Archive for the ‘Vogue’ Category

Vogue does blackface


The October 2009 issue of French Vogue has a 14-page spread of Lara Stone, a white model. In five of the pictures her skin is coloured dark brown. This comes on the heels of Madrid Fashion Week which used at least two blackface models in September.

Jezebel.com accused Vogue of “cultural insensitivity”. SOS Racisme in France said it was “tactless”.

Note that this was French Vogue, not Italian Vogue which had that all-black issue last year.

So was French Vogue being racist?


Maybe not:

  • Stone also appeared in whiteface in the same spread: in two of the pictures her skin is coloured snow white.
  • France does not have America’s history of black slaves and blackface entertainment.
  • Even in America blackface was used to stereotype blacks and make them a laughingstock. That is not being done here.
  • It is the whole Christ-in-piss thing to sell more magazines. Vogue’s sales are falling. They do stuff like this to get people talking and presumably sell more magazines. In one past issue they showed two women kissing with blood coming out of their mouths.


Maybe so:

  • Not a single black model appears in the issue. Unfortunately that is not uncommon. Huge parts of the fashion industry still seem to live in the 1950s.
  • The photographer, Steven Klein, is American. Even if the French editor is “benevolently clueless” about blackface (which I doubt) he certainly is not.
  • France has 2.5 million blacks. It used to rule large parts of Africa and had black slaves in the Caribbean.
  • Stone appeared in dark skin before: in the February issue she had dark skin and was dressed to look like an African savage.
  • If they simply wanted to make Stone look strange and striking to draw attention, why pick dark brown of all colours? What is wrong with pure black or even, you know, purple?
  • If dark brown skin made the clothes look best, then why not use a black model?
  • It seems like white people feel they can be more openly racist these days ever since Obama became president. This spread falls a little too well into that pattern.

laraWhat I think:

  1. Even apart from this, Vogue is a racist magazine. I mean, what? No black models at all? Come on. I am not saying Vogue is cross-burning Klan but they seem to have little regard for black people.
  2. The editor and photographer knew full well what they were doing. They knew it would be taken as blackface. Vogue is not some gardening magazine in Romania which truly might not know better.
  3. It was a cheap shot to sell magazines.

They are little better than Rush Limbaugh in that they do not regard blacks as part of their customer base and so if a bit of racism will get them more customers, why not?

One of the excuses fashion designers use for not using black models is that their looks draw attention away from the clothes. If that were true, then why is Lara Stone coloured dark brown?


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Does anyone know when and where the July 2008 issue of Italian Vogue can be bought in America? Has anyone seen it yet? It is the all-black Vogue that I mean. The fold-out cover is shown above.

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Jourdan Dunn (August 3rd 1990- ) is a British model from London. Now 17, some say she is set to become the next Naomi Campbell, the next big black supermodel. She will be on the cover of the July 2008 issues of both American Vogue and Italian Vogue. The Italian one will be the first all-black Vogue ever.

In 2008 she became the first black woman in 11 years to model for Prada. The last one before her was Naomi Campbell in 1997.

She has helped to turn modelling away from the issue of weight towards that of race. As someone said, she has made black the new black

Dunn is in great demand: she has been on dozens of catwalks in London, Paris, Milan and New York in the past year. She started modelling only in February 2007.

She was discovered in 2006 by the Storm model agency, the same one that found Kate Moss. They discovered Dunn in a Primark in Kings Mall in London trying on sunglasses with her friend.

She is from the Greenford part of West London, where she lived with her mother and two younger brothers. Her heroes growing up were Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. People thought she was simple-minded when she told them she wanted to be a model.

Now in 2008 she lives in New York and is with the Women Management agency.

Even though the fashion industry is Hitler white, casting directors and clothes designers have been falling over each other to have her model for them. It seems they like her presence and grace, the way her long neck, eyes and high cheekbones give her an otherworldly look.

She has noticed the lack of women of colour in the fashion industry:

London’s not a white city, so why should all our castings be white? I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there’s just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don’t get picked. I hope it’s because the designer just didn’t think they were good enough as a model, but I don’t know.

She wants to do something about it when she gets older:

I’m really ambitious. When I go back into education, I’m going to do business studies. Naomi’s idea is good; I’d do an agency for black girls and Asian and Spanish, because there aren’t enough of them on the runway either.

She is 5 foot 10 (1.78 metres). Her measurements are 33-24-35 inches (83-60-89 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.67. She says her best feature is her legs.

She says, “I am one of those lucky people who can eat anything and don’t put on weight.”

She seems like a sweet, down-to-earth girl who has not let her sudden success go to her head. At least not yet.

She is friends with Emanuela de Paula of Brazil and Honorine Uwera of Rwanda.

On television she likes to watch “The Eastenders”.

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In the July 2008 issue of Vogue Italia, an Italian fashion magazine, all the models will be black! I thought I would never live to see such a thing! As long as I can remember Vogue has been telling the world that thin white women are the most beautiful – and most of the world seems to believe it. But now this! It makes my heart sing!

I do not read Vogue and my wife assures me I have no fashion sense, but I still want my own copy when it comes out in June! I know it sounds kind of nuts, but it is almost as if the world will be black for a day.

The cover will fold out and show Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell.

So far we know at least these models will be in the magazine:

  • Chanel Iman
  • Iman
  • Naomi Campbell (20 pictures)
  • Alek Wek
  • Alva Chin
  • Arlenis Sosa Pena
  • Gail O’Neil
  • Karen Alexander
  • Tyra Banks
  • Veronica Webb
  • Yasmin Warsame
  • Liya Kebede
  • Jourdan Dunn
  • Sessilee Lopez
  • Toccara Jones
  • Pat Cleveland

Jourdan Dunn said not too long ago about race and fashion:

London’s not a white city, so why should all our castings be white? I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there’s just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don’t get picked. I hope it’s because the designer just didn’t think they were good enough as a model, but I don’t know.

Franca Sozzoni, the editor, agrees. When asked why she is doing an all-black Vogue, she said: “Because nobody is using black girls. I see so many beautiful girls and they were complaining that they are not used enough.”

When asked what if the issue fails because not enough Italians buy it, she said, “Maybe in our country it is not the best idea. But I don’t care. I think it is not my problem if they don’t like it – it’s their problem.” She is great!

Steven Meisel, who has already shot all the pictures for the issue and will be given 100 pages, is all for it too. He is one of Vogue’s top photographers, the one who did Madonna’s “Sex” book in 1992. He hopes an all-black Vogue will lead fashion magazines and designers to use more black models.

Iman, who probably has the best insight on this, is not getting her hopes up:

I still don’t like us (black models) to be a caricature. They’ll think, “Okay, we did it.” And then they’re done with it, and we’ll have to wait till next year … When you see commercials and movies and every other form of art in terms of entertainment, you never have this conversation. So it is so outdated. I can only say that one of the reasons is that models have never had unions, so there is no one to say, “This isn’t right.”

It is set to come out in Europe on June 26th, the following week worldwide.

Here is a video showing 49 pictures:

(video no longer available)

– Abagond, 2008.

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