Something Isn’t Right: Chantal Biya

Cameroon’s First Lady Chantal Biya glares at France’s First Lady Carla Bruni at the UN Assembly today.

I was getting a chuckle over at Crunk & Disorderly’s Side Eye Action when I caught a glimpse of this woman. Something is off. She almost looks like she could be Hawaiian or Philippino–but one off. I’m not saying that there are no light-skinned African sisters, but Biya’s skin tone is awfully pale, her makeup is obviously overdone, and the weave looks quite heavy. And has she had her nose done? The pieces just don’t seem to fit together. And I am not just speaking from the seat of my pants. I’ve been to Africa and the prevalence of skin-lightening creams and weave shops is frightening. I’ve seen African women with different hue’d body parts. I am not saying that Mrs Biya is guilty of skin bleaching, but there is obviously something going on here, and I don’t like the look of it.

Take a look at some of Africa’s other First Ladies here.


Editor’s Update 10/30/09:
From time to time I like to look at the website stats to see how people come upon this site. This post seems to be one of the highest searched pages on my site, and as you can see in the comments section, has created some heated debate. As owner of the site, with a right to my own opinion, my article stands. Firmly. The amount of people who see fault with the critique of their beloved Ms. Biya is astounding, and I have no regrets for my statements. Those that would dismiss me as ignorant, biased, and self-absorbed (ha!)  would forget to note that I have visited Africa on several occasions. And PLEASE with the ‘She’s French!’, ‘She’s French!’ reasoning, as if being part European (or part-anything) is the Holy Grail in beauty standards. Those excuses only perpetuate the unrealistic goals of the many insecure Black women and men who feel that ‘light’ is ‘right’. (Would Paul Biya marry a sister as dark as Michelle Obama? I think not.) But no need to cross the Atlantic; I can look no further than my Senegalese neighbor, who is light-skinned, yet participates in skin bleaching (as my Sierra-Leonian fiancé pointed out).

I will continue to criticize Chantal Biya and other African First Ladies who walk around dripped in European labels while their dictator husbands run corrupt nations for decades on end. This self-entitled Biya chick has spent over 15 years shopping lavishly on Chanel, Dior, and weaves and makeup while 90 percent of Cameroon’s roads go unpaved, nearly half of the population lives in abject poverty, and corruption and nepotism run rampant. Everytime this lady opens another self-named “charity”, I just roll my eyes. Honestly, if I could I would throw one of my hard-earned (and well deserved) Louboutins at her, I would. She is no role model for me, or any other woman with an ounce of self respect.


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  1. Anonymous

    That ‘something going on here’ is simple.Chantal Biya is half white.Born to a French father and an African Mother.That’s all.Do your research first next time.

  2. Thanks for the double post Madame de Randamie. AQs I said, I am not accusing her of skin bleaching. But anyone with common beauty sense can tell that madame is wearing a weave/wig, and her makeup is WRONG. Whatever your background, there is no excuse for a bad beauty job. Please read my posts carefully next time!

  3. Anonymous

    I agree with anon, you people have very little knowledge about Africa and it’s countries. Ignorance is blissfully accepted as the norm. Who really gives a damn about her make-up or her hair? She’s the First Lady! Africa’s beauty standards don’t have to rival those of Black American women. You people are so superficial, it’s a pity that it’s one of the main impediments that have so many of you so far behind in life. Skin color, hair, skin color, hair…it is an obsession.

  4. Anonymous

    look at the picture: First Lady with some French roots vs. FIRST FRENCH LADY. Who is superficial?!
    It is so funny, that will only show more with time to come. Narrow mindness and desire to fit is very obvious…

  5. Anonymous

    While she may be mixed (and it should be mentioned that not all mixed people of African and European descent are light skinned, many are dark–ESPECIALLY if the mother is black), a look at pictures of her overtime show that she is lightening her skin. She has gone from a caramel color to a ghostly white. Unnatural, even if you have vitiligo, the loss of pigmentation is gradual and uneven. I agree with Lavish, as I too have been to Africa, about the increasing embrace of European standards of beauty. A vast majority of the African women I saw were wearing silky weaves or straightening their hair while the black American women I met traveling through the continent were wearing their hair naturally. This even happens in the West Indies where men and women are encourage to “lighten their coffee” or “put a little cream in their coffee.” There are reasons why Italian Vogue just put out The Black Issue. Maybe the anonymous commentators should forget about PC or overly simplified genetics.

  6. I must respond to anon 8:50: I never said that Mrs. Biya needs to conform to Black American beauty standards. At All! Again, please re-read my post. And the fact that she is a FIRST LADY is even more of a reason of why she should set an example for young African girls of how to accept your natural beauty. It may sound superficial to speak about hair, skin, and looks, but this self-effacing culture that Black people prescribe to needs to stop. We can’t conquer bigger problems in our communities if we can’t love and appreciate ourselves the way we were born first. Self respect leads to self-progress.

  7. We should stop criticizing each others looks. Some of us are of mixed race, some of us are not, some of us are dark and some of us are light skin. Some of us have a weave and some of us don’t, who cares? We never talk about important things. We don’t tak about what kind of first lady is Chantal Biya is, we talk about what she looks like. I don’t care if Chantal Biya has a weave or if her make up is ugly. I want people to know what is she doing for her country. It matters to me that Chantal Biya is married to a dictator. Shame on us for being so superficial.

  8. jen

    Very late coming to this post but wanted to leave a comment.

    The woman looks ridiculous. I don’t think anyone is nitpicking about her looks or trying to make judgments about her race or skin color. At times, the way you look superficially is an indication of the kind of person you are inside. Her hair is completely out of control and everything about her just screams fake, and that is a negative message to send to young women, that you have to contort and manipulate your appearance to such a large degree to feel good about yourself. I don’t think this is over-analyzing every little bit of her looks, it’s not too say it’s a good or bad thing to have light skin or dark skin, it’s about looking FAKE and NOT REAL. The way she has presented herself is not a problem because of her natural skin color, it’s a problem because she looks INSANE, and the way she has presented herself reflects much bigger issues regarding her sense of self-respect.

  9. Anonymous

    Lots of women like big-hair (and really bad eye-brows and loud lipstick if I say so myself) You don’t have to like it- only SHE has to like it. You obviously tried to backtrack on some nasty comments about skin bleaching when another poster pointed out to you that she’s half white. She’s not awfully pale for a mixed lady, nor does her nose look fake. How does her ‘out of control hair’ send a bad message to young women? since she’s half white, that hair is probably naturally of a completely different texture than 99 percent of the ‘young women’ in her country (a country that never elected her to anything) – so are you criticizing him for not marrying a ‘real’ black lady? – if so, you are a racist. she looks a mess, but you seem to be a mess on the inside – racism seems to be your problem not worries about messages to young women. I am also half white and I’ll tell you, when someone wrongly accuses you of skin bleaching to look less black, its a serious poisonous kind of insult. its better for young girls (maybe those who happen upon this blog) to learn they wont be attacked with with words, or have to feel ashamed after about the color of their skin because of some colorist psychopath checking their shade against a paper bag and declaring them involved in skin bleaching.

  10. Anonymous


  11. Anonymous

    I think the point here is that she looks like a drag queen…and that makes her a campy, glorious trainwreck who I can’t wait to see more pictures of. The woman is an instant icon!

  12. it does not matter whether her looks are off, whether she did her nose, even if she has a bird nest in her hair, WE CAMEROONIANS love her that way. we worry about what she does to improve our country. its only in America where the looks play the most important role. she is a role model for younger women in the fact that she cares to create associations and other things to improve their lives. it is despicable that people are always eager to talk about one’s looks from another part of the world and not where the bigger problem is:AMERICA. it is a shame that light/dark skin individuals fight over their colour when we’re all black and not seeing the bigger picture. shame on us. she might look like a drag queen,then again how many people look that way in the world, are we going to pinpoint them all? look at Tina Turner she might not be a first lady but she looks like a drag queen. at least Chantal isn’t trying to fit in like we see it in America. SHAME ON YOU.

  13. WTF? She is mixed for heaven’s sake!!! Her father is white. And for those talking about her hair and all that, please note, this lady is NOT American. She is Cameroonian – African. Unless you are African and have deep knowledge of the cultural context in Cameroon, then shut the ef up! It irks me when Americans think the world must only be seen from their view point. Who told us (Americans) that it is acceptable to for instance kiss on TV. We do it. For some other cultures, kissing in public or on TV is not acceptable. Back to her complexion. None of you have any evidence to back the point that she has bleached her skin. None. The other bloggers assertion that her skin tone has changed, is also not true. I have seen this woman on several occasions while she worked at a bar in Cameroon and even as recent as last year. I don’t care for her personally and not especially for her husband and the roughshod manner in which he runs his country. But it beats my imagination how ignorant the author of this piece is. The comments on this board make it clear that the ignorance is not only limited to the author of this piece.

  14. I am from Cameroon…and our first lady is mixed. Her father is lebanese and her mother is a black Cameroonian. Please get your facts right before you start insinuating that she bleached. I am personally sick of black bloggers taking out their insecurities on light-skinned women. Please, check your facts!!

  15. As a Black American woman, I want you to know that the light skin/dark skin hatred has lessened as America is a country of mixed people. Your typical black american woman is not African, but a mixture of african, white and native american. I spent so much time trying to identify with Africa, changing my american name to “Kenya,” started growing natural hair into long dreads, and wearing kente cloth. A Kenyan family moved next door to me and the mother was wearing a weave and called herself “Olivia” and her husband was named “Stanley.” Standing next to them, I realized how unAfrican I really looked. But I am brown skinned and your typical black woman in America. I do wear green contacts, blue contacts from time to time. But it is not because I want to be white. I just LIKE THEM! I realize, too, that white women get tanned not becuase they want to be black but because they WANT TO. I am more black than most African women in my understanding of the Black diaspora history, how I wear my hair and my identity. I have real breasts, real nails, real lips. No relaxer, no weave, no nips, no tucks, no botox, no injections, no silicon. I can wear blue contacts and if anyone looks at me as I hate my blackness is a fool and likely would not be in my life anyway.
    Next, light skin, dark skin, blue eyes, thin noses, thick noses, brown eyes and more ALL ORIGINATED IN AFRICA! You don’t have to be mixed to be born with a melanin deficiency. But again, most Blacks do not know the history or have a full understanding of melanin and that is in Cameroon and America and all connections in between.

  16. Always judjing the world base on your American Perfect Life,Perfect Way of Thinking and Perfect Sense of Beauty.

    Have ever been to any country in Africa(Yes Africa is a CONTINENT with COUNTRIES.)?

    You Afro American are so keen on reminding to your own world how versatile,different and beautiful Black in every shade and sense of style and so on ,is.

    But when Africa in is versatility (from where you got your gene)come to your door,YOU ARE ALWAYS THE VERY FIRSTs ONE TO SCREAM AND RAN AWAY AND JUDJE IT FROM FAR AWAY.

    Can you even situate in a map the country where Chantal Biya is coming?
    Have ever seen any picture of her 10 years ago?
    Have you ever been to her country to witness by yourself if wether it was truly a lack of taste in style or just AN EXPRESSION OF BEAUTY IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD?

    Get up of your chair,your state,your country and come and make a round of MY BEAUTIFUL CONTINENT.And you will see that( if you know how to use a map and know where Africa is located in the world map):

    -In SENEGAL women are darker than the night itself,
    -In Burundi ,taller than Jessica white,
    -In Somalie and Ethiopie ,naturally skinny like Chanel Iman ( and not only because they don’t have food,ignorant)
    -IN Nigeria More fabulous and fierce than Tyra banks,
    -In Cote d’Ivoire,have more hips than Beyonce
    -In Cameroon ,LOOOOOOVE to take care of them self
    -In Ghana,value their education more than their men life.

    And those are names of countries not Villages,ignorant.They all have their Norms for beauty and none are based on American Standards.

    Unfortunately an American will never understand that.
    (vous etes tous des cons d’illétré en amerique)

  17. What bothers me the most about this article and the following comments is the overwhelming sense of ignorance about Africa.I’m a Neo African American( specifially Ghanaian-American)who was born and raised in DC but has lived in Africa before and this is the deal:you don’t have to be biracial to be light skinned in Africa.There are plenty of naturally light skinned women of different shades in Africa as there are dark skinned Africans.To me when I saw Chantal,for a Cameroonian,there are plenty of non mixed who have her color and sometimes lighter.I highly doubt she bleaches.People need to stop being passive with their ignorance about Africa and see and learn the facts instead of what they want to see.I don’t care if yo saw African women with different colored body parts.So?Some bleach,some have hyperpigmentation and that’s that. I’m fustrated that things like this always have to be hashed out like this in this country…diversity in skin color is not special to the Americas.Every place has that diversity.Learn it and stop implying the offensive.

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