Cameroonian pop singer, Dencia, launched a skincare line, Whitenicious that promotes skin bleaching for women of color. The formerly dark brown beauty is the face of her own product and now resembles Sammy Sosa. According to several African beauty and entertainment blogs, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration is looking to ban the skin bleaching product.
Dencia did an interview with Ebony and she pretty much shucked and jived in her interview. She claims her before and after pics are just a result of her being in Europe for the winter and she’s not really bleaching. She also throws shade at Black Americans by saying they are her biggest customers.
Here is the interview:
In early January, Cameroonian pop singer, Dencia, launched a new skin care line, Whitenicious. Within 24 hours, it sold out—and “before” and “after” pictures of the entrepreneur set the internet ablaze. Three weeks later, sales approach 20,000 units and show no signs of slowing down. Although the product promotes itself as a “7 day fast acting dark spot remover,” many have criticized Dencia for not only promoting skin lightening, but self-hatred among women of color and more specifically, African women. Despite the backlash, Dencia stands behind Whitenicious and believes that she is in fact helping women overcome an obstacle. Here, Dencia tells her side of the story.
EBONY: So you know there’s been a lot of buzz about you on the internet here lately. Everybody’s talking about your new skin care line, Whitenicious. Tell me how you came up with [it.]
Dencia: And I’m happy that they’re talking because my sales are skyrocketing. Anyway. A few months ago, I was coming back from Switzerland. I sat by this chemist. He’s from Switzerland. We started talking about all these things and he was like “You have really nice skin.” He asked me if I was Puerto Rican by the way. I was like “No, I’m African.” We started talking about skin care and stuff and then I told him how I’ve been doing all these things, going to dermatologists for the problems. Every woman does that. Like when you have a little spot on your face. I know I do. I’ll be running from dermatologist to dermatologist trying to find something to get rid of the dark spots. Unfortunately, all dermatologists will give you hydroquinone 4%. It don’t matter if you’re as dark as Alek Wek or you’re as White as a blonde girl from Malibu. They’ll give you the same thing. So he was telling me that he makes some products and that he has a line. He asked me if want to be the face of it. And I was like you know what? We’ll talk about it. I had come up with this mixture of things that I’ve been using, not for my skin but for my face for like when I had dark spots or when I hyperpigmented anywhere on my body. And so I sat down with him, we tested it, we looked at it, we added stuff and then we came up with the product. I tested it on me and on my sisters. I have a sister that has suffered with acne for a long time and she had dark spots. So she used it and it worked really good. And I went on Facebook and I asked my Facebook friends if they wanted to try it. They tried it, and it worked really well. And mind you, this product doesn’t have hydroquinone, it doesn’t have steroids, and it doesn’t have mercury.
So, when the time came to pick out the name for the product, I was talking to my best friend and she was telling me, if you’re picking out a name you have to look at something that is attractive. When you see Whitenicious, you see the container, you see the product, obviously you’re thinking this is gonna work, right? That’s what you’re thinking. We came up with different names. You know, I was coming up with all these glamorous things and my best friend was like “Nah, ‘Whitenicious’ is good.” And when she gave me the name, I was looking up definitions of white. Ok let me define how I see white. (reads) “The color white affects the mind and the body by aiding in mental clarity, promoting feelings of fresh beginnings and renewal assisting in cleansing, clearing obstacles and clutter and encouraging purification.” And guess what? Dark spots is obstacles. Hyperpigmenation is obstacles.
EBONY: Is dark skin an obstacle?
Dencia: No. Dark skin is beautiful. Actually, I will send you pictures of when I was 16. I’m not that lighter from when I was younger, I’m not. The picture they’re passing around where I’m wearing the animal print underwear, that picture was three years ago and that was a tan. If anybody looks at that picture and you look at the oil on my skin, you would know it’s a tan. And it’s funny because one of my friends who was at the photo shoot with me that actually oiled me up with the tan sent me a message yesterday. She was like “Why are people going crazy about this picture when you were tanned on this picture?” I was never that dark in real life and I can send EBONY pictures of me when I was like 15, 16. And guess what? I don’t even care because they’re bringing me business. Because when you take that picture and you put a picture of Dencia darker, this is what you’re telling people – the product really works. And guess what? People really want to buy it. It’s what it is. I don’t really care.
EBONY: So…you haven’t bleached your skin, is what you’re saying? You were tan in the before pictures?
Dencia: Have I…Has my skin lightened from when…like from the past five years? Yes it has. It has. Has it drastically lightened? No it hasn’t. Is it what people are saying? No it’s not.
EBONY: Okay. But do you understand people’s response to the pictures? Because many people have become aware that skin bleaching is a big phenomenon around the world, particularly in West Africa where you’re from. And so then we see one picture of you or a few pictures of you where you look browner and then we see this new picture of you, and not just that it’s a picture of you per se, but an advertisement for a product called Whitenicious. And then it says “Say goodbye to pigmentation and spots forever.”
Dencia: First of all when I did the photoshoot…let me tell you something, I did the Whitenicious photo shoot on the 13th of December, 2013. I just came back from Paris. I was in Europe for a month and I was indoors. I don’t go outside a lot generally. If you’re light skinned and you stay indoors a lot it’s gonna give you that pale look. And then I had just been going back and forth to the hospital because I was not feeling too good. My health is not very stable and it’s not because of anything with this, it’s something that I’ve had since I was a little girl. I was dehydrated and they gave me the drips to hydrate me. And when you come out with all those things, it makes you fresh and it gives you that pale look because you’ve not been out in the sun. That is why those pictures look like that. And everybody, even my sister said “Are you okay?” because they knew I was not feeling good. So it’s not about being pale because I’m bleaching my skin. It’s just because I stay indoors a lot and I take a lot of vitamins. Lots. And all those things have effects on your skin. And in the past I’ve probably taken medications that… you know there’s a lot of medications that have side effects of lightening your skin too.
And anyway, the picture clearly says “Say goodbye to dark spots and hyperpigmentation.” I’m not saying “say goodbye to your Black skin and try to be like Dencia.” That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying “say goodbye to dark spots and hyperpigmentation.” Now did I choose to do beginning pictures for a reason? Yes, I did. I did that because sexy sells. Period. I have men, White men, Black men, buying Whitenicous. Guess what is attracting them? Those pictures. And guess what they’re using it for? Dark spots. Not to bleach their entire skin. I don’t think a White man is trying to bleach his skin.
Trust me, I’ve been running this business for the past three weeks and I’ve read all these emails from girls telling me about how they have this hyperpigmentation, how they have these dark spots. I have seen so many pictures. These girls are not trying to bleach their skin. They’re just trying to get rid of these little things that is making them feel uncomfortable, you know?
EBONY: I hear you, I do. And you’re right, many women of African descent, many women of color, we do suffer from hyperpigmentation. So there are lots of products on the market that work to fade out those spots, if you will. But there are also products… and you know this, especially in West Africa. We see the billboards, we see them in the markets, we see the women with all of the damage on their skin – there are products out there that are used to bleach the skin. Your product is called Whitenicious, of course people will buy it because they want to bleach.
Dencia: Ok. Will Whitenicious bleach your skin if you use it on all your skin? Yes, it will. Are we selling Whitenicous for that purpose? No, we’re not. Whitenicous comes in 30 ml and 60ml. You cannot use the 60 ml to bleach your whole skin. It’s impossible. And that costs about $150 each. 60 ml can’t even go on your whole feet. I don’t see anybody spending all that money to bleach their entire skin. I don’t see that happening. Now, do I have customers who come and buy stuff for over $2000? Yes, I do. Do I ask them what they want to do with it? No, I don’t. Do I know what they want to do with it? No, I don’t care because it’s their money, it’s how they want to spend it. Are we selling Whitenicous for that purpose? No, we’re not. Whitenicous comes in 30 ml and 60ml. You cannot use the 60 ml to bleach your whole skin. It’s impossible. And that costs about $150 each. 60 ml can’t even go on your whole feet. I don’t see anybody spending all that money to bleach their entire skin. I don’t see that happening. Now, do I have customers who come and buy stuff for over $2000? Yes, I do. Do I ask them what they want to do with it? No, I don’t. Do I know what they want to do with it? No, I don’t care because it’s their money, it’s how they want to spend it.
EBONY: I want to go back to something you said earlier. About your definition of white having to do with purification and clearing obstacles. Ok so that sounds like how the dictionary might define white. But what about how society defines white? You know that for many African people they see white–as in White people–as better. Still. And for some of the women who bleach, not that they are trying to be White women per se. No, not at all. But what they are trying to do is to gain access to whatever it is they see White people having, whether that’s being seen as being beautiful or making more money or being more successful in society. And so people look at your ad, it’s called Whitenicious. They see Dencia in a way that they’ve never seen her before. Whether you care or not, whether it was your intention or not, do you understand that the success of your product could be because people think that they can use it to get as white as you?
Dencia: No, that’s not how I see it. This is how I see it. Everybody that has something negative to say, 1- doesn’t need it and 2 – don’t have the money to buy it. First of all, let me clear this up. As of now 80% of people that buy my products are African American. It’s not Africans. People are saying that it’s Africans because they think I live in Africa. I go back and forth but I live here. I can send you the stats – it is African Americans. I have to be honest with you – I have TV personalities buying Whitenicious for over $1000. People who work for TV stations like Fox. I have celebrities buying Whitenicous and all of these people are African Americans, they are not Africans. My African market is just 10% because guess what? They don’t have credit cards to buy the products and I’m only taking credit cards or PayPal. And they don’t have that access, do you get what I’m saying? It’s these people that can access that.
Now, my other 10% is White people – I have White people from Europe, America, and everywhere buying Whitenicious. Now, I’m thinking to myself, what do they want to do with it? Of course they’re not trying to bleach their skin. Are Black people trying to get White to be accepted in society? No, I don’t think so. Now I can’t speak for everybody but first of all, White people love the darker skinned Africans. They like the African that is Alek Wek. There’s no in between for them. It’s extreme. You’re either at A or you’re at Z. Now, do you think Africans are lightening to appeal to the White man? No, they’re not because the White man doesn’t even like the light Africans. They like the Black Africans. Look at all the Africans that are successful in the world. They are as Black as Alek Wek. And if I was as Black as Alek Wek, I would never ever use anything on my skin. Trust me I wouldn’t.
EBONY: And I hear you in terms of those extremes, you’re right. Alek Wek, dark. Lupita N’yongo, dark. The mainstream loves that. And you’re right, there’s no in between or appreciation for in-between colors. So did you feel like because you weren’t that extreme color that you needed to kind of move to the other end of the spectrum?
Dencia: Honestly? Yes, I do feel that that is why I did it. I used to tan a lot. When I moved to America and I moved to L.A. I used to tan a lot to be dark like you see on that one picture because I wanted to appeal. I wanted to be an African. I wanted to come out as an African because that is what was winning. The dark African. And I would tan and but then I looked at it like, ‘you cannot go darker than you are. You can’t. There’s nothing in the world that can make you go darker than you are. But guess what? There’s something in the world that can make you lighter than you are.’ And listen, I grew up being a sickly. I’m always constantly sick and from the time I was a little girl. I’m not going to do anything that will put my life at risk because God has given me so many opportunities to be alive. Contrary to what people are saying “Oh, this is going to cause you cancer.” No, it wouldn’t. Whitening your skin will not cause you cancer. There is no, how do they call this thing?
EBONY: Medical research?
Dencia: Yes, there is no medical research!
EBONY: But there is.
Dencia: That it causes cancer?
Dencia: But guess what? The air you breathe outside causes you cancer. Everything in the world causes cancer.
EBONY: If I tell you that for the last 40 years dermatologists all over the world, many of whom are in Senegal, in Nigeria, in Ghana, have done research to show that bleaching products, particularly those products with hydroquinone and corticosteroids, those products stop the production of melanin. And you know in West Africa we need melanin to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Naturally African people don’t get skin cancer because of how much melanin we have. But when we stop producing melanin, we make ourselves susceptible to skin cancer. And so because of that, because of skin bleaching, and because of the use of these products, we see an increase in the numbers of cases of skin cancer in Africa, when that wasn’t a medical issue that we suffered from before. Do you understand? So if I tell you, Dencia, yes you can get skin cancer from lightening your skin, are you concerned?
Dencia: You know what? I’m not. First of all, body lotion cannot stop melanin. Melanin comes from inside, not externally. That’s why people still have hyperpigmentation. You can bleach your skin all you want you will still produce melanin. Body lotion does not stop your melanin from coming. It does not.
EBONY: But it does.
Dencia: I can assure you. It does not. It doesn’t, you can’t rub oil on your skin and stop melanin. It is something your body produces from inside. That doesn’t even make sense. And now, secondly, if hydroquinone and all those things cause cancer why do dermatologists in America still prescribe it? Straight up. Why do they do that if it causes cancer? Why is it FDA approved in America if it causes cancer?
EBONY: We can go back and forth about the medical evidence. And there is medical evidence. Hydroquinone is approved because it was originally created for White bodies and White people don’t need melanin in the ways that Black people do. Now that they prescribe it to Black bodies, or bodies that have higher doses of melanin, we see more of these damaging effects. And it’s not that hydroquinone by itself causes cancer. It’s the higher, unregulated doses that we find in other so-called Third World countries, mixed with the steroids and other things. Prolonged used over time while still having to be under the hot sun is what causes cancer. In the United States you’re not supposed to be able to get more than 2% without a prescription, and only up to 4% with a prescription, but when you travel to other places in the world, you can find upwards of 25-30% of hydroquinone in these products.
Denicia: Yeah, well, Whitenicious doesn’t have hydroquinone and it doesn’t have steroids and it doesn’t have mercury because guess what? I’m not gonna put those things on my body because I am very conscious when it comes to my health. My grandmother spent millions on me as a child growing up being sick and I’m not gonna grow up and mess up my life after all that money was spent to keep me alive. And anybody who knows me knows that I’m the girl who will go to the doctor for anything. My doctor is tired of seeing me by the way. And I can assure you that they’ve tested me for everything and it’s never caused me any harm. I’m being honest. If you want, I will send you my medical records. I don’t mind doing that. I’m one of those people who speaks with facts and I speak out of experience. Again, Whitenicious clearly states, “Say goodbye to dark spots and hyperpigmentation.” If a Black person thinks their whole body is hyperpigmentation then so be it. I don’t know what to say.
EBONY: But you know? That’s what’s funny, Dencia. When I first looked at the ad and saw the words that was the same thing I said, but I was talking about you. [I thought] ‘So you think your whole body is a spot?’
Dencia: No, I do not. Look, with Whitenicious honestly my intention is not to sell to the average dark-skinned person. I’m not saying that you should lighten your skin, it’s better. It’s not. I have nieces and nephews who are dark. And I mean dark. And they will not tell you anything but my auntie tells me that I am beautiful the way that I am and that I should never mess with my skin. Any dark person I know will tell you. And I remember this little girl from Africa sent me an email and she said she gets laughed at in school and gets bullied because she’s dark. She said she has all these dark spots and she wants me to help her with Whitenicious so she can have a better skin tone. I told her to send me her picture. So she sent it and I looked at her and she’s very beautiful. Gorgeous. Very beautiful. She does have some dark spots here and there but she’s really beautiful. I sent her back a message and I told her to send her phone number. She sent it, I called her, I spoke to her. In the beginning she was pissed off that I didn’t want her to get light but after talking to her she understood where I was coming from. I told her she was beautiful. And I talk to her here and there because I want to encourage her that you should not let people get to you. Don’t do something because people want you to do it.
EBONY: So you didn’t help her? You didn’t help her lighten her skin?
Dencia: No, and I will not do that to her because guess what? She’s a beautiful dark-skinned girl. She’s beautiful.
EBONY: But what about you? Now when I look at the before picture, and I know you said you were tan, but I’m looking at a woman who’s beautiful. Beautiful skin color, rich skin tone. And then the after picture I see a woman who’s very pale. I can’t see any color, or any undertones. When you look back and you look at those pictures, when you see Dencia before, what about her? Did you think she was pretty?
Dencia: I’ve always been a beautiful girl. It didn’t matter if I was Black, White, yellow, blue, green. I have always been a very beautiful girl. It didn’t matter. Do I look more beautiful than I was before? Did I look more beautiful before than I am now? No. My beauty is who I am inside and out. It’s what is in my heart, it’s what I do for people, [and] it’s what I read in the Bible that makes me a better person. Do you get what I’m saying? I read the Bible a lot and I don’t see any place in the Bible that says that “If you bleach yourself, if you change your skin color, it’s a sin.” I have never seen that so please, if you’ve seen it let me know so I can go read that part of the Bible.
EBONY: Okay so I’m looking at this one article online, and it has the same picture you were talking about on it. The before picture with you in the leopard underwear and the title says that skin bleaching is self-hatred and it suggests that you have a lack of self-love.
Dencia: (laughing) That’s funny. Do you know why I’m laughing? It’s funny because I come from a really large family but I have always been the center of attention in my family. I get everything I want. My family told me every time I was beautiful. They treated me like a princess. And in school I was always the popular girl everybody wanted to hang with, everybody wanted to be friends with. I was loved. Do I love myself? Hell yeah! I love myself a lot. I love myself, my family loves me, I’ve gotten nothing but love from people. Do I get hate from outside? Yes. Did I get insulted? Yes. Did I let that get to me? No. Was I ever bullied? No. You can’t even bully Dencia. You can’t. So it’s not about self-hate. Do the people who bleach their hair, the people who put perm on their hair, do they hate themselves? No. I don’t think they do. People who wear contacts, do they hate themselves? No. I don’t think they do. People who put fake nails, fake eyelashes, fake Brazilian hair and all those things, do they hate themselves? No they don’t.
EBONY: Why do you think they do it?
Dencia: Because they like it. They think it looks good. Does that mean that people who wear those things hate themselves? No. It’s just because they think it looks good. Thinking something looks good doesn’t mean you hate what you have. You see what I’m saying? That’s how I see it. And everybody who was questioning Dencia about her skin does all of the things I just listed. Does it mean they hate themselves? If they think I changed my skin because they think I hate myself then they hate themselves too because putting fake lashes, you’re changing yourself. Straightening your hair, wearing fake hair, it means the whole world hates themselves right?
EBONY: Good question. So why did you decide to lighten your skin?
Dencia: Why did I get a couple of shades lighter than I was? That’s a personal choice. That is what I wanted to be. And honestly, I just wanted to. I’m very daring. I like trying things. I’m not doing it because I wanna have boyfriends. And I’m not doing it because I want anybody to accept me. It’s because I just wanted to do it.
EBONY: Did you think it would make you more successful as an artist?
DENCIA: No, it wouldn’t and it didn’t. But you see what just happened in America with this whole Whitenicious thing? Last year I was telling my sister and her husband that I’m gonna take over the world in 2014. I’m gonna be talked about every where in this world. And that is what happened. But unfortunately it happened…well it’s not unfortunate, but it happened with Whitenicious. …
EBONY: So then you lightening your skin got you the attention that you wanted?
DENCIA: Actually, you know what? I’m not looking for attention, I’m not trying to be famous, I’m trying to be rich. Don’t get it twisted. I’m not trying to be broke and famous.
EBONY: But Whitenicious is making you rich.
DENCIA: Is Whitenicious making me rich? Whitenicious is putting money in my pocket but it’s not as much as the money that I have spent being a celebrity. It hasn’t gotten to that point. Trust me I’ve made a lot of money off Whitenicous in 3 weeks. A lot of money. A lot of money that I didn’t even expect. And I’m using it to build an orphanage in Cameroon. I’ve always wanted to build an orphanage but the only way that I could really realize this project was by starting a business. And then Whitenicious fortunately happened.
EBONY: But why Whitenicious? Out of all the business that you could have engaged in, why Whitenicious?
DENCIA: Why Whitenicious? Because that’s a business that no celebrity is doing. A lot of celebrities have lightened their skin, we all know them. Them Beyoncés, them Rihannas, them Nicki Minajs. But nobody has been honest. This is about honesty. This is about being yourself. You get what I’m saying? For me, Dencia to step out and do this thing knowing that I’ll get so much backlash that is because I’m honest with myself and I’m comfortable with who I am.
You can read more of the interview here and try to understerand the entertainer.