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Vogue Paris: Lara (MNSFW)

Everyone loves a minstrel show!

Vogue Paris October 2009

Editorial: Lara

Photographer: Steven Klein

Model: Lara Stone

Fashion Editor: Carine Roitfeld


We rarely use this word when it comes to fashion, but this is flat out offensive. Rather than using a model of color for this shoot (and the industry is well aware of how bad its reputation is for not using models of color enough), Klein and Roitfeld decided to use a white model and put her in black face.

We wouldn't have this blog if we didn't have a love of fashion, but even we have to admit that sometimes the fashion world is so insular and so removed from reality that it winds up pulling a stunt like this, something that would never happen in any other mass mediated industry. We don't see white people in black face on television anymore (except Mad Men), or in films, or on the stage, or in the music industry. But the fashion industry blithely forges ahead, completely oblivious of the world around them.



John Gallian Fall 2009 Collection
Models: Vlada Roslyakova/Vlada Olga Sherer





Commes des Garcons Fall 2009 Collection
Models:Maria Pia Bongol/Yulia Merzlyakova




Alexander McQueen Fall 2009 Collection
Models:Sigrid Agren/Kasia Struss



Yves Saint Laurent Fall 2009 Collection




Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Eugenia Mandzhieva




Givenchy Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Isabeli Fontana




Lanvin Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Sofie Roellens





Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Maryna Linchuk





Louis Vuitton Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Sasha Pivovarova




Prada Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Giedre Dukavskaite





Balenciaga Fall 2009 Collection
Model: Karmen Pedaru


Michael Kors Fall 2009 Collection



[Images:TheFashionSpot/Laetitia/Style.com]


Post a Comment

218 comments:
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This was such a bad idea ==;;;

How did they think people were going to react?


All I can think when I look at these is "Look at my vagina"


What were they thinking? Bad, bad idea.


I was wondering if you were going to post this. When I first saw this on Afrobella.com, I was pissed beyond words. Offensive doesn't even begin to describe this.


No. Just no.


WTF?
Black face then zombie face then "OH HAI C HER IZ MAH VAJINA!!!!" face?

offensive and LOLish all at the same time...so I guess you could say they failed at whatever they hell they were trying to do.


HUGELY offensive and as you say, reflects the hyper-insularity of too many in the industry.


Wow. In what universe was this a good idea?


Definitely highly offensive in my opinion. Someone needs to get it together.


Wow, I know Steven Klein likes to shock people, but what the hell was Carine Roitfeld thinking?


I LOATHE the term "of color". Everyone's skin has a color, and there is an infinite range. To lump everyone who is not 'white' into a single category is reductionist and unfair.

That being said, I think VOGUE knew exactly what they were doing, and exactly what would happen. Better to be noticed than ignored.


Holy crap, there is so much wrong with this, from the blackface to the cracked whiteface murdered Pierrette. to the fuck me bum shot.

Maybe this is what people do when they run out of ideas. They should've taken a few personal days for sleep, massage, walks on the beach.... anything to clear the crap out of their muddled minds.


How could they not know that this is offensive?
Painfully offensive.


Bad form, and particularly bad timing, too, considering all the press from Harry Connick Jr calling out the blackface minstrels on the Australian reality show last week.


The latter shots, I have to say are in that kind-of "scary beautiful." With the cracking white paint and all over the "black" makeup its very interesting conceptually. The first round of photos are, to put it put lightly, in bad taste.

I can perhaps see an artistic concept here and it was beautifully executed. But unfortunately this sort of thing might have a better home in a galley, and not in an international publication. I do applaud them for wanting to bring this Art if you will, to a widespread audience and arena. But I hope as artists they (and the magazine) will anticipate and be able to withstand the backlash that I hope they must certainly must have foreseen.


For an industry that is all about women, this is one misogynistic and racist idea - and it's not even just the editorial spread. The clown mouths at Alexander McQueen, the little hats that look like burqas at Gaultier ... really disturbing.


You shouldn't have posted this. The shoot is obviously a ploy for "no publicity is bad publicity" and shouldn't be put out there. Now there's just another hit on the internet for this s***.


I agree that this is offensive, but is it seen as offensive in France? Is there outrage there? I'm learning from the Roman Polanski situation that I know less about French culture than I originally thought. Do they care about race in the ways that some of us in the United States care?


I think they think it's "art". I think they're ridiculous and offensive. We don't have to buy what they are sellin'.


Dan said, "But unfortunately this sort of thing might have a better home in a galley, and not in an international publication."

Why, Dan? Because racism is okay if it's private?


Yes, Anon, "of color" is not the best term. And the problem isn't Kate Hudson's hips, it's the tight fit of the dress.

But let's give TLo a break, shall we? After all, they're turning out content like nobody's business.


Slightly offensive, but (as a woman "of color") I think it's also just *boring*. Not that I'm at all condoning the use of blackface, but if it was meant to be interesting and provocative, they failed at both.


Here's my theory: Anna Wintour cleverly suggested to Carine that this would be a fabulous idea, thereby making damn sure that Carine will never, ever be made editor-in-chief of Vogue in the USA.


The whole editorial is just gross. The styling, even without the offense of the black face, is unattractive.

Some beautiful fashion was lost in this hot mess.


So wrong. What is going on with all the blackface right now? This spread and that group on Hey, Hey, It's Saturday night. Can't they remember the uproar when Ted Danson did it?


The chain-around-the-neck photo is pretty damn OMFGWOWBAD too.


Is something rendered inoffensive by labeling it as offensive? If not, then a single example would have been enough to get your point across. Otherwise, it becomes, "Look how awful this is! Oh, and this one, too. And this one. And this one." It's unnecessary when they're all awful for the same reason.


Offensive, ugly, disturbing, and completely misogynistic. And as Anonymous 12:08 PM said, the fashion is completely lost. Who can look at the clothes with all those crotch shots? Rape fantasies and racial insensitivity.

Vile.


Blackface is beyond offensive, I had a personal experience along this line. At Sundance, I met the producer of a movie based on a play I saw about a Latina. Since I was familiar with the work she sought my opinion and asked to meet me after the premiere screening.

I was appalled -- they cast a young anglo woman and browned her skin. I spoke up at the q&a and and the audience agreed with me. The producer failed to keep her meeting with me.

BTW, I also find Michael Kors crotch shot offense, hidden between her legs you get a glimpse of his clothes. The point?


Brooklyn Bomber and vesperbeauty: Agreed. This isn't just disturbingly racist, but disturbingly misogynist as well. Fail on all counts.


TED said...

Is something rendered inoffensive by labeling it as offensive? If not, then a single example would have been enough to get your point across. Otherwise, it becomes, "Look how awful this is! Oh, and this one, too. And this one. And this one." It's unnecessary when they're all awful for the same reason.


What a bizarre complaint. So they should have posted one picture and said "This is offensive?"

What would be the point of that? I want to see the whole editorial so I can judge for myself.


Galleries and more to the point, museums are public spaces. But it is generally perceived that in these spaces one is to see things that will challenge their perspectives on things. Be it race, gender, sexuality, or even fashion. In galleries and museums things that could cause high offense can and do appear. They are a venue in which the tawdry, and radical, the imaginary and the very real can be displayed in a hopefully subjective setting. The gallery can an outlet for the more challenging ideas, most would rather never talk or think about.

In short, one is quite aware win entering, say MoMA that they will hopefully see works that will challenge them intellectually.


What color is the sky in their world?


I see the cracked white body and face paint as an appropriation of some traditional African body art. To fetishize something culturally significant is borderline to me and has to be done carefully and respectfully, but to put that on a model in f-ing BLACKFACE, is beyond offensive. It's appalling and disgusting.


I would like to also follow up to say that most would not think a magazine (and a fashion magazine no less) would be a place to find artists wanting to make these statements, but it does happen. Again I hope they are expecting the consequences for doing so.


this is unacceptable. disgusting, even.

aside from the fact that there are many other models who could have fit the look they were going for (if skin color was a necessary criteria for their desired image), the whole spread is ridiculous. i couldn't even look at the clothes because i found the spread so offensive. misogynistic, yes. racist, absolutely.

a tremendous miss all around. gross.


I think I'll skip that one. Learned my lesson last time I got into an argument about this (due to the whole Harry Connick Jr. thing).

I'll only say this... blackface has a much stronger significance in America than elsewhere. It's extremely offensive here for historical reasons.

I'll post this link as food for thought: http://lovelydharma.blogspot.com/2009/02/carnaval-down-racial-rabbit-hole.html

Note: Not saying it's not offensive. Just saying this is not America. It's Paris.

I don't mind being the Devil's advocate here. :)


It is offensive on so many levels. What is disturbing to me is that the "black face" might be considered somehow "worse" than the other offenses.
The crotch shots, the appearance that the model is being choked by the chain.

At least (and yes I mean "least") the coloring was not done in an insulting charicature way. At first glance, I didn't realize that it was fake coloring.

I'd like to see when women of all races are not objectified in such offensive ways (and it justified by calling it ART).


BTW - Did McQueen steal the idea of using human hair from Chris?


I'm not offended at all. This horrible photoshoot spared all of the gorgeous black models from adding this to their portfolios.


Why are we so insanely up in arms about this and yet we're pretty much okay with the emaciated models everywhere else in fashion? Oh, yes, we tut tut, it's terrible, such a bad example for the little girls, but this, this is appalling! And how can we in good conscience cry sexism as we ooh and ah over and industry that has been systematically destroying our feet and our bones and the way that we see ourselves?

Come on. To be appalled now is ridiculous. Bask in the glow of what we worship, because short of some culturally insensitive makeup, this editorial isn't really that different.


Yucky. I don't like any of it. The blackface - the whatever is in the middle and then the end with the cracked white face. wtf? It must be over my head or something.

This blackface has just made national news when some show in Australia did it with a bunch of MDs "dressing up" like the Jacksons. Harry Connick was there and called them out on it.

No thanks - yucky all the way. And verging on porn with some of those poses. maybe i'm a prude or naive or just "don't get it."


I thought they might be just clueless until I got to the McQueen photo, adding the minstrel walking stick to the monkey fur hat and gloves. The blackface in that photo brought the big red lips used for the McQueen runway into sharp focus for me.

It ties right in to the punchline for today's strip of Non Sequitir, a syndicated comic strip I read daily in my local paper.
Stupidity is a condition. Ignorance is a choice...

I'm betting they think they can rationalize it because they used white face too, and even did one vaguely asian look. Cheap trick.


I feel offended by all the hatred posted by you people. 'Blackface' is a term derived from American culture, perceived and felt as a taboo now while probably all of your ancestors were entertained by the very concept. Do we see projection here?

'Blackface' is completely unknown in Europe nowadays and Im pretty sure this whole editorial has nothing to do with race or race related issues. It seems quite obvious all choices were made from an esthetic and a conceptual point of view, hence the different colours of paint on one singular model. I feel the paint as a metaphore.
Please people get off your high horses and try to appreciate the visuals instead of following a self-shame induced cultural witch-hunt like blind sheep.
Im sure Im gonna get a shitload of comments since I seem to be the only thinking this way, but Im black too bitches. Calm down..

ParisPearl


Not only is it insanely offensive but it is just a bad shoot. There are multiple "here is my crotch" shots, the model is giving "I'm bored" face in every picture, and what does a football have to do with anything?? Did anyone even look at this editorial before approving it for print?


And here I thought the Ralph Lauren air-brushing disaster would be the big fashion-world idiocy of the month. But hey, this is even worse because it's not just starvation, it's also racism, misogyny, and just general crappy taste! So gross.


Cynica's comment FTW.

I really have nothing to add about the offensive material.

What I will point out is that AWFUL Photoshop job in the D&G shot. What is up with those brown shorts? They look so fake, especially where they just 'end' around her knees. So obvious and so bad.

And don't even get me started on the football picture. Where did that come from?


Glad you addressed this.


I don't understand what the point is/supposed to be. The shotes of her in the white make-up are making me itchy.


ParisPearl ~ Check my post a little above yours.


Also, how many of you here laughed at Ms. Swan from Mad Tv? Yeah..


This left such a bad taste in my mouth


TLo said: "We don't see white people in black face on television anymore (except Mad Men), or in films, or on the stage, or in the music industry."

No. But you go to Brazil's carnaval, you'll see hundreds of people with this costume: "Nega maluca" (which pretty much translates to crazy black woman) http://gazetaonline.globo.com/_midias/jpg/74282-497905523190a.jpg

And has NOTHING to do with "your" blackface. AT ALL.

The other side of that coin is that America ≠ the world. Everybody has their own history and everything in the world is offensive to somebody.


I read in another article that the photographer who shot this is American, and when you work in an industry as international as fashion they must have known what they were doing. "They're French" is no excuse for this.


Agreed, Lele. Sorry, but I think everyone is overreacting. It's not even really blackface to me. It's supposed to be a little disturbing and to push the boundaries. Agreed x2 Lele, everything is offensive to SOMEONE in the world, and just because "enlightened" Americans think they know everything because they can call things racist doesn't mean they're always right. And yet they are so indignant about it.


If the black face weren't bad enough... then they go and add the "crackling white paint". I don't think that particular spect is gettng enough attention. That is NOT a cool effect, it is mocking an African tribal tradition in which people cover themselves in a white mud for ritualistic purposes. I don't claim to be a scholar on the subject, but I definitely know it's a tribal thing. So to show these "tribeswomen" in high fashion feels like a mockery of an entire other subset of a culture. bleh. I still kind of liked the pictures thought. my b.


It's distasteful and hideous on every level. And if I were Michael Kors I'd blow a gasket over that last picture!


Not only is it offensive, but I just don't get it from a fashion standpoint. And what the hell is up with the poses?


Aside from the fact that is incredibly offense, it has absolutely no continuity. Women in black face, to tribal women...holding a football? to strangled women to neon prostitutes.

Also what is wrong with that girl's boob? Is there something on her nipple?


Everybody saying that France or other countries in Europe isn't as racist as the US is full of bullshit.


"What I will point out is that AWFUL Photoshop job in the D&G shot. What is up with those brown shorts? They look so fake, especially where they just 'end' around her knees. So obvious and so bad."

Actually looks like they only painted the white legs to just above her knees, so on her upper legs we see the "darker" skin underneath. (Just sticking up for my friend Photoshop...)


Aside from how non PC, and completely lame it is - it wasn't even pretty.


The blackface is utterly offensive and was an idea that should have been left in the board room no matter what. That being said, many cultures do not view race in the same way that Americans do, including the French. Though I am not up to date on French attitudes towards blackface, it is quite possible it is not as offensive there as it is here.

Additionally, in one particular season of America's Next Top Model (for shame that I know this) there was a photo shoot where one, if not two, women were made up to appear to be of African or African American descent - essentially in blackface. You never heard a peep about that, and I think it was just as "offensive" as French Vogue which has been all over the news. What makes this any different?


Also must add that as a woman "of color" not only was it offensive but also just hideous by means of showing off the clothes. Then again, no one is even really focusing on the clothes (and aren't clothes supposed to be the general focus?) I wonder what the model thought when she was told she'd be made up like this. I know that models are not really supposed to really have an opinion about their styling because they're being paid to pose and walk but I really have to wonder if she had any thoughts on this.


AngelH said: "Everybody saying that France or other countries in Europe isn't as racist as the US is full of bullshit."

I didn't say that. I said blackface means something else in Brazil and it's racism aspect is not part of "our" blackface, so to speak.

I disagree with whoever said that the "white cracked face" is a mock to African painting... if anything (as most here think it's a take on America's blackface), it's a joke on "white cracker". More possible than anything to do with African face paint.

Oh, and speaking of offensive... if you use the word "retard" or "retarded", I think you are as ignorant as you think those pics are.

As I said...everything is offensive to somebody.

And if it is making people feel anything (even anger) it's worth and significant as art to me.


I dont mind the pics... but I like a little edge with my fashion. Anyways, Europe doesn't have the same sort of guilt association we in America have with blackface.

Whats more offensive, that the girl was in blackface, or that I wouldnt have noticed if I wasn't told?


Michal that is one insane crotch shot.
Weren't thay worried about all that makeup ruining the garments?


Actually, Tyra Banks, who is also often completely oblivious, once had a challenge On ANTM where her models had to pretend to be different races. This meant that at least one, if not more, of the Top Model Wannabes was in black face. I was dumbfounded.

This, though, seems ridiculously out of touch with reality.


Lelê,
I wasn't addressing any of your comments. Notice I said, "Everybody saying that France or other countries in Europe isn't as racist as the US is full of bullshit." I will say, however, the Brazil does have significant racial issues, but I'll defer that for another time since it's not the topic at hand.


@Lele, ParisPearl, and others who feel people are overreacting, REALLY??? As a black woman in the US, I could care less about what is acceptable racially in France or Austrailia or anywhere else for that matter. Because I live in the USA. ALL Americans have a right to react negatively to these images. There is no art here. You mean to tell me there aren't enough beautiful Black, African, African American, etc models out there to have done this shoot? Please. And for the record, the French have a history of racial tensions as well. IIRC they were dealing with massive racial rioting and discord within the last few years. And lastly, IMO, there is no more "well in this country it's ok". We are no longer bound by oceans. It is a World market. Otherwise this wouldn't have made a blip on the American radar. But due the net and world news channels, here it is.


Sasha,
I agree COMPLETELY!

And the people who excuse it because "it's art" are really no better. Not only is it offensive because of the blackface, it also shows complete and utter racial discrimination. Why is it art to paint a white model to look like a Black woman but not to use a Black model in the first place?


Cynica
10/14/09 12:07 PM

Here's my theory: Anna Wintour cleverly suggested to Carine that this would be a fabulous idea, thereby making damn sure that Carine will never, ever be made editor-in-chief of Vogue in the USA.


!!!Bingo!!! Makes total sense.
This spread is just terrible. I feel like I was just forced to sit through a Damien Hirst exhibit, or something.

On the other hand, this is the first shoot that gave CDG some much needed attention. Why did it have to get ruined by the stupid blackface?


Just because her body is painted the skin color you associate with "black" people does not make this blackface.
Research, please, it takes about five minutes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface

at what point in this photoshoot are the models characterized as "happy go lucky darky on the plantation"

did anyone stop to think that maybe this is a social commentary?


Sasha ~ Americans have every right not to like the pics. To say that it's absurd that is was done is a completely different matter, imo.

This was not made nor published in american soil.


AngelH. ~ Not disagreeing again. Brazil has racism in a very subtle way, which can be seen as non-racism and it's very dangerous. I'm with you there. Our "nega maluca" however, *really* has nothing to do with your blackface. That was my point regarding my country and other non-America countries.


For all americans here: Is this offensive? http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_o3cc877voK8/SS9o0kedjXI/AAAAAAAABg4/BXekG6z4Ibo/s400/swan.jpg

It is played by a white actress.


@Sasha

I completely agree, it doesn't matter where something is "acceptable". I'm sure (but not 100% positive) that the majority of us commenting live in the USA where we know that things like this are offensive. It's not like this magazine was just going to be available in France. That is probably the biggest thing. The creators of the shoot should've known that Americans have a different view of this type of thing and therfore would more then likely get offended. So the fact that it's France is not an excuse for anything. When you're in an industry like fashion you have to think globally.

I'm sure some people will say "oh they were trying to make a statement" or "it's art". Well I would really like to know what valid statement they are trying to make because there is no excuse as to why a model "of color" couldn't have done this shoot. I don't see any reasoning behind any of it at all. Why was it necessary?


I would want to see the spread in full to see it in context. When would this have been shot?


I was just about to say pretty much what Sasha said:

Because I live in the USA. ALL Americans have a right to react negatively to these images.

Frankly, I don't think the argument that it has a different meaning in Brazil or France holds water. But even if it does, you can't blame us Americans for responding negatively. We are influenced by our history. And thank God for that.


Anonymous @ 1:56,
The reason that this is considered blackface is pretty simple: a white model was painted to make her skin look darker. That, in and of itself, is offensive because it openly mocks discrimination faced by Black women and other "women of color" in the fashion industry. Also,

did anyone stop to think that maybe this is a social commentary?

First of all, social commentary on what? Secondly, if you have to explain the punchline, then the joke's no good.

Lelê:

I hear you loud and clear. :-) But I tried that link and it didn't work for me.


i can't speak to brazil, but many countries in latin america have black face as part of their carnaval celebrations. its still comes from a history of racism, and it's still offensive. and why are we talking about brazil, anyway? this was published in france.


@Brooklyn Bomber

I think you hit the nail on the head. I think that's the whole point of our reactions. Yes, most of us are Americans and because of the history of this kind of thing in our country, we're going generally be offended by it. Bottom line. I'm not saying that every American will be offended. But I'm saying that it shouldn't come as such a shock that we are. It's not overreacting when it's just in our nature to react negatively to something that has been deemed for ages now in America as offensive.


This is just ridiculous.

I assume they thought because they painted her "white" at the end that that would make the black acceptable? No.

Listen, if she was painted all over in a very dark black and it looked like she's covered in paint everywhere, I could see what they were going for.

To me, what makes this so offensive is that they used a color closer to the range of shades a human being comes in. Combine that with the way the makeup on the face is done and the lip puckering, etc, that makes this so horribly wrong.


Brooklyn Bomber said...

".....But even if it does, you can't blame us Americans for responding negatively. We are influenced by our history. And thank God for that."


Amen.


Vida ~ I mentioned Brazil because we have there a famous carnaval/folklore character that has blackface. If you read all the comments, you would see where all this came from.

Angel ~ Which link? The last one? If yes, that is just a picture of Ms Swan from Mad Tv.

I wish we had a sub-forum to talk more about all this. I would love to talk to you more about all of this and I think it's an important discussion. I'm afraid TLo will kick my ass if I keep at it. :P


To paraphrase Nina Garcia:

Not Aesthetically (or any other way) Appealing.


For me, the greater issue is not the blackface, its that in an issue about dedicated to "supermodels" not one woman of color was found.

The fashion "white out" is epidemic - several sites kept a running count of the number of minority models used in fashion week shows, and, well, it was dismal. I'm just waiting for the day an editor pads a model rather than using a plus sized girl.

I love fashion, but the ever-more-narrow beauty aesthetic pimped by these legendary houses and editors has made me more and more skeptical of its value. Bravo, boys, for taking a stand and refusing to excuse it all in the name of fashion.

And anyone who doubts that racism is a problem in Europe needs only to go watch a World Cup Soccer game when an African nation is playing.Its shocking.


It's a crap shoot anyway. (See the MK crotch shot).

Crap crap crappy editorial on all levels.

Maybe they were originally going to use a black model who said: Look. I know it's French Vogue. Corrine Roitfeld. Blah blah. Prestige. Blah.... But this editorial sucks! No thanks.


It IS really interesting and suspicious that they would do this. And it DOES seem like a publicity stunt (outside of those of us who like fashion, when was the last time people talked about Vogue? When the Devil Wears Prada came out... maybe)
Lelê has a point too with that MAD TV chick
and as to the thing about Brazil...
Who's upset with the Netherlands? http://images.google.com/images?q=zwarte%20piet&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi


Pointing the finger at other times the media has been insensitive about race does not minimize the racist impact of this spread.

Also, just because the mainstream media doesn't air point-by-point breaking news on every racial offense that has ever occurred (are people reeeeaally that surprised that they don't do this?) it does not mean there wasn't an outcry or a protest. Google "anti-racism" blogs to see just what I mean.


PS - In some ways it's not "blackface", but more like "we want a girl who looks black but who isn't actually black" to feature.

But then again -- why use the minstrel cane in one shot? THAT really is a blackface symbol.

Ugh. Truth is that this editorial isn't provocative-interesting, but just provocative- hot-mess-of-confusion.


"Frankly, I don't think the argument that it has a different meaning in Brazil or France holds water. But even if it does, you can't blame us Americans for responding negatively. We are influenced by our history. And thank God for that."

YES. A negative reaction from an American cannot be automatically dismissed as puritanical or defective or "less than" in some way.

We don't claim to know better (really1 most of us don't!), so don't assume that this reaction is a judgment of Europeans. In this instance, it just comes across badly to people with our history. And, might I add, just comes off badly in general.


whitney said, "I'm just waiting for the day an editor pads a model rather than using a plus sized girl.
"

not if karl lagerfeld has anything to do with it. i hate to take this comment section off on another tangent, but my blood boiled when i saw this the other day.


No, Lelê, Miss Swan is not funny. I've been saying so for years. Stop mentioning her like everyone thinks she is.

And am I seeing this correctly? Saying "women of color" is reductionist and unfair?? As a WOMAN OF COLOR (Latina, specifically) who has long been tapped into online and IRL networks of activist WOMEN OF COLOR, it's ridiculous make such an assumption about the term. I suppose you'd prefer the term "minority" despite folks of color being the majority in many regions of the US.

The fact is that in such a technologically advanced world as we live in now, there was no way that this editorial was not going to make its way across the pond and into the American milieu, with all the history of race relations that it entails. To say that it was made in France and therefore not for American eyes, or that Europeans have a different sensibility about race implies that they are somehow better and more evolved than Americans, when in reality, from personal experience of living in two different European countries, this couldn't be further from the truth. Just because blackface might be inoffensive in France doesn't make it right.

Anyway, TLo, you're right on the money with this one. You two are much stronger than I for enduring the trolls in your comments threads - SUERTE!


I think the biggest problem here is that it's a crap editorial with no real vision or point of view, so the "blackface" and crotch shots come off as gimicky and cheap.

I believe that art is an arena where we should be able to put aside our PC views and confront the uncomfortable or aggravating in order to come to some deeper understanding about our discomfort. But this editorial fails as art, so it's just offensive and icky.


My first response to this was full, flat out revulsion.

But - Is this fashion spread meant to be a play on using skin color as a fashion accessory?

If they had used an all-body paint that was not a skin color I would have interpreted it as *skin as fashion accessory*. There are many collections this year which show the models painted all white, or all grey, or some variation of both.

I would love to be able to change the color of my skin - temporarily - and to something other than Kors Orange.

Lelê - interesting link (couldn't access the second one) in Brazil. I don't know what I think -

But, if this fashion spread was just done to SHOCK - then I hate it. It is more painful than shocking.


Christina - I know, the Lagerfeld quote was disgusting. I have to wonder sometimes....is he just a miserable, hateful little man or willing to explicitly state what the rest of the fashion industry subtly teaches us?

He's so over the top all of the time though, its easier to shrug him off. This spread is heartbreaking because I've always admired Mme Roitfeld's editorials as provacative and intelligent. Her motherhood shoot? Brilliant! But this is just tone deaf.


Bottom line is he's an American photographer, he should know better,


I'm having trouble understanding how blackface isn't offensive in EVERY country.


Very poor taste. I'm horrified.


WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING??? It's 2009!!!!!


Beyond just the black face, which was awful and offensive enough, are the other misogynistic and fugly images in the shoot. The shots even made the clothes look tacky and cheap! I need to go use hand, body and eye wash now...


Wierd, they are doing a story on this on CNN right now. Wow - T & Lo way ahead of the curve.


Weird - I spelled weird wrong.


Astrid said: "No, Lelê, Miss Swan is not funny. I've been saying so for years. Stop mentioning her like everyone thinks she is."

Did I say *everyone* thought she was funny? No. My point is that is was "accepted" as no big deal, generally speak, of course. Yet, I know that there are many asian people who are deeply offended by the character.

And I personally think the expression "woman/people of color" makes no sense, as I'm still to see a transparent human. Although I know a few that come close.. :)

Btw, I'm also latin.


@Christina and @Whitney - I agree with you wholeheartedly about Lagerfeld's comments. I know it's off-topic, but I have been aghast at the number of runway models who more and more resemble victims of starvation. It is disgusting and beyond mysogyny.


two things keep coming to mind;
1) the ire in comments reminds me of the world wide reactions to the 2005 editorial cartoons of Muhammad; ~100 folks died in riots protesting the publication of those cartoons. In general, muslims were offended, non-muslims didn't get it. But a debate of free speech did rage on for a while.

2) the Givenchy picture seems to be an homage to Charles Cordier, an ethnographic sculptor, in particular his "Negre du Sudan". Cordier was renown for his beautiful ethnic portraits made of mixed materials including bronze, onyx and marble. It's worth searching his name if you like sculpture.


So - this was Vogue's SUPERMODEL issue and not only were all their featured models white - they put one in black face? SHITE. pure and simple.


I'm just completely flabbergasted that this made it onto the page.

This spread is just so bizarrely offensive that it makes me wonder:

Is the creative team who did this just incredibly stupid & ignorant? Or is this use of blackface a weird (misfiring) attempt at some sort of arty commentary on the rabid, throwback racism that we've seen become so loud in right wing media (& groups) recently?

It also makes me wonder if they were high when they thought of this. Nothing else makes sense.

Could they really be so stupid and removed from reality that they actually thought this was a good idea? It is hard to believe, with the state of magazine publishing nowadays, that anyone could possibly be so removed from the street. There are very few staff jobs that are safe, and a big spread like this had to go in front of many sets of eyes before it ended up on the page.

I'm just completely flabbergasted.

--GothamTomato


We see white people in yellow face all the time in movies. Does that count? Or is it less offensive?


"SusanID said: Wierd, they are doing a story on this on CNN right now. Wow - T & Lo way ahead of the curve."




There are probably people at CNN who read this blog and got the idea here.

--GothamTomato


EEK/STL said...
I'm having trouble understanding how blackface isn't offensive in EVERY country.


black performers were not forced to perform in blackface in EVERY country.

Sure, America is not the only country with a sordid history where race is concerned. But blackface, and the attitudes and outrage surrounding it, are distinctly American.


@Pagination

Actually that is also deemed as pretty offensive. Just look at the tension when Miss Saigon was first being casted. There was alot of controvery as to why they just didn't use asian actors for some roles but instead made white people look asian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Saigon#Controversy


"Anon said: I also find Michael Kors crotch shot offense, hidden between her legs you get a glimpse of his clothes. The point?"



I think the model is just saying, 'Say hello to my little friend.'

She's just being friendly.

--GothamTomato


There have been some distasteful and plain ugly photoshoots lately, but this one is beyond comprehension. It makes me physically ill.


My initial thought when I saw these pictures was actually something in line with what GothamTomato was saying; that it was some kind of conceptual/artsy approach to the racial issue... I mean, I like not to think of Vogue Paris' contributors as complete jerks. But it is just crazy offensive. Lara Stone is one of my favourite models - I love her face, and that she's comparatively curvy for the modeling industry - but seriously, she should've just turned this down. She can't be needing the money THAT bad.


Even beyond the race issue (stupid) the production is really bad. NOT aesthetically pleasing... so to speak.


"We see white people in yellow face all the time in movies."

pagination: where?? i'm sorry, but i am drawing a blank trying to figure out to what you are referring.


Hate this shoot.

That is all.


It's not the most terrible thing i've ever seen but I have to ask-why the naked boobs and the reptile-like skin??


Pagination said...

We see white people in yellow face all the time in movies. Does that count? Or is it less offensive?


It definitely is just as offensive. That has been going on for years as well. How many older Hollywood stars, or TV stars, were white playing someone of Asian descent? Katharine
Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Myrna Loy, Ricardo Montalban, Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne and David Carradine come to mind right away.

"Yellowface" is just as bad for the same reasons, IMO.


Christina said...
pagination: where?? i'm sorry, but i am drawing a blank trying to figure out to what you are referring.


Here is a good story on the history of "yellowface."

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/18/18_yellow.html


I'm totally in the minority here, but I really don't find this shoot offensive. It doesn't appear like they were trying to make a white model look African, it looks like they were trying to provide an interesting contrast to the clothes. It wasn't about race at all, it was about styling. The Alexander McQueen shot is downright gorgeous.

If they were wearing tribal wear or something I could understand being offended, but people are definitely far too quick to get offended about anything these days. It seems like you can't do anything creative without people getting angry, no matter your intentions.


@Cristina:

The Last Airbender

21

Prince of Persia

Dragonball

Akira

That's just Hollywood and off the top of my head. There's more in television, but I'd actually have to remember half those shows.

An argument could be made that much of the source material I listed (with the exception of 21) is cartoon/animated so the character portrayal could be up in the air racially. However, the default, even when the character's name is actively Asian, seems to be to cast a white actor, especially if it is 'heroic.' It would almost bother me less if it was real life source material rather than animated-to-live-action, since it sends a pretty obvious message to the age group most likely to see these movies. In some cases the specific Asian sources of the source material is deliberately 'un-Asia-fied' in order to make it ... I'm not sure what. Acceptable? Maybe? to Hollywood market assumptions.

Have you ever noticed how many of the major fashion magazines in Asia feature spreads that consist of almost exclusively Caucasian models? I find that interesting, too. For different reasons, I admit.


I don't like this (um) spread for many reasons. But tThis is not traditional black face which is an insulting exaggeration of "stereotypes".

It is insulting for many other reasons - which have been mentioned by other posters.

How many people had this strong of a reaction to the Wwayans White Chicks, Gwyneth Paltrow donning a charicature fat suit, Robert Downey Jr in that war movie, or Eddie Murphy is the fat suit.
At the VERY least, in this pictorial ALL of the WOMEN were being portrayed derogatorily - and they did not make her an insulting charicature. I find the fat suits that those actors don to waddle in while stuffing their mouths with milkshakes and burgers in the drive more like what REAL black face is.


tvkimmy, i know what was MEANT by yellowface. i was looking for examples.

by "all the time" was thinking the references were a bit more akin to blackface. the example of 21 and some of the others maybe (i haven't looked at all the links) is quite a bit different than making someone up to LOOK asian. what they did was replace characters and change their stories, i believe. not that it's not offensive, but it's not the same thing.

and just because this post was focusing on the issue of a white model painted to look black for the spread does not mean that people don't find "yellowface" to be offensive.

TLo don't have to cover every offensive, related topic in order to justify addressing this particular one.


I'm European (British)living in the US and while I can't speak entirely to French sensibilities, I can perhaps offer some perspective.

Yes, racism exists in Europe and it can be horrible, but remember that in most European countries the black population is VERY small. Britain has the largest black population but even there it is only 3% of the total.

France is quoted in this article as having 5%http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Diaspora but that includes its Caribbean territories which are given the same status as the French mainland. France has a far larger North African Muslim population than it does blacks. In places like Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Italy, which have no colonial tradition the black population is infinitesimally (<1%)small.

There is no shameful blackface tradition in Europe, no history of widespread black slavery within European borders and no history of widespread segregation (though yes, we were responsible for the slave trade). Blacks now living in Europe generally only emigrated to Europe within the last 50 years or so, mostly from the Caribbean. Sensibilities, connotations and baggage, are therefore very different.

I didn't see this article AT ALL as using a white model where a black one would do.

There's obviously some concept going on here to do with skin colour/makeup as a mask and disguise (with nods also to commedia dell'arte and glam rock). It's probably not a good concept, it may not be well-executed, and yes, it probably would have been more successful/interesting if they'd used a black model to wear the white 'masks', but I swear it does read differently to European eyes.


It doesn't appear like they were trying to make a white model look African, it looks like they were trying to provide an interesting contrast to the clothes. It wasn't about race at all, it was about styling.

It was most definitely about race. If the goal was supposed to be a color contrast, hiring a Black model for the shoot would've been better all around. Don't paint a White woman black when there are plenty of well-qualified Black models for the job.

Christina:

There are plenty of examples of yellowface if you're willing to open your eyes.


Unbelievably crass.

Does anyone else think that Alexander McQueen feather number shot look like the last scene in "The Story of O"?

I've been a fashion buff for most of my life, but the fashion industry has been getting wackier and less relevant by the day, and it's turning me off.

Yeah, I do realize they don't care. Their loss.


@Christina

Lord, no. TLo is definitely not obligated to do anything of the kind! I was just making a throwaway comment to their reference about major media and how we just don't see things like that anymore.

As for actors making their faces up to look more Asian, it's happened a couple of times very recently in big screen pictures, but for comic movies where it's not meant to be taken seriously anyway. Whether one chooses to take offense at that or no is up to the individual; likewise, whether one chooses to find the wholesale replacement of an Asian character with a white actor as the same level of offense or not. Your mileage varies.

Per the original TLo post -- WTF, Vogue Paris?


Hello, Gratuitous Crotch Shot, how're you doing? That final shot BAFFLES me and it doesn't even seem to fit with the other clothes. Day-glo pumps? WHAT?

I'm already pissed off enough from the use of blackface. When I first heard of this editorial, I thought they also had a model of color and putting her in whiteface. I'm speechless... Except for the fact that if it were just another photo shoot, sans blackface, it'd still be terrible. The styling? Pass.

Also, I'm over the supposedly "curvy" Lara Stone.


@Amy
10/14/09 12:46 PM:
This argument is a red herring.

@Anonymous
10/14/09 12:53 PM:
I'm black as well, and I am offended by this post. Europe still experiences racism so yes, they should know not to do something like this over there. Especially Paris. Recently an agitprop artist from Paris came to Detroit, I read an interview in the local paper about him and he talked about how his mother is protesting over there because of the way she's treated in her own neighborhood. So no, it's still not okay even if it is Europe.


@Lelê
10/14/09 1:08 PM:
Actually, if you'd be interested to know, the photographer for this session is an American. Shouldn't he also have known something would go wrong with this? I think he should have.


Pagination and TVKimmy:

I agree, fashion's lack of diversity spans across all races, all body types, all ages. And, having lived in China, I am paticularly disturbed by two of the biggest cosmetic trends that have been the result of the endless commercial adulation of white, western women - skin bleaching and eye lid surgery.


"There are plenty of examples of yellowface if you're willing to open your eyes."

ok now that pisses me off. why do you assume i'm (willfully) blind to racist stereotypes? saying "all the time" is one thing, but providing examples is another. just throwing a phrase like that out there while sounding like you are accusing (granted, that's been cleared up) does beg the question "to what are you referring?"

do NOT assume i just didn't notice any because i'm blind to it. for the record, not that it should matter AT ALL, i'm mexican and believe me, i see plenty of issues in the media about how my people are portrayed. i just don't have to drag it into any discussions of race. don't make assumptions about what i do/do not see, simply because i asked for examples of what someone was talking about.


@ParisPearl - Why should things that are intended to be beautiful get a pass on being insensitive and offensive? Fashion and photography are not created in a vacuum, and they are (for the most part) intended to be viewed by an audience. Art doesn't get to be separated from history and culture just because it's supposed to be beautiful.

I love fashion, but the lack of women of color (nonwhite? I always liked the term "of color" better than non-white because I think it has less connotations of being the "other"), blatantly misogynist fashion photography that seems to sexualize violence against women is really sickening.


Thanks Kelly Marie.

I'll raise you a Jean-Marie La Pen.

Maybe I'm just overly touchy, as a civil rights attorney who spent many childhood summers in Europe. But the "-isms" (racism, classism, sexism) are universal (though they may manifest in different ways, some more insidious than others).

Carine Roitfeld is not an ignorant woman. Her editorials in the past have shown an appreciation for issues of sex, gender, race, and class that are much farther reaching than a Parisian audience. She knew better, and so did her American photographer.

Also, we need to have a national discussion on the definition of curvy. The divine Joan Holloway. Not seeing it so much here.


paola said...




There's obviously some concept going on here to do with skin colour/makeup as a mask and disguise (with nods also to commedia dell'arte and glam rock). It's probably not a good concept, it may not be well-executed, and yes, it probably would have been more successful/interesting if they'd used a black model to wear the white 'masks', but I swear it does read differently to European eyes.


I wonder if it reads differntlly to Black European eyes.


Ewww! And way too many crotch shots, too! Ewww again.


Also I am fairly certain that blackface was performed in Paris during the 1920's. Yes there was no slavery within the borders of Europe, but there is that pesky buisness of the colonization of Africa. They should have known.


A very ugly shoot in more ways than one. Demeaning not only to black people but to women. I wonder if they feel that darkening the model's skin is analogous to making it look all plastery and cracked--in other words, ugly and/or freakish.

I was reading that foreign countries are not as sensitive to the issue of blackface as we Americans are. For instance, Harry Connick, Jr. was judging a TV talent show in Australia and the host came out in blackface. Harry put a stop to the proceedings and the host apologized to him.


The comments to this post are almost embarrassing for me to read. Are you people serious? First of all, based on your comments, I am guessing that most of you don't even know what blackface actually is or why someone would find it offensive. You hear one person say "OMGGZ it's blackface!" and without a moment of thinking for yourself, you're screaming in outrage. Had you taken the time to either A- think for yourselves or B- do research, you would probably know that this isn't a representation of "blackface" as so many of you are labeling it.

In addition, as one poster mentioned, it's pretty ridiculous to protest this particular pictorial. Anyone can look at any fashion magazine and find something offensive. And don't say "this is race, it's different". Gender, race, sexual preference, socioeconomics, body size and shape - any of these can be offensive to one person or another. We're not living in a world where everything we see and read needs to be sensitive to each individual.


"Had you taken the time to either A- think for yourselves or B- do research, you would probably know that this isn't a representation of "blackface" as so many of you are labeling it."

As mentioned before--the photographer for this shoot is American. It isn't as if Vogue Paris was completely ignorant.


Remember the Vogue Italia July 08 all-black models issue? All the provocative discussions at the time: Why aren't more black models used? Would this issue have an influence? What about when black models are used for "ethnic" looks?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/fashion/19BLACK.html


@Kelly Marie - The photog being American does not make this blackface.


The photographer for the shoot may be American, but the audience for this shoot is primarily French/European for whom blackface does not have the same connotations as it clearly does for an American audience.


So, then, Anonymous 10/14/09 6:14 PM --

you've told us what you think of what some of us think in some of our comments,

but what do you think of this editorial? What do you think is the story?


This comment has been removed by the author.

It's not the actual use of blackface and vag shots here that I'm recoiling from. It's more the thought process behind the whole shoot, which appears to be controversial="edgy" and "edgy"=instant artistic merit. The latent douchebaggery on display in this editorial is far more off-putting to me than its content.


It's not the actual use of blackface and vag shots here that I'm recoiling from. It's more the thought process behind the whole shoot, which appears to be controversial="edgy" and "edgy"=instant artistic merit. The latent douchebaggery on display in this editorial is far more off-putting to me than its content.


If you don't believe me about the international thing, which I do believe to be pertinent to this discussion and why Vogue should ahve reconsidered their concept: here is the newsfeed for this story. Notice the number of people who have picked it up.


They also painted her white--you saying that the fashion world has something against albinos, too?

Seriously, you guys, I really think you MAJORLY misunderstood this editorial, and are making this into a conflict where there really is none. I'd like to know the story behind this editorial before I pass judgment on it, and I think you guys should too.

If I'm wrong, lemme know--my email is sjdonovan@ymail.com.


Highfemme Gentleman

First to Sam, whatever the thought process was in developing this shoot there is a long and vast history that the use of blackface speaks to that makes it entirely possibly for me to pass judgment on the end result alone.
I often see comments on fashion blogs that think too much is made of the lack of racial diversity in modeling. I often find it ironic since many of the same people who jump for joy when a model is shown to have a BMI closer to that of the average woman fail to understand that the lack of women of color is detrimental to both internalized and external concepts of beauty. The road from that lack of awareness leads directly to this editorial and others like it making it into print.


Yech. Contained Racism. Disgusting and in poor taste.


Sewing Siren said

Also I am fairly certain that blackface was performed in Paris during the 1920's. Yes there was no slavery within the borders of Europe, but there is that pesky buisness of the colonization of Africa. They should have known.


You're right that blackface was performed in Paris in the 1920s where it was very much seen as cool and part of the American jazz culture -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface/ I even remember a programme in the UK called
'the Black & White Minstrel Show' featuring white singers in blackface which was prime time, incredibly middle of the road and I think intended, would you believe, to be a quaint and charming nod to the musical traditions of the American South. The BBC is hugely embarrassed by it now of course.

The point of all this is of course that the very peculiar and specific racist connotations associated with blackface are very American in origin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface and that most Europeans, and I believe many European blacks who come from a Caribbean tradition, don't know very much about them.

Looking at the pictures I'm actually wondering if there isn't actually a very strong commedia dell'arte influence in them (think clown make up and Venetian masks). Harlequin traditionally wears a black mask, while the cracked white make-up seems to me to reflect the thick white facepaint European aristocrats eg Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette used to wear.

And yes commedia dell'arte would mean much more to many artistic, fashion-crazed French people than American blackface does...

(Having said which I'm sure Roitfeld meant to shock, but only because she knows how it would go down in the US).


Are you sure that they were going for blackface? At first glance it appears that they were. But upon second (and third) glance, it seems more probable that they were trying to evoke a sculpural and artistic vibe. Instead of making the white models into black models, they were trying to make models into clay, bronze and plastic sculptures.


Well it certainly seems to have served a purpose to generate debate, comment and attention. Ignoring all of the- is it social commentary, art, racist...blah, blah, blah. It just doesn't work for me. I don't find fake tans attractive and neither is this fake skin color. I'm so distracted by the coloring on the models that I had to keep going back to look at the clothes. I don't see any of it as artsy or beautiful. Look at the legs on the D&G model in fuscia with white paint. It looks like the legs of some old man in heels. Is that attractive or art? It's not to ME.
I think it was a poor concept of questionable taste poorly executed.


Ted + Whoopie 4VR

I personally don't care about the blackface, "offensive" doesn't bother me... but the clothes? UGLY AS FUCK!


I love fashion and i am very laid back about some things but as a straight up black girl I do find this pretty offensive.

Why couldnt they just use gorgeous black girls?
I mean dont get me wrong white girls are beautiful too, but there is clearly a difference in the way we look. And there is always going to be that distinct look between us. And to me its kind of saying oh being black is pretty but not so much on black girls. If you had white features and black girl skin? Beautiful!...
It makes me kind of sad, there are many pretty, skinny, black girls out there.
They also always seem to use the straight out of africa black girls alot.
They are beautiful too, but...but thats a whole nother' can of worms.


It's ugly and directionless. The first shot is pretty, but is spoiled by the connotations of the painted skin. From there on out, none of the clothes are shown off to good effect: the photoshoot stumbles around with periodic jabs at being controversial with both racism and contorted sexuality overpowering the clothes, resulting in exactly what you'd expect--a mess.


I don't really see it as offensive? Of course I'm not African-American, but I am a person of color I think the context is really important when making a judgement and it'd be one thing if they were photographed in like a cotton plantation but I don't think there is anything in the editorial that really places race as the central issue? It's probably not the best decision but I don't see it as something egrigious.


This debate reminds me of the time I had to sit through "Birth of a Nation" for a film history class. I had to restrain myself from running out of the screening room. Afterwards, there was no room for level headed intellectual discussion: I and every other Black person (I use "Black" because I'm West African) in the room had a visceral response. We were enraged.
I had always prided myself on my objectivity in most matters-- but I realized then that the trauma of racism is not past and even I was still caught in it's thrall...

Will Blackface ever become just an artistic conceit? Perhaps-- but then it this would signify an evolutionary leap in the culture, to such a time when these images no longer have the power to hurt or traumatize.


I am so sorry to ask but what is "MNSFW"? I cannot figure it out! Too much wine and Makers' & Coke!

TampaBay


TampaBay said...

I am so sorry to ask but what is "MNSFW"? I cannot figure it out!


"Mildly Not Safe For Work" ;)


Oh I think Carine and Paris Vogue knew exactly what they were doing.

In this economic climate where people aren't even buying clothes off the rack, never mind splurging on glossy and pricey fashion magazines, Carine is drumming up a whole lot of free and juicy attention for the home team.

Most of us may find it loathsome for a variety of reasons (count me in), nevertheless TLo blogged it, we all looked at it, CNN's got it and it's achieving water cooler status. And after all, "But it's art!" is used as a justification for all kinds of crap.

I don't think anyone's going to be boycotting Paris Vogue over this.

It's vile. And it's working.


yoicks@4:03 said, My initial thought when I saw these pictures was actually something in line with what GothamTomato was saying; that it was some kind of conceptual/artsy approach to the racial issue...

IF that were the case, they could've pulled off the "conceptual/artsy approach to race" by painting her a nice cobalt blue with a coppery sheen.

Of course, then we'd be hearing from insulted Scots and Andorians. But people might've been able to look at the clothes.


In no way do I wish to defend the huge mistake that was made with this shoot, but Americans are far more aware of issues of race. Europe is very much now only really starting to deal with issues of race.
I realize it's not exactly a direct relation to what I just said, but recently saw a great example of American cultural sensitivity with a youtube clip of Harry Connick Jr. guest judging an Australian version of the "Gong Show" where a group performed a Jackson 5 piece in blackface. Connick scored them a zero out of 10. The host then brought Connick out after the commercial break to explain his reaction and point out to the Australian audience what the problem was with the performance.
Here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmaF7Pys7OI


@memorexe said:
"Will Blackface ever become just an artistic conceit?"

I've seen ads before where models have been coated in black for fashion statements. Hell, didn't we see something similar to that on a past season of Make Me a Supermodel? And it wasn't racist at all. It's the execution of this particular shoot that makes it all wrong. The rag on the model's head in one of the pictures distinctly makes me think of Aunt Jemima's pancakes.


Christina,

You asked for examples, so obviously yellowface hadn't become an issue to you until now. If you were unaware of examples of yellowface despite its lengthy history then yes, you ignored it, willingly or simply through ignorance.

Also, how can a person's race not be relevant to a discussion about race? I'm not saying that as a Mexican woman you HAVE to be offended or you have to announce your racial identity atop the mountain, but for something as personal as one's race, it's pretty much a given that everyone - no matter their racial identity - will be bringing their own cultural and racial baggage to the discussion.


At first I thought it was Donatella Versace.

--Itsjustme


I agree with many comments that said this is not traditional blackface, as practiced during the days of vaudeville.

However, choosing a shade so close to a skin color that is much darker than the model's original skin, it becomes a post-modern version of blackface.

If this was simply about masks and color, they could have painted her green, purple, blue...there's a whole rainbow of hues out there.

The white chalky covering, to me, reminded me of cracked glaze porcelain. I have to admit that I didn't even register traditional, tribal mud painting.

So what was the point of all this make-up? That we couldn't tie the provocative styling or poses to any of the outfits or any overarching idea, all we're left with is offense.


If they would have used African American models in white face and the Caucasian models in black face, you could almost make a point of "political commentary". But this is just stupid...and that last shot is pornographic.

SisterZip


WTF?
Even if they didn't put her in black face--
the clothes aren't attractive, she is showing a ton of hooha, and the last few shots made me think that she has a horrible skin condition.

What about any of this is attractive or makes me want to buy the clothes. There is pushing the envelope and there is blowing it up to smithereens.


Ill-judged, ugly, tacky.


Blackface isn't blackface without the mouths. Let's be real about that.

And, if we're considering every action of expression in terms of who, anywhere in the world, is gonna read it, I have a big wake-up call, my American friends:
"tribal" is often/usually super offensive to Africans. Can you cite the tribe? If not, don't say tribal.

Mysogynistic? Funny-lookin'? Borderline Pornographic?...
Have you guys ever looked at a fashion magazine before? If I wanted flowers and pretty, I'd buy Ladies' Home Journal.


Anonymous said -
but Americans are far more aware of issues of race. Europe is very much now only really starting to deal with issues of race.


Kelly Marie said -
The rag on the model's head in one of the pictures distinctly makes me think of Aunt Jemima's pancakes.



Those few European countries that have large minority populations has been aware of and are dealing with issues of race for many years thank you very much.

But European issues of race are not necessarily American issues of race. Both Britain and France, for example, are working hard on integrating their large Islamic populations which is not something even on America's radar. And Europeans find it strange that people in the US are classified as 'Latino' or 'Hispanic' when we would just classify them as 'white'.

I'm not saying that either approach is wrong or right, better or worse. All I'm saying is that there are profoundly different histories of racial immigration and integration in Europe and America with very different perspectives and very different cultural baggage.

I do wish sometimes that Americans didn't insist that the whole world see everything through the lens of American history and culture.

And Kelly Marie, I can confidently predict that Carine Roitfeld has no clue who or what Aunt Jemima and her pancakes are - are you referring to the picture where the model's wearing a Marie Antoinette style wig?


"I think the biggest problem here is that it's a crap editorial with no real vision or point of view, so the "blackface" and crotch shots come off as gimicky and cheap. "

I agree with that. I wasn't offended persay, but I wasn't really that impressed either. I think that they were trying to tell a story by having the model in blackface, then and her skin color, then painted all white. What they should've done is paint her the actual color black , or like a dark gray color to convey whatever message they were try where trying to make. It would of made the whole thing more surreal and less offensive to the masses.

I thought the fact that she was spreading her vag to all the world made the whole thing sexist, and kind of discusting. the only one I thought was kind of sort of ok was the one where she's wearing the Alexander Mcqueen because it's the only one where she has her legs closed.


Everyone has already made most of my points, but I reacted strongly so I'm posting my thoughts anyway. And for the record, up front, I'm an American mutt from a very mixed racial background. I've lived for several years in both Europe and Asia. I also have a couple advanced degrees in Asian studies and anthropology, not that I necessarily think that matters in this discussion, but I want to be clear about where I'm coming from.

I'm with Lele, ParisPearl, Anonymous @ 4.44PM & 6.14, & Paola - I didn't find the dark makeup, or the white makeup, offensive.

Also, as others have said, the term "blackface" was used incorrectly - simply painting the model's skin darker than it is naturally is NOT "blackface". If you're going to argue on the basis of history, you have to be consistent - blackface is a style that developed in a specific time and place, and the term applies to that specific style, not just anyone with pale skin painted darker. Likewise, using white makeup over the dark does not automatically make it "whiteface", and if it bears resemblance to mud applied by a cultural group in Africa as part of a ritual that doesn't mean that it was intended as a mockery of the African society, or even necessarily to reference that.

We generally consider those who work in creative fields, such as design, styling, and photography to be artists, and art is subjective - everyone has a different definition of what constitutes art. Elephant dung, menstrual blood, cartoons of Muhammed, crucifixes, or sculptures of nudes in the Vatican... all offend someone, and yet all are considered to be valuable art by others, and as such deserving of protection and artistic freedom.

Let's be clear: Americans, and anyone else that happens to see these pictures, are perfectly entitled to whatever reaction they experience. Nevertheless, it is arrogant and ethnocentric to assume that because we live in a globalized world, the French magazine should have considered the meanings and interpretations of their photos in America before publication. Images have different meanings for everyone who views them, as each viewer brings different cultural backgrounds and life experiences to the viewing. And the meanings that people give to art, or behaviors, or styles, or any other aspect of culture in France or Brazil or any other country usually have very little to do with what Americans think of that style or behavior.

I mean, honestly: do American fashion magazines consider what any style or image means to the people of France, or Egypt, or Japan, or Peru, before they publish their photo spreads? Sure, we censor things WE find offensive, but do we consider other countries any more than they consider us? Our magazines are full of images that would be considered just as offensive (for different reasons, of course) in lots of different places all around the world. And certainly, American magazine editors know that aspects of American culture - movies, music, magazines, etc. - get spread around the globe with great speed and regularity, so they must know that their images will be seen by people all around the world. But, since we Americans don't really know anything about those places, and don't even know that a given image might be offensive in Mexico or Australia or China (or care to bother to find out), no one raises this kind of hue and cry over images in AMERICAN magazines. Oh, but those French editors, making a magazine in France, they should have changed their art to accommodate OUR culture and history, (even though theirs is completely different and thus the images are interpreted in a completely different way by the French people who will see the magazine in newsstands and stores - you know, the expected audience). They should have known that we'd be offended, and changed it to keep us happy, even though we don't offer others the same courtesy. C'mon, America is not the center of most non-Americans' universes.

Continued.......


For what it's worth, when I first saw these images, I interpreted the whole spread as an attempt at social commentary on race and sexism/objectification of women. I don' think it was a SUCCESSFUL attempt, in that I don't find the pictures very interesting, or attractive, but I didn't get the sense that they were made with deliberate malice, mockery, or misogyny. They're actually not that different from most fashion photo spreads, really, except for the color of the makeup used on the model. Extremely tall, thin young woman wearing exaggerrated makeup and hairstyles, seen under dramatic lighting, striking awkward, provocative, purportedly sexy poses while wearing garments from recent fashion shows? Yeah, par for the course, just not as well executed as other spreads. And it reeks of publicity stunt, as others have said.

To sum up: I agree completely with Nicole's comment @ 2.45 PM. This is a really bad photo spread - not because the dark or white makeup is offensive, but because it's so badly done. Not aesthetically pleasing, not well executed, not well edited, and not well conceptualized/thought-out. And the many errors completely distract from the clothes, defeating the supposed point of the whole exercise. But, some of the reactions were arrogant, illlogical, and just as flawed as the photo shoot was. We really need to take a step back and consider others' perspectives as well as our own, especially if we're bringing globalization into the mix.

Finally, just to clarify, I don't in any way mean to imply that we shouldn't have discussed these images - it's an important conversation, and I'm glad TLo brought it up. Thank you for posting it, and thanks for the opportunity to have my say on the issue(s).


Paola, Americans may not be "working hard to integrate" our Islamic populations because they can become citizens here, even the immigrants, unlike most European countries, which have generations of "guest workers" living in their countries with no hope of becoming citizens unless the law is changed.

Also, not all Hispanic/Latin-American people are white. Some are black (Roberto Clemente, for instance, or the soccer player Pele). And I'll bet that there are many who do not consider themselves "white" because a number of their ancestors were Indian, not Spanish. I know that is true of people of Mexican ancestry, anyway.


Jess's comments win this thread.


Blackface, crotch shots, rape fantasies - Paris Vogue really hit the offensive trifecta on this one. I cannot believe anyone would even TRY to defend them. Redeeming value? What redeeming value? There's no 'art' here. The only part of the soul these pictures speak to is slimy and best ignored. All they illicit (in me, anyway) is an overwhelming urge to shower with strong disinfectant – and even then I’d be plagued by the stench.

What on earth were they thinking?


Just plain stupid.

And Europeans really need to shut up about critisizing Americans about racism.

They are the most hyprocritical motherfuckers when it comes to this shit.

Just ask any African or Arab who lives over there,


ASK
10/14/09 12:39 PM BTW - Did McQueen steal the idea of using human hair from Chris?


Reminder of the good old days, eh?


"Anon said: Just ask any African or Arab who lives over there,"




And there is plenty of racism in African and (especially) Arab countries as well.

No country has entirely clean hands. It's only that some countries have a history that expresses it's bigotry in more organized, institutional ways.

--GothamTomato


For those insisting "It's seen differently in France," be aware that French anti-racism groups are protesting these photos.


GT - to your last post -

and some countries fall on their sword - actually are quick to jump on their sword - while others proudly continue their extreme bad acts and others totally deny that they've committed any.


Very tasteless!!! The shot with the boob hanging out looked more like pornography than art! Plus, I don't want to see her hoo-haa! I agree that painting a white model black was just ridiculous!


I don't get the blackface vibe from this. Nor am I offended. They painted the model's skin. Is the color black off limits because someone might get offended? Please.


Oh...should have read all comments first, as I see my comment was not needed and was said much better by someone else.

What Jess said!!!


angel h. YOU COMPLETELY MISSED MY POINT.

i don't think you actually read what i wrote either. sorry but movies from the 30s/40s/50s where it was (unfortunately) culturally acceptable to do such things do not count in my book as "you see it ALL THE TIME" (emphasis mine). i was thinking the examples would be actually current. citing a list from wikipedia that includes a lot of really old movies is not backing that up.

so no, you did not "open my eyes" to something i was unaware of. you were (and are) being condescending as if you have something to teach poor little ignorant me. i KNOW that older movies often featured white actors "in yellowface". again, the way it was made to sound was as if there were a plethora of current examples, hence my question.

and citing movies in development that it is very likely many people (including me) aren't aware of, doesn't really count either because that is not something that we, as a society, see "all the time."

and before anyone jumps down my throat, my comments above do not have anything to do with my feelings on the subject. yes, i find it offensive and ridiculous. i shouldn't have to say that.

again, my point was that if you are going to say things like "you/we see it all the time!" when it's not that obvious, if someone asks for examples of what you are talking about, i think it's reasonable to ask and for that person to offer examples of to what they were referring.

how much more clear can i be?


Jess,

Honestly you do not need to look at the world through the lens of US history to see these pictures as offensive. Are the French that ignorant of their own history in the West Indies and Africa? And even modern descrimination in jobs and housing?


This editorial was denounced in both the French and British press, so please, keep the condescending comments about Americans to yourself.


are they trying to say that whites do black better as well? this is so sad. and i have to say to them: GET OVER YOURSELVES.


I honestly think the idea behind this shoot was to call attention to several insensitivities in the fashion industry: the lack of non-caucasian models and the pressure for models to exploit their sexuality to sell clothes. The French do crazy things, and this was definitely crazy, but I think they were trying to send a message via shock value; unfortunately the shock overtook the message.


I understand wanting to shock people and to come up with something different. Shock will get you noticed and hey, Vogue wants the publicity. All press is good.

However, what does seeing a white woman in blackface say to young black girls everywhere? Are they not beautiful enough to be in Vogue?

What does it say to black models in the industry? We'd rather paint someone black than hire you for our publication (there was not one black model in that entire issue).

Between this cover and Ralph Lauren airbrushing models to death in his print ads...what message are we sending to young women everywhere?

It's not fashion's place to hold a torch for responsibility but it's up to us to decide what we read and where we will spend our hard earned money.


"However, what does seeing a white woman in blackface say to young black girls everywhere? Are they not beautiful enough to be in Vogue?"

I dont think that was the message they were trying to convey. If she was in "black" face throughout the whole thing, then I would agree with you. But the fact that she was pictured without makeup,and with the white makeup, they were trying to tell story or do a protest (like someone above me said that it seems that they were making a message about the lack of ethnic models, and how the fashion industry treats women or whatever).

I think that the "blackface" images were taken out of context, and if people see the other images, then it's obvious that "being racist" wasn't their main goal in shooting this publication.

Now, on the other hand I still beleive that the whole thing was a big mess of sloppy images. If done correctly, this could of made sense and be less offensive, but all we got was this mess that you need to pry apart to try and interpret it.

Another thing, I really don't think anyone should step on each others views or values. I don't necessarily agree with people who call this offensive, but I'm not calling them anything, I'm just stating my opinion on the matter. Same thing goes for people who do find it offensive. you are saying this publication is intolerent, but alot of people are being intolerent of each others opinions? People on both sides of the debate are guilty of that. Is it possible to have a debate about something, and not pelt each other with stones in the process?


For the most part, after stating my opinions and entering the discussion briefly, I have sat back and just read all the comments. I did want to follow up on a couple of things though.

Christina said...

tvkimmy, i know what was MEANT by yellowface. i was looking for examples.


I stated several top of my head examples and provided links and lists. And towards the bottom of the list, you will see examples of "yellowface" as recent as this year.

and just because this post was focusing on the issue of a white model painted to look black for the spread does not mean that people don't find "yellowface" to be offensive.

Um, I was agreeing that "yellowface" is offensive. And no where did I imply that anyone else didn't think it was offensive. Someone mentioned it in their comment and asked the question of whether or not we also found "yellowface" offensive and I replied with a yes.

TLo don't have to cover every offensive, related topic in order to justify addressing this particular one.

Holy moly! Of course not! Again, I never stated anything about TLo, nor implied anything about them. This is their blog. As far as I'm concerned, they don't have to "justify" a damn thing. Nor did I feel or say that by posting this story, they would have posted a story on ever prejudice and "ism" under the sun. I have no idea where you got that but it wasn't from me or anything I said.


I did want to reiterate one point I said previously.

The reason I think the model painted "black" in this editorial is different then the model painted "white" is the shade, texture and implied intent.

If you look at the photos with the white paint, it looks like paint. She's not covered head to toe in it. It is not a natural color. No human comes in that in color. I don't think Albino's are that white. It's cracked texture is a big element of how it looks. You look at those photos and it's clearly paint on a model.

Now compare that to the "black" painted model. I'm using "black" with the quotations because she is not actually painted with BLACK paint. It is closer to a dark brown then black. Far closer. But that's kinda my point. Not only did they use a color that is very near a flesh color that actual human beings come in, but she is also painted entirely, except in one of the shots of her upper torso when her lips look pink. It's different.

To say that painting the model with stark, crackled, white paint that's obviously white paint, on parts of the models body is different then using a very dark, flesh tone color to recolor her entire body, with a smooth, satiny finish of skin.

That's still my opinion and your entitled to yours as well. I just wanted to reiterate why I felt that comparing the model in "black" to the model in "white" was comparing apples and oranges.


tvkimmy, the only comment i made directed towards you was the first one.


Christina said...

tvkimmy, the only comment i made directed towards you was the first one.


Ok. That explains why I felt you labeled me with a whole bunch of stuff I never said.

Although, you may want to clarify better because you started that entire post with "tvkimmy, i know what was MEANT by yellowface. i was looking for examples." and kept going from there with nobody else mentioned. Of course I thought the rest was directed to me too. lol

Glad it wasn't though.


Christina,

You accuse me of not reading what you post and, but you're doing the same thing. If you had actually made more of a secondary glance at the list of examples, you would have seen that the most recent was from the movie Dragonball, released earlier this year. The list also shows that there were at least 8 other portrayals in the last 10 years.

So, like I said: You might want to open your eyes and check out that list again.


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