By Brad Wete
February 23, 2011 at 08:35 PM EST

Beyoncé is catching some heat today, as pictures from her shoot in French fashion magazine L’Officiel Paris have hit the net.

In their 90th-anniversary issue, the pop icon pays tribute to African culture, donning head wraps and gorgeous gowns. But one picture in particular seems to be getting the most attention. In it Beyoncé wears dark face paint, transforming her fair-skinned complexion to a dark brown one. Whoa, right? How could she? …Okay, America. Chill out. Not every blackened face is blackface. There’s a fine line between artistry and mockery. And several things must be considered before thinking that Beyoncé, of all people, would be the one to spit in the face of her own culture.

One, throughout her career, she’s been the model for strong women and the forward movement of all races. She preaches independence and seemingly has a spotless record in the court of public perception. Two, she’s married to Jay-Z, who co-produced Fela!, a Broadway show on the magnificent work of Nigerian Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti. Surely she wouldn’t disrespect a culture she’s even somewhat familiar with. It’s not like she put it on because she thought it would go well with an awards show look, like Lastly (there are probably way more reasons, by the way), L’Officiel Paris is a highly respected magazine known for keeping it classy, not going for cheap attention-getting tactics.

Beyoncé’s rep did not get back to us with a response to the Internet rumblings of her being in “blackface.” Likely because we should know better than to think she’d do such an ill-advised thing. That picture, along with the others featuring her natural tone, is art. Appreciate it as such.

UPDATE: L’Officiel Magazine released the following statement  regarding their March cover girl’s attire and makeup – “The inspiration came from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face. We find the images beautiful and inspiring. L’Officiel would like to thank Beyoncé for her outstanding contribution to this celebration of African influences in Fashion.”

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the shoot.

What do you think of Beyoncé’s look? Sound off in the comments section.

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