Dr. Yaba Blay is a professor, producer, and #ProfessionalBlackGirl. As a researcher and ethnographer, she uses personal and social narratives to disrupt fundamental assumptions about cultures and identities. As a cultural worker and producer, she uses images to inform consciousness, incite dialogue, and inspire others into action and transformation.
While her broader research interests are related to Africana cultural aesthetics and aesthetic practices, and global Black popular culture, Dr. Blay’s specific research interests lie within global Black identities and the politics of embodiment, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics. Her 2007 dissertation, Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Politics of Skin Color in Ghana, relies upon African-centered and African feminist methodologies to investigate the social practice of skin bleaching in Ghana; and her ethnographic case study of skin color and identity in New Orleans entitled “Pretty Color and Good Hair” is featured as a chapter in the anthology Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities.
Named to The Root 100 (2014), an annual list of top Black influencers, Dr. Blay is one of today’s leading voices on colorism and global skin color politics. Her commentary has been featured on CNN, BET, MSNBC, NPR, O Magazine, Ebony Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Root, Huffington Post Live, Colorlines, Al Jazeera America and elsewhere. A Black beauty scholar-activist, Dr. Blay is the creator of the LOCS of LOVE care package, the #PrettyPeriod movement, and the #PrettyLipsPeriod social media campaign.
Her book, (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race, explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics and Black racial identity, and challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality. In 2012, she served as a Consulting Producer for CNN Black in America – “Who is Black in America?” – a television documentary inspired by the scope of her (1)ne Drop project. In addition to her production work for CNN, Dr. Blay is the executive producer on a transmedia film project focused on the global practice of skin bleaching (with director Terence Nance); and has co-written a feature-length film entitled Black Sunshine (with director Akosua Adoma Owusu). She is currently producing a video series focused on Black hair culture, entitled “Adventures at Beauty World.”
Dr. Blay received her BA in Psychology (Cum Laude) from Salisbury State University, M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of New Orleans, and M.A. and Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University with a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. She is currently the Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central University.