Nikita Richardson
April 25, 2016 11:36 am
Getty Images/Jon Kopaloff; Facebook/Lil Kim

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Lil Kim was unstoppable. The Brooklyn native was topping pop and rap charts, pushing the limit when it came to expressing herself, and her sexuality through her music and her style — as well as crushing it in a field dominated by male (often times misogynistic) rappers.

But then the star went relatively quiet. In 2005, she served a yearlong jail sentence, which turned into four years of near media silence, and it wasn’t until recently that she started reaching out to fans again on social media. But these days, many of those same fans barely recognize her.

Last night, Kim shared a series of photos of herself with platinum blonde hair and disturbingly light skin. In fact, the difference between her appearance back in the day and now is so dramatic that it set social media alight with rumors that Lil Kim has taken to skin bleaching (among other cosmetic changes).

Much of the conversation on Kim’s change in appearance is focused on the concept of colorism, which involves discrimination against people — across all races — whose skin tone is darker than other people within their race. Many believe that the reasons Lil Kim may have gone to such lengths to change the shape of her nose and the color of her skin is because she’s internalized society’s discrimination against darker-skinned people, which may have triggered an underlying battle with body dysmorphic disorder.

As Twitter user @ThatsJustDarlin points out, Kim has spoken openly about her struggle with her self-image, telling Newsweek in 2000 that men she’s dated—many of whom cheated on her with Caucasian women—have repeatedly told her she wasn’t beautiful enough.

“All my life men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough — even the men I was dating. And I’d be like, ‘Well, why are you with me, then?’” Kim told the publication. “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.”

There’s no way of knowing where Lil Kim is in her private battle with self-esteem, but, whatever the case, it’s not our place to judge or tell her what’s right for her. We just hope she finds the love, peace, and understanding every woman deserves — regardless of her personal choices.