Slide from Arnold's presentation demonstrating racial signifiers and anthropometric photography.

Students, Events

Elizabeth Arnold (CMNS) - Racialized Femininity and Beyoncé's Bodacious Bod

Arnold, a presenter at the FCAT Undergraduate Conference 2014, shares her experience of presenting her research project at the conference. 

April 04, 2014

Elizabeth Arnold, a student in the School of Communication, presented her research project at the FCAT Undergraduate Conference 2014. Arnold's project, Racialized Femininity and Beyoncé's Bodacious Bod, was one of 34 projects presented at the conference on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

Project Abstract:

Studies show that women of colour are severly underrepresented in North American media. When they are represented however, they are often fair skinned (naturally or digitally manipulated), biracial and phenotypically white. The beauty industry - or the Beauty Machine - reproduces images that replicate a narrow, Eurocentric ideal that marginalizes groups by maintaining that beauty is racially defined.

In this case study, a series of six magazine covers featuring Beyoncé demonstrates that representations of an iconic racialized woman reproduce historically stereotypical depictions of black women. The depictions represented include the black female savage and the sexually available body, which in Beyoncé's case operate under the guise of the acceptable 'white' African American woman. This translates to the same, outdated stories being circulated about black women. The study of the media representations churned out by the Beauty Machine facilitates the understanding of how discriminatory practices are legitimated in mainstream media.


1. Why did you pick this topic? What was interesting to you about this topic?
I chose the study of racialized femininity and beauty because I was curious to examine the double marginalization of even the most successful/iconic/prevalent black women.
2. Were you surprised by anything you found during the research/creation process?
I was surprised that an iconic black woman like Beyoncé continues to be represented to reproduce the same racist stories that have been assigned to black women throughout history.
3. Do you have any plans to do something more with this project?
I would love to publish in a journal, but I am unsure that this style of paper would be a good fit.
4. How did you find the process of presenting your project?
The process of presenting my paper was extremely rewarding. I was passionate about presenting this project, and the fact that so many people responded with interest and excitement bolstered my confidence as an academic.

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