Actress Shannon Thornton is no stranger to the harsh realities of colorism.
Thornton stars as exotic dancer Keyshawn on Starz’s hit drama “P-Valley.” The show is in its second season and taking a deeper look into the lives of its leading characters — Keyshawn being one of them. In S2E5 “White Knight,” the impact of Keyshawn’s struggles with being the dark-skinned stepsister who’s beauty is overshadowed by her sisters’ lighter complexion and long tresses takes center stage. While fans agree Thornton is gorgeous, it was a more of a challenging task to get some to accept that Keyshawn could still be cast aside as less attractive.
On Twitter, one viewer called the show out for its attempt at addressing the complex expectations of beauty in the Deep South. “U being the “unattractive darkie” in this episode was soooo far fetched,” wrote a criticizing fan.
Her remark was met with congruence from others who felt Thornton’s beauty made it impossible for her character to be perceived as anything but attractive.
“I be feeling the same way. The stuff they put her thru is so hard for me to believe. I know beautiful women are abused too…but she’s so next level gorgeous I just can’t take it seriously lol.”
“okay bc NOBODY was cuter than my sis in this episode or the last for that matter! they were reaching for the stars.”
Thornton, however, used the opportunity to respond, and to share that Keyshawn’s experiences with colorism were not unfamiliar. “I thought it was very true to life — for me, anyway. I’ve been told to my face (by a dark-skinned, Black man I dated) that lighter women were more beautiful simply bc they were lighter. Now, he doesn’t represent everyone but it wasn’t the last time I heard a man say that. #PValley,” she wrote.
She followed up the response by affirming the beauty of women with darker complexions. “But anyway…Brown girls, I love y’all. I love US! We don’t need anyone to validate how special or beautiful we are.”
Thornton’s fans who understand the history of colorism dates back to the 19th century enslavement of Black people in the U.S. instead felt the episode perfectly depicted discrimination. The fictitious strip club at the crux of “P-Valley” is the The Pynk and is located in the Mississippi Delta where liberal ideals have been slow to take root.
“U guys are missing the point of the episode, colorism makes ppl think that light skinned is automatically more attractive when it’s not , art is imitating life, this happens every day even now.”
“Not far fetched at all. This is how colorism works. Darker is viewed as less attractive even when it’s not factual.”
“That’s the point. It shuts down this “pretty privilege” (colorisms cousin) & makes an even more poignant landing. Featurism collapses on it’s self if you’re dark.”