*A spokesperson for African American singing sensation Beyonce Knowles refused to comment; but that did not stop the rumors from circulating in Hollywood last week. Is Beyonce using bleaching creams and other chemical products to lighten her skin? The speculation began when the singer was spotted shopping in Hollywood last week (pictured). Her hair had been dyed blond and observers said her complexion was several shades lighter. (Beyonce actually looked Caucasian).

If the speculation is true, Ms. Knowles would join the likes of Lil Kim, Sammy Sosa, Tyra Banks and the late king of pop Michael Jackson – all of whom reportedly bleached their skins in order to achieve a lighter look. The controversy surrounding Blacks bleaching their skins has even gone international. Popular Jamaican dance hall DJ Vybz Kartel set tongues a wagging in that Caribbean nation recently when he appeared in public with what one newspaper critic labeled a “zombie-like” look after bleaching his skin.

There have been similar cases among Black entertainers in Britain where cosmetic surgeon Dr. Georges Roman warned recently that “many in the black community are causing themselves damage as a result of using skin-lightening products incorrectly.”

Roman added, “… some of the most extreme cases have come from the U.S. where patients have been leaving a cosmetic cream containing hydroquinone on the skin resulting in excessive damage.” The potential damage includes developing eczema or acne and post inflammatory conditions which must be treated immediately.

But why are some Black entertainers bleaching their skins. Is it Black self-hatred; an acceptance of a white standard of beauty or a matter of personal choice?