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Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Blaynistas, as this topic is really controversial - THE ENTIRE TEAM AT THE BLAYREPORT IS WEIGHTING IN. Below see a review of the issue, then commentary from Kristina Bustos, Terrence Phearse and Myself.

French Vogue Shoots Lara Stone in Blackface for This Month's Supermodel Issue

KRISTINA - Let's get to the background of this editorial first, shall we? American photographer Steven Klein shot Dutch model Lara Stone for French Vogue's October issue devoted to the top models in the industry. The photoshoot is a 14-page editorial styled by editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld. The magazine praises Lara for her "sensual" body, her "uninhibited gappy teeth" and the "radical break with the wave of anorexic models" she represents. I have gone back and forth with this editorial after coming across it last night on Jezebel, and I have read other blogs that have picked up on this story and read the comments by their readers to get a good understanding of what exactly is the point of the editorial. I just have so many questions with this shoot. If they wanted to show Lara Stone, why not go straight with it and pose her half-naked with her lips parted to show her "sensual body" and "gappy teeth" not paint her in black and have her wear ethnic-inspired clothing? The focus then is no longer on Lara, the supermodel, but Lara in blackface and more importantly, French Vogue using blackface to be edgy and avant-garde. You can make the argument that blackface might not have similar context in France as it does in the United States but hello! We are more than ever globalized, and not taking in to account what other countries find offensive is ignorant. What's even more baffling is that an American photographer shot this editorial. Did he skip all the US History classes from grade school to high school? And then why couldn't they have just hired a black model in the first place? Oh, will that break the roster of white models for the issue solely devoted to supermodels, Carine? You know what, I'm done trying to make sense of this editorial of Lara Stone and her "sensual body." [Story via Jezebel/ Image via The Cut

TERRENCE- Blackface, in the narrow sense, is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used to take on the appearance of certain archetypes of American racism. Blackface in the broader sense includes similarly stereotyped performances even when they do not involve blackface makeup. Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrelsy played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. 

What were they thinking about when they were cooking up this story (thank God it isnt Febuary). Nonetheless, I agree with Kristina Bustos on if they want to play up all of her amazing features- they should have done just that. Dont get me wrong- she pulled it off amazingly- I honestly didnt know it was Lara Stone at first glance. Additionally, if they wanted to give this effect with the shoot- why not book Sessilee Lopez. The styling actually is great- no denying that, Roitfeld is a brilliant stylist and has been at it for years- but why call the story "BlackFACE" that is so demeaning in so many ways. Roitfeld loves Lara Stone. In fact, in a documentary on CNN that aired in March Roitfeld exclaim that Stone was her favorite model. Even so much she said.. "shes very different than the other girls.. shes blushing she got poise she has hips. she doesnt walk very well on the catwalk. but we love her because shes different". With that endsorsement it makes sense why she chose her to do this shoot. But the whole concept was a disconnect. 

ZANDILE - First - a round of applause for my amazing reporters! Terrence and Kristina GO OFF, don't they? So how do I feel Blaynistas? Actually, I don't know. On one hand, I am unbothered by the visuals and the name of the editorial. As tacky as it is, I don't believe it comes from a place of malice or a place of ignorance. That's - no pun intended - painting the topic too black and white. Carine Roitfeld doesn't hate black people - she probably doesn't know any. More to the point she likely  doesn't have any on her staff, especially in an editorial capacity (security and housekeeping does not count.) And that points to the real issue: not a white model painted in blackface, but the lack of black faces in a very white industry. 

Have you been to a fashion show lately? Be it New York, London or even Brazil, all places I've been fortunate enough to attend shows, you'll notice an eerie parallel between the runway and the audience:  a whole lot of milk and very few chocolate chips. In other words, blacks and other minorities of color make up a startlingly small percentage of the editors, stylists and buyers in the audience. Now there are a thousand reasons - or excuses - why and I'll bet you a meal at the Waverly Inn that I've heard them all. From "a lack of interest from Blacks" for fashion/journalism positions to "not enough qualified minorities." Each sounds more hollow than the next. 

A black editor (or six) isn't meant to be your resident Jesse Jackson or Martin Luther King Jr. It's not about racial sensitivity patrol, but about better - more relevant - content. Period. Diversifying staff has the essential benefit of diversifying content, opinions and perspectives,ultimately providing readers with richer stories and visuals that represent and reflect - all of them - not just some of them.


As a serial chocolate chip in the proverbial bowl of milk - I wear my token badge with pride and a touch of humor - I stopped getting emotional over this stuff years ago. During my sophomore year at Syracuse University the student paper, The Daily Orange, ran an editorial featuring Black Face. The campus was outraged and the all white editorial staff plead ignorance: they had no idea it would be offensive and truth be told, hadn't known any Blacks growing up.  They also didn't have any Blacks on the staff.

As long as this remains the status quo: silly, stupid spreads like this will continue to proliferate; black models will continue to be a rarity on the catwalk, and minorities will continue to be unrepresentated in the pages of magazines


La Boss said...

Zandile, you are hysterical! I love "Carine Roitfeld doesn't hate black people - she probably doesn't know any." and "a whole lot of milk and very few chocolate chips."

Anonymous said...

Actually it's brown face. It's time for the other members of the racial rainbow (white, yellow, red, BROWN) to be appalled and march down the street and boycott. Real Black faced people need a break.

Chic Noir said...

Lora Stone should know better, this is her second blk face editoral. she faced backlash before for the very same thing.

Anonymous said...

don't you know chic noir, the fashion world/modeling world are immuned to backlash. it's really disheartening how they live in their own little world.

if they listened to criticism, there would be more "curvy" models and diversity of ethnicity on the runway and working for these magazines. but then what's the fun of that. *rolls eyes*

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