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Sammy Sosa’s Skin Silliness (and Sickness)

10 November 2009 16 Comments

Loyal reader Miriam posted a link to the Huffington Post article about Sammy Sosa’s drastic skin color change, and added the note: “As far as I’m concerned, this is a Thembi-mergency.” Miriam, I am on the case.


This is Sammy Sosa. For those of you who don’t know, he’s considered one of the greatest baseball players ever. He’s of Dominican descent and his home run hitting ability was a source of pride for Latinos until he was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs and corking his bat in 2003. Sosa retired earlier this year, and since then seems to be passing the time gettin’ purty. That’s Sammy in May on the left, and on the right we have Sammy in early November. Before and After, thy name is Samuel Sosa.

The mainstream media’s treatment of Sosa’s obvious transformation makes me uneasy. Sure, the change in his skin color could be due to a failure of flash photography, or the after-effects of steroid use, or, as Sammy claims, an unfortunate side-effect of laser-based cosmetic skin improvement treatments. As a friend of his claims, “he was doing a dermatological skin process after years and years (of playing baseball) in the sun.” Nice try, but a glance at his conk and green contacts tells me that unless he’s experimenting with the Cab Calloway Skin Rejuvenation Process, I’m not buying it.

I once worked on a 2001 ad campaign that featured Sammy Sosa. I have little interest in sports, so I wouldn’t recognize the May 2009 or November 2009 versions of the guy if he bit me on the nose. Perhaps I’d recognize a more vintage Sosa:


Yes, that’s the guy whose photos I had to sort through for Time magazine! He had kinky hair, brown eyes, and brown skin at the time. So the question becomes, what skin rejuvenation gives you green eyes and a slickback like Sosa is rocking now? Why are we so worried about the specifics of his face, but ignoring the overall picture of a man who takes time to straighten his hair and wear green contacts?

Initially, we’re all immediately shocked by such a startling change in physical appearance, no matter what kind. I’ve already read Sosa compared to Michael Jackson, another person whose changes in appearance made us scratch our heads and point fingers (please get over it people, the man had vitiligo!). Regular folks like us also have to wonder who has the time and resources to do such unnecessary mess, and secretly wish that we had an extra few bucks to get purty like Sammy’s been doing, even if not in such an extreme way.

Secondly, the novice at race politics asks “why would anyone want to look white?” Wake up people – ‘we are the world’ and all of that stuff, but the rest of society is not trying to hear that. Having more European looking features confers social privileges on a daily basis, and that’s just the way it is. The desire for lighter skin is no new thing, and as disturbingly pathological as skin bleaching and the like are, people have been doing it for hundreds of years and will probably continue.

Third, and at the deepest level, Americans who don’t see the desire for whiter features as a pathology look at his appearance and mock the sickness of self-hatred and the denial that comes with it. That’s all we have to focus on because Sammy Sosa doesn’t really need to impress anyone. Having whiter features shouldn’t help him get a better job, preferred table at a restaurant, or a hotter wife. He’s a famous athlete, the world will accommodate him no matter what, so he must be so flawed that when he looks in the mirror he doesn’t like what he sees and that’s that. So let’s make fun of him, criticize him, and lament the fact that he’s ditched the post-racial self-love of the new millennium and settled into the Dominican racial turmoil of the past three-hundred years that’s so much like the American one, just laced with an extra layer of denial. Let’s be especially flip in commenting on his choices because he’s a man – a straight man and an athlete. Let’s also be miffed because he’s chosen to abandon features that so many of us hold dear because life is a tad harder when you’re darker and he is one fewer black man fighting the good fight. If you’re light, ask why does he want to be light like me? If you’re dark be insulted that he doesn’t want to be dark like you.

That’s where I get off of my racial politics soapbox and into my intellectual pseudoscience bag of tricks. A grown man who bleaches his skin, conks his hair, and wears green contacts, isn’t just silly, he’s sick. Other than making for great alliteration, why anyone would do such things? Sammy Sosa has that sickness, and you know which one. Poor thang. Feel sorry for him.


  • Boris said:

    lol rich people of color rely on [cheap] cosmetic surgery
    us poor folk rely on affirmitive action and ‘lack of a minority in a branch’ lol

  • Tafari said:

    I cant handle seeing this face one more time. It’s just too much. And talk about a man perm gone wrong! He should have got that yellow cleared up in his eyes before popping some cheap looking contacts in.

    I wonder what his momma thinks.


  • ill Mami said:

    If my son were Dominican (he’s Afro Rican) and lived in DR, I would cringe at the bullshit these people say about his pelo malo. To be “fair-skinned”–an insult unto itself–just wouldn’t be enough in his case.

    We all know why Dominicanas do the best hair after all. There is no way they can EVER be associated with Negritude.

  • RE - BadGalsRadio.com said:

    Oooohh Thembi, you are so ontop of it.
    Sammy is a lil bit, shall we say “Color Struck”.

    he needs to realize that he’s burning off his
    natural protection from melanoma; and pretty soon
    if he’s not careful he won’t be seeing very well.
    and I’m asking my self that question dear sister,
    Why does he want to be Lightskinned and Green Eyed
    and Have So Called Naturally Curly Hair – Like Me ?

    I can assure you that none of it has made my life any easier, as a Blackwoman. just tonite I was asked by a rude blackman if I was crazy
    because I kindly asked him to pay attention to something quite
    obvious – a large blue handicapped parking pass Hanging in my window.

    he was a sarcastic asshole. simply because he could be – and he was a 50 year old valet; wonder why ? could it be because I’m a Black Woman; who does’t carry around the usual trappings of a Doctor. WOWWWWW….

    The Hospital Security Personal, and his boss made him aware of who I was; and that not all nappy headed heffas in jeans in old cars are broke ass bitches. he was obviously checked by the rest of the men looking at him; like “Dude do you realize She Can Fire You On The Spot ?”

    I think he probably pooped on himself when he realized that
    I am a former member of the board of the hospital where he valets.
    yeah.. I was there visiting my husband who is a patient.

    he’d rather insult me, than admit that he knows better.
    some men don’t think very well, after they’ve been out
    in the sun for a while. (wink*wink) btw, I did tell his boss
    NOT to Fire Him, but to get him some training; which he agreed to do.
    see what a onry nappy headed heffa I am. 😉

  • don said:

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much Sammy Sosa needs his *ss kicked. To each its own, true enough, but there are times where I cannot understand certain things witnessed. What would make a grown man bleach his skin? Not sure.

    It could be an effect of years of steroid abuse.

  • don said:

    Then he has the nerve to smile. LOL.

  • Reginald Dorsey said:

    Nutrients Of The Nile.

  • Corporate AfroPuff said:

    It’s so Frankenstein-esque. So wrong. Sammy is a certified, prime, grade A, mess! In my East Coast adventures, I often have been disappointed by my Islander brothers and sisters who seem to embrace the European ideals with no questions asked, even at the highest levels of education, not just pro athletes…it’s sad.

  • Janet said:

    You’re so right about the racism in DR being very similar to the one here in America. I’m Dominican, and I still get a little shocked at how much people hate black features over there. I have long curly/wavy hair, light brown skin, and dark eyes. You should see the way they fuss about me straightening out my “bad” hair even when it’s 90 something degrees outside. This is the culture that the people are raised on. I’ve heard people comment “He actually looks better.” There is denial all over the place. We are not a white people. We are not a black people. We are mixed with strong influences from both. Until we can learn to embrace the incredible African culture that gave us our physical features, music, food, and so much more then we can never move forward. There will be more like Sammy Sosa, and it’s so sad to see.

  • Cel said:

    You know racism in DR/PR (and all of Latin America for that matter) is much like that in the US but, as you so accurately stated, there’s that extra level of denial: light-skinned folks wanting to pass as white (when everyone is of mixed race), darker-skinned folks often choosing not to consider themselves “black” and on and on… It’s just sad..

    But anyhoo, the real reason I wanted to leave a comment here is to let you know that I gave you a Kreativ Blogger Award 😉 Check out all the detes here:



  • Philippe said:

    That is seriously just wrong. People give MJ so much shit, but he had vitiligo, Sammy Sosa doesn’t. He has no reason to lighten his skin whatsoever.

  • Sammy Sosa’s Skin Silliness (and Sickness) | What Would Thembi Do? : halloweenpartyfood said:

    […] Pop culture criticism, entertainment reviews, and humor writing by Thembi Ford.Read More […]

  • findm said:

    Skin lightening-bleaching cream-skin whitening-fade cream. Don’t bleach your skin until you read this.

  • Val said:

    he looks a hot mess!

  • Gabriel Walker said:

    the best teeth whitening agents are still based on peroxides,*’

  • Arthritis Remedy  said:

    teeth whitening may also cause tooth sensitivity because most dentistst use peroxide based whiteners*:*

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