Here’s Why This Photo Series Featuring Black Women Received Backlash on Social Media

Minnesota fashion designer and student, Isaac West, never expected that this photos series collaboration with photographer Haythem Lafhaj would have come with such backlash. The series called “One” showcased black women with different skin tones.


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He posted the 9 photos in late March on  Instagram, and shortly thereafter began to receive negative comments on two of the photos.The two photos that received the most backlash were the photos wherein the light skin model is in the front or in the center.

Photo Credit: Isaac West
Photo Credit: Isaac West

Folks didn’t take too kindly to these photos and here’s why:

One person even asserted:

It should be noted that out of 9 of the photos that were shared, the light skin model was only front or centered in two of them.  The entire premise of the photo series was to show unity in our blackness, regardless of skin tone, said West.

As black people, we have something very unique about us — our skin tone. It comes in all different shades, and some people sometimes use that against us. It doesn’t matter if she’s dark, she’s brown, she’s light brown, or she has fair skin. We all are black and we all are one.”

In an  interview with Allure magazine, West stated he didn’t  put her in the middle because she was better but because he wanted her to stand out:

I put her in the middle because I wanted her to stand out, and the reason I wanted her to stand out is because her color was so different.”


Colourism is real (Read here if you don’t believe me) and it is divisive, but how do we get beyond it? We’ve been fed the lie that light skin is better skin and as a result have often shunned members of our community.


What’s your take on the reactions to these photos? Sound off below!

Kay’s Ways is a healthy hair care, beauty and lifestyle blog based in NYC. As a certified makeup artist, beauty enthusiast and mother of three I like to share product reviews, video demonstrations, the latest tips and tricks for everything from entertainment, technology, family life, product swatches, video demos, makeup tips & tutorials, home life with the kids, events and more! Keep up with Kay


Kay’s Ways is a healthy hair care, beauty and lifestyle blog based in NYC. As a certified makeup artist, beauty enthusiast and mother of three I like to share product reviews, video demonstrations, the latest tips and tricks for everything from entertainment, technology, family life, product swatches, video demos, makeup tips & tutorials, home life with the kids, events and more! Keep up with Kay

  1. I think that people are hyper sensitive and looking for a reason to be upset, in this case only 2 of the 9 photos were posed that way, so clearly the message wasn’t “white is right”….its situations like these where we as black people make the most ignorant comments/responses that that really set us back….

  2. I think the project was very beautiful! Sometimes a person can make their issue everybody issue. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I don’t see anything wrong with the two photos in question. He presented the girls in a “spectrum” sense. You would see colors of the rainbow with lightest more to the right. What is wrong with this? There is no colorism at all. It’s just a “spectrum” of beautiful browns. Leave it be!

  4. Who are the models? And I thought all the photos were beautiful.
    I can see a heads and tails on each shot, but this is media roll with it.
    Take the bad with the ugly.

  5. No matter what we do it will always be something. The truth we are a people of color that’s makes us unique. Everything thing about us weather it’s our melanin or our DNA we stand out. That’s the problem.

  6. I do not see anything wrong with this picture. He is showing that we come in all different hues, from the lightest to the darkest. Does it matter the placement of the women? If the women with the darker complexion were in the front, the lighter complexion women will be offended. Stop finding fault where there is none. Black women are beautiful, let’s embrace are uniqueness instead of fighting.

  7. To the person who said that the lighter skin female is not even black, you dolt, do you not see her features, did you not watch Queen. Blacks hate blacks, what I saw was the use of lighting & him showing skin tone as it gets darker, with the lightest in front and the darkest in back. It’s 2 photos out of 9, must we find fault with everything. Do we not know how to look at art or see art. Can’t we just congratulate each other and just say good job. DAMN!

  8. I love the transitions of the skin tones and the fact that we are a unique people who come in all hues….from the extreme dark to the extreme light and all shades in between. We have to stop separating ourselves due to our skin tones. We are all beautiful!

  9. Its his work, let it be, if dontblikebthe pics- create your own take. We arevall black regradlessbof our various shades of it. Stand together/ United. Stop hating and bring one another down.

  10. Why in the world is she considered “un-black” because her skin is so fair? Was he serious when he said that. Why do “We” always have to be negative when it comes to US? (Skin, speech & hair alike) I just saw it as him trying g to put them in an order of shade. Didn’t even think to say “why is she there?” or “she’s in the front because she’s really light.” I think this shows all others how diverse “WE” are. WE are a COLOR WHEEL!!

  11. I didn’t think much about the picture or that he was stating she was better until I saw done of the comments, all I saw was different beautiful women of all shades of brown, I thought the pictures were gorgeous. Of course us as black people had to go there that’s why we can’t get past colorism even tho they know other people use it to divide us. Smh.

  12. My first reaction was, “wow, they are beautiful!” My second reaction as it relates yo the positioning of he photos was, ” I like how he showed the contrast of going from a very light hue to a very dark hue,” nonetheless, all of the photos Andre phenomenal. It is very important that we not analyze from a lense of our own resolve issues. If we are not careful, we will push personal perceptions of ourselves onto other s. Let’s just look at it for what it’s is; beautiful black women!

  13. Black people are sometimes super sensitive about things. This was one of those times. The series is beautiful and showcases how beautiful and diverse we are as a people. The people who were criticizing his work were being super sensitive for no reason. Maybe they can see that now.

  14. Many aspects of the photographs are indeed, beautiful. Placement of the models, does depict the differing gradations of hues in the skin color of Black Women. We must, however, be aware that ‘colorism’ is based on a very real system of discrimination formed centuries ago. People of darker hues were valued less than those of lighter…even on the auction block; For centuries, lighter hues ensured better treatment, and advantage – darker..mistreatment, and disadvantage – even loss of life! Are the models’ placement in the photos indicative of such historic disregard for Women of darker color? While we have no way of discerning the intent of the photographer, we must honor what has been the ofttimes difficult Journey of Peoples of color, based purely on their skin color! Peace and Blessings, Dear Ones…

  15. All of the pictures are stunning. We have so many issues within our on race. “The first girl isn’t even black,” “why does the light skinned girl have to be in the front of two of the pictures???” Seriously, do we know the background of these women? And why is it that we feel the darkest girl has to be in the front of every picture? So now we’re excluding women with lighter skin? How is that thought-process considered fair?? History has created this, but it’s time to live in the present. Be done with this whole, who got to work in the big house, has “good hair” and she’s cute to be dark skinned nonsense. Discrimination against your own people is also a form of racism.

  16. They are absolutely gorgeous. I get what tbe photographer was saying. He was juzt showing an array of colors from the lightest to the darkest. Have any of you given tbought witb tbe negative comments toward the light skinned sister how you have made her feel? “Sbe is BLACK people.”

  17. beautiful photos.
    But in2017 we must know that ‘Black’ doesn’t come in all colors. Three of those ladies are mixed. They look the way they do, because they are mixed, whether it is biracial, or a recent mix, they are a mix of European & African. We have to accept that. And as long as we define both groups of women(people) under the same ‘Black is Beautiful’ heading, not only is it not a biological truth, but a continuation of colorism. A real Nubian woman should not have to be constantly put in a position of comparison with a mixed women. Vanessa Williams was not the first African-American Miss America, that title should have been reserved for a woman that really is.

    All those ladies in the photos are beautiful. But let them represent the ethnic group they are.

    Great photos again.

    1. the problem with this analysis is that ALL african americans are of a mixed heritage due to the slave trade. Some, more recent than others, but African american does not equal 100% subsaharan african. Both of vanessa williams’s parents are african american as well. And trust me, i’m not with the one drop rule, myself, and i’m not trying to invite everyone to the cookout, however, you cannot exclude people on the basis of their skin complexion. Because i have met full blooded siblings where one is far lighter in complexion, with more seemingly European features than their dark skinned brother or sister. You cannot control how recessive genes show up. Yes, the experiences of folks with my european features will be different than folks who look like me, and i agree, we are not all the same, but we do all fall under the category of african american. And unless you want to start handing out DNA tests, you can’t throw folks out based on looks alone. You should watch some of the DNA test results African Americans are doing on youtube, you would surprise to see folks of different shades and features showing up with virtually the same DNA breakdown of african, european, and a small percentage of native american.

  18. There is nothing wrong with these pictures. They illuminate the beauty of the Black spectrum. The responses received illuminates the ignorance and hate that is growing in the Black community towards colorism. History has taught us the origins that manipulated this hatred in the Black communities. The fact that people of color still openly and blatantly hold these prejudices against differently colored Blacks in today’s time is just as racist as the kkk or white supremacy. Never before has the Black spectrum been so fully advertised and admired. Dark skin representation in the media is prevalent everywhere and more positive than ever before. Whereas light skin is there also…it is often portrayed in a negative fashion. The hate I hear and see that is so common from the Dark skin community against light skin is sickening. You can love the skin that you are in and be happy with how God made you without hating others who do not share your complexion. Wake up on both sides and stop being the very evil that we fight against in this countty and around the world.

  19. Personally, I’ve been trying to figure out for years what is meant by “Black”.
    If it’s a visual thing then there are “White” people who are far more blacker than some “Blacks”. If it’s cultural thing, then America and Africa are miles away in more than just kilometers. If it’s DNA, then a whole lot of people are related who look completely different from each other in both physical form and color, but who are actually related.
    Are dark Indians (Asia) and dark colored Pakistanis “Black”, “White”, or just don’t have any associated color terminology???
    What do you actually mean by “Black”, how do you define it????

  20. I mean it gets annoying when the lightest and whitest looking girl is made the center of everything, can’t we move past that?

  21. It’s a piece of artwork…
    Not a big deal…..
    Please stop making it something clearly it’s not
    Simply beautiful….

  22. I like the pictures. As a fair skin Black women, I appreciate finally being represented in the color spectrum of Black women.

    Ex: Essence magazine never offers make up suggestions for my skin tone. Nor, are there ever pictures of models who look like me. Which is why I don’t buy the magazine.

  23. I wouldn’t have even thought there was a “point” being made just seeing the Beautiful picture of various Black Women.

    First- I beleive we as Blacks are slways so quick yo think negatively about what shade of blsck is better. We have been brainwashed that way!

    Artistically it is beautifully contrasting (skin tones).
    The previous comments made are enotionally and psychologically based*

  24. These beautiful women look like my family members we are all a wide variety darker and lighter tones and somewhere in between. We all love each other equally and we lift each other up. Dark skin black women in my kids are all on the extremely Lighter Side and they understand that one shade is better than the other they love each other in Avon Beauty in their differences & similarities.❤

  25. I got similar backlash in my debut fashion show. I was asked by a fellow photographer (not the guy who took our photos) why all of the “dark girls” were “in the shadows”, referring to the lighting in the pics. I barely gave a response because I thought his observation was rather ludicrous, but it did stick in my head. Why would he make that observation when we positioned ourselves not by the shade of brown we were, but simply in attempts to get the garments photographed properly?

  26. “Colorism is real” !!! Yes, and I am so sick and tired of reading that social media does not like something.. it’s creatively directed and is about inclusion. Seriously the black community on social media needs to make up their minds about what they want to see and don’t. If there wasn’t darker skinned, medium dark, light cocoa colored, honey, tanned, brown, or whatever–there is always someone complaining. How about we look at the fact that black women are beautiful no matter what shade they are!!! I’m so over it. Like seriously, light or dark, they are black women. The fact that we are so diverse speaks numbers and we shouldn’t put each other down for the color of our skin. It’s like racism within our own culture and it makes me sick.
    At the end of the day, our ancestors originated from Africa, so shut up about colorism and blackness. Our people are being killed for their color, and unfortunately the stigma of racism is still relevant today, but we cannot let racism and colorism blot out our people’s legacy. Seriously, I’m just done with some folks who want to argue on social media about color.

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