Natalie Cole Explained Her Light Skinned Mother’s Unfortunate Complex Against Dark Skin

Posted On : October 15, 2020
Natalie Cole

The late Natalie Cole, once gave the world an honest look at her mother’s and family’s perception of dark skinned African Americans, including her dad, Nat King Cole, in her book, “Angel on My Shoulder: An Autobiography by Natalie Cole.”  After reading more about Natalie’s skin complexion issues within her own family, we respect the body of work she’s graced us with…and through it all, she did it with class.

Cole On Her Mom’s Complexion Issues

Music icon, Nat King Cole (L) with son, Nat; wife, Maria Cole; and daughter/singer, Natalie Cole

Natalie said her light skin mother, Maria Cole and her family’s, colorism isolated her from other African Americans during childhood. In her autobiography,  Natalie recalled growing up in Los Angeles’ exclusive Hancock Park section, where the Coles were the only Black residents.

Natalie on her Mother’s reaction to her playing with other African American children growing up:

“When I got friendly with the Black people who worked for us, MY MOTHER was appalled. She wanted us to interact with a different society-outside the house.”

Before we go any deeper into this story, it’s important to point out that this is not something Natalie’s mother and family, should SOLELY be judged for. Why? Because although they were at fault, we all know this is a far more deep rooted issue within the African American culture, that goes WAY beyond the Coles. Natalie Cole wrote this in her book, to forever shed light on a topic that plagues too many families.

Natalie Cole’s parents: Nat King Cole and Maria Cole

Natalie’s mother married a dark skinned man, Nat King Cole. You may have heard of him – the silky smooth voice of “Unforgettable,” “Nature Boy,” “Smile,” “Too Young,” “The Christmas Song” (Chestnut Roasting On An Open Fire), “Mona Lisa” and “Ramblin’ Rose” – and, in 1956, became the first Black ever to host his own network TV show, NBC’s The Nat King Cole Show. Yeah, that guy. So why would Maria Cole’s family have such a dislike for dark skin African Americans?

Natalie also claimed her mother’s family felt that her father, was too Black for them:

Natalie Cole’s mom, Maria Cole

“For a dark-skinned man such as my father to acquire a light-skinned woman such as my mother was a real important prize.Your status moved up. That doesn’t mean that her family was all that happy about her marrying my father. He was too Black for them,” wrote Natalie Cole.

Natalie’s Grandmother was very socially conscious, and according to Natalie:

“She [Natalie’s Grandmother] didn’t want my mother to get involved with anyone with too many Black characteristics, because then your children would look funny. It wasn’t just my mother, it’s the way many Black people were raised.”

While it’s easy to simply point fingers and say, ‘Natalie Cole’s momma and family are wrong for doing her like that,’ we have a bigger battle to fight- the universal ‘complexion disease.’ That type of dark skin/light skin tension is a socio-psychological sickness that is not simply just a choice. It’s also a deep brainwashing that many of us have been inflicted by in various ways, ever since it was embedded into our psyche’s, dating back to slavery. Clearly, the Coles were inflicted by it as well. However, we applaud the “Our Love” singer for her willingness to openly shed some light on such a painful topic, by sharing her through her own personal experiences with it.

May Natalie Cole;  her son, Robert Yancy; and her parents- Maria and Nat King Cole, all continue to rest well.