Rihanna‘s naked skin is being used for contrast against a nude shade in her perfume advertisements. Because Rihanna’s skin is not the same color as the one the nude fragrance is marketing.
Sociological Images points out that:
The deep and abiding centrality of whiteness is made especially clear when words like “nude” are used to describe light tan even in the context of a darker-skinned woman.
Look. Probably there are more serious issues regarding race in America than the names of different color. When I see that peachy pink color referred to as nude in a fashion spread, I’m not really inclined to get that upset. We should just call it beige, although, as a commenter on Sociological Images remarks:
Poor beige, everyone shuns it. It’s like Pluto, except Pluto didn’t get replaced by some grammatically and physically incorrect thing that describes a state of being instead of a colour.
But! It is pretty disconcerting when the contrast between what we think of as the default “nude” color and actual skin tones is made so apparent. And it feels disconcerting because the fact that we think of that peachy-pink shade as “nude” implies that white people are the only people we feel comfortable seeing in the nude. That sounds obviously ridiculous now, but remember that it was less than 100 years ago that the famously sexy Josephine Baker had to powder down her body when performing in America so she could be seen as attractive. The first black woman in Playboy was in 1971. This casual use of the word “nude” in this context does seem like it’s a bit forgetful of struggles that existed in the not terribly distant past. Does it bother you? Or do you see this as a clever commentary on how many different kinds of “nude” there are? It could be the latter.