracious consumer of fashion rags and mags, at least since the womb. Inevitably, you're always looking to see yourself reflected on the screen/pages and often, if you're a black girl, you'll come up short. Still, Pharrell, with his catalog of multi-culti visuals isn't remotely the worst offender. The funniest tweets remind you of that.
If Pharell threw black woman on the cover he'd have to rename the album "GIRLLLLLLLLLLLLL"— Skip Baeless (@TheSwaggDaddy_) February 26, 2014