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Lil Kim Posts Jarring New Selfies, Internet Has Opinions About It

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A photo posted by Lil' Kim (@lilkimthequeenbee) on

Lil Kim posted a set of selfies on Sunday (April 25), which found the rapper with dark-rooted blonde hair and more notably, much lighter skin than her natural shade. While Kim ostensibly felt her new look was a step in the right direction, social media reactions to the photos were mixed — and largely depended on an individual’s feelings toward Lil Kim, their thoughts on oppressively homogenous beauty standards, and their general capacity for human empathy (or lack thereof).

As any casual observer knows, Kim’s face has undergone an evolution in the years since Hard Core, her 1996 studio album debut. In addition to plastic surgery, she was a makeup contouring enthusiast long before the Kardashians inspired one million YouTube tutorials. And as savvy fans have pointed out on Twitter, Kim frankly discussed her ongoing dissatisfaction with her appearance — and the possible reasons for it — way back in a 2000 Newsweek profile written by Allison Samuels.

Samuels’ article highlights the lasting effects that Kim says her father’s perpetual disapproval had on her, which she’d felt the sting of as early as 8: “Everything about me was wrong–my hair, my clothes, just me.” She left home at 14.

Kim’s subsequent comments on her insecurity are as self aware as they are heartbreaking in the piece, which ought to dispel any (insulting) ideas that she’s blithely and unwittingly walking around with facial dysmorphia.

The men she met seemed to have a special radar for damaged souls. “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?’ ” She winces. “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.”

Kim also provided some insight on her transformation into a blue-eyed blonde that began in the time between her debut and 2000’s The Notorious K.I.M., saying she felt pressured to meet society’s narrow definition of beauty — which she’d observed happens to be tall, white and busty.

“I have low self-esteem and I always have,” she says. “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 I can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.” And the implants? “That surgery was the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life,” says Kim. “But people made such a big deal about it. White women get them every day. It was to make me look the way I wanted to look. It’s my body.”

Ultimately, to discuss Lil Kim’s possibly-bleached, possibly surgically-altered face is to touch on a larger discussion worth having about whitened skin, perceived denial of one’s racial identity, a Western culture that perpetuates the idea that resembling Kate Upton is the universal ideal, and — as any female celebrity who’s been the target of OH GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO HER ‘UNRECOGNIZABLE’ FACE headlines can attest — the fact that when it comes to plastic surgery, women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. One’s snap judgments about her appearance honestly says more about the opinion-holder than it does about Kim herself.

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