Lil Kim has been lightening her skin for years. Take a look at any photo from her ‘90s heyday next to her recent photos – if you didn’t know any better, you’d never believe that the 20-year-old black rapper could become this 41-year-old with almost no remaining black features. But this weekend, Lil Kim took skin lightening to an extreme that we didn’t know was possible with a series of selfies depicting a completely unrecognizable person. She’s always been a beauty risk taker, and Prince even called her “the modern day Cleopatra,” claiming that her style will be copied forever. Prince was right, and Kim’s iconic ‘90s looks have recently been worn by the likes of Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj. But as years went on, Kim got blonder and lighter, her nose narrower, her face slimmer, and her cheekbones higher, until she eventually took on another face completely.
Lil Kim’s new look is like nothing we’ve seen before. (Photo: Instagram)
Even a top derm is baffled by Kim’s transformation. “Not sure what she could have done, and certainly curious about makeup and lighting,” Dr. Sejal Shah told us. “I can’t imagine she got these types of results from a lightening cream like hydroquinone.” For those who aren’t familiar with the scarily developed world of skin whitening, hydroquinone is the most common ingredient. But there are lots of options available on the market – both prescription and over-the-counter. Most of the creams intend to lighten dark spots from the sun or from scarring, but can also lighten the entire face. So has Kim just been lightening her skin with these supposedly safe products for so long that she’s completely changed shades? Dr. Shah doesn’t think so. “Although hydroquinone is a good lightening agent and is generally safe when used appropriately and under the supervision of a dermatologist, the use of higher than recommended concentrations and prolonged use can result in paradoxical darkening of the skin,” she says. “Some people do experience irritation from hydroquinone as well as other lightening agents, which can also sometimes result in dark spots.” Another lightening route Lil Kim may have taken is a glutathione injection. “Although glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant in your body, there is no evidence that these treatments are safe or effective and they can have serious negative consequences.”
Since her ‘90s heyday, Lil Kim experimented with beauty looks. (Photo: Instagram)
The last way that Kim could have lightened her skin is with is monobenzone, which is only used to treat vitiligo patients. “Unlike the lightening agents which lighten by shades, monobenzone depigments the skin,” says Dr. Shah. “This treatment is completely inappropriate in individuals who do not suffer from vitiligo, especially as the depigmentation process is unpredictable, may be uneven, and there is risk that the pigment will return potentially darker.” This is likely the way that Michael Jackson lightened his skin, and prior to Kim, we never saw a skin lightening transformation as dramatic as Jackson’s.
Just three weeks ago, Lil Kim’s face looked very different and noticeably darker. (Photo: Instagram)
Fans are upset by Kim’s changing looks, and accuse her being ashamed of her blackness. Two months ago, Lil Kim participated in BET’s Black Girls Rock, and a photo she posted on her Instagram promoting the channel was bombarded with negativity. “It is sad that you look like such a hypocrite to black girls these days. We rock, yet you’ve done EVERYTHING possible to attempt to erase your black? Skin, hair, nose, cheeks, the list goes on,” one fan commented. “…What you portray is the self hate of a black girl, not a good representation for any black girl. I’m so disappointed because you are such an influential person who has the platform to represent black girls better. Anyway I guess you need to work on yourself first,” another wrote.
Lil Kim’s promotion of Black Girls Rock was not well received. (Photo: Instagram)
Some fans are sympathetic to Lil Kim’s traumatic upbringing, though. “You are beautiful inside and out, always were, still are, always will be…we understand what you went through…I hope this hate doesn’t really affect you,” a supporter wrote on Instagram. It’s true, Lil Kim needs more support than her angry fan base is willing to give. In 2000, she opened up to Newsweek about her self-consciousness and plastic surgery endeavors, citing deep-rooted issues. Since she was eight, she’s endured her father’s disapproval. “It was like I could do nothing right. Everything about me was wrong–my hair, my clothes, just me,” she said. “All my life, men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough – even the men I was dating… It’s always been men putting me down just like my dad. To this day when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says… I have low self-esteem and I always have,” she said. “Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, ‘How can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.”
Just after Kim revealed her changed face, she posted three throwback photos featuring her then boyfriend, Biggie Smalls. (Photo: Instagram)
Kim’s self-consciousness seems to be fueled by shame, which makes for a sad combination. Still, her fans are upset over the loss of a strong black role model, and no longer feel that she stands by her black culture. But long before Kim’s obvious facial plastic surgery, she opened up to Newsweek about her breast implants, saying that people had no right to “make such a big deal about it.” She said that the surgery “was to make me look the way I wanted to look. It’s my body.” And she is right, it’s her body and nobody can tell her what she should or shouldn’t do with it.