Ondria Hardin Wearing Blackface For Numéro Fashion Shoot Due To Obvious Shortage Of Black Models


In March’s issue of Numéro France, 16-year-old Ondria Hardin was photographed by Sebastian Kim wearing blackface for an editorial called, “African Queen.” The makeup, done by artist Maud Laceppe, would be otherwise gorgeous had it not included an allover, head-to-toe shade of brown foundation painted on the white model’s skin.

The shoot consists of Hardin wearing “traditional” (I keep that in quotes because this is what the producers of the editorial believe in traditional, rather than a historically accurate depiction) African clothing, jewelry and hairstyling. And considering they were going for “African queen,” why would they not choose a black model for the shoot? As Jezebel points out, even Ford Models, the agency that represents Hardin, also has multiple black models in their ranks. There is obviously no actual shortage of tall, thin and pretty black women out there who are capable of modeling wonderfully, so why on earth would Numéro find it so difficult to locate one that could do this shoot without requiring any form of blackface? You know, because they’re already black.

But no, it simply makes more sense to put a white model in full blackface/body, which likely (A) costs more (B) jeopardizes the clothing (C) is a fucking ridiculous idea. Plus, the shoot includes several poses that seem parody-like, as well as subservient and overly sexualized in the way colonial men long viewed women of color. Add in the fact that the model is barely in her mid-teens and this entire editorial is just upsetting.

The idea of wearing blackface is, for some reason, still a valid one to some people. Despite its repugnant history and its rather horrible past wearers and its incredibly negative connotations, blackface continues to be something that certain white people do — seriously, when was the last time you heard about somebody of another race donning it? — and then getting incredibly defensive when people very rightfully beg to know WTF they are thinking. “This is a free country!” they say, “This is hilarious, not racist! You all are too sensitive! This is edgy, this is fashion! PC CULTURE IS RUINING MY LIFE.”

Yeah, no. I give up on those people. Anybody who still thinks blackface is cool in fashion is a ridiculous human being, and not Betsey Johnson/Grumpy Cat/Tavi Gevinson’s hats ridiculous, but ridiculous as in “behaving like a satirical character and being completely unaware of it” ridiculous.

I am all about interesting, fresh, strange and new, and I look forward to work from photographers, designers and stylists who achieve art pieces that possess those qualities, but blackface is anything but fresh and new. At best, it’s tired and old; at worst (and in reality, really), it’s racially offensive, not to mention completely unnecessary. Ondria Hardin was not the only model available, and I guarantee there were plenty of black models who could’ve easily done this shoot exceptionally well. Take a look through the photos and see for yourself, though.

Photos: Numero France

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    • CMJ

      Is this real life?

      • http://samanthaescobar.com Samantha Escobar

        Dude, my question exactly.

        Also, thanks for getting Bohemian Rhapsody stuck in my head!

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar


        Also, you totally got Bohemian Rhapsody stuck in my head. (Also, if you received this comment twice, it’s because the Internet’s a jerk.)

    • Liz M

      I agree entirely! But I do want to point out (I am a professional photo retoucher), that you do not have to paint a model head-to-toe to change her skin color. It can all be done in post and we regularly do it to make models tanner, paler, etc. It’s very likely they bronzed her up a little, and the rest was done in Photoshop.

      • Liz M

        I only point it out to give you more context, not to undermine what you say. It is pretty horrific that this was printed in a magazine. Why didn’t any of the people involved say anything? I don’t believe for a second that the OBVIOUS racism didn’t occur to anyone.

      • http://samanthaescobar.com Samantha Escobar

        I didn’t realize that, actually! I’m really glad you pointed that out. Granted, as you said, it doesn’t change the idiocy and insensitivity of the editorial, but it does make me a little less “seriously?” about them being willing to risk the clothing itself. Although bronzer is EXTREMELY annoying to remove from any cloth garment.

      • Lemona

        Thanks for this info! I was wondering if something like this were the case because I was wondering to what degree the model is aware of how her image is going to be used in the spread; obviously she knows what clothes and poses are in the photos, but if they darken her skin in post, she might not even have the chance to object to blackface. That makes the situation even worse.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        I’m so glad you were able to give that context! I did not realize this at all, though of course, the racial connotations are still absurd (as you mentioned). It does make me a little less concerned about the clothing, not that that’s the most significant issue here, although bronzer is an asshole to get out of any fabric, ever.

    • kickrocksb

      LeBron James painted “white face” on for Halloween and no one said a thing. Isn’t it essentially the same thing?

      • http://samanthaescobar.com Samantha Escobar
      • Fabel

        Haha. No.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar
      • kickrocksb

        You can’t link articles like this because this is strictly a subjective opinion. You can’t hold one race to a different standard than another. That’s the root of racism. Isn’t that what we’re fighting against?

      • Check your privilege

        Ah but we have to hold white people to a different standard since they themselves created the standard in which they regard everyone else to themselves. Once destroy that structure then you can come crawling to me about reverse racism.

      • kickrocksb

        I happen to be Caucasian (suprise!) but my people didn’t enslave anyone nor did we create this “standard”. We were slaves way before America was discovered. The word slave is derived from Slavs, my ancestors, who happen to be white (suprise again!). But you don’t seem to even acknowledge that other races, white races, have been enslaved for centuries before the American slave trade even existed, yet you lump all “white people” in this category of over privileged barbarians. I realize slavery is a relatively new wound which will take time to heal (we’ve had centuries to overcome this, while this is barely over a 100 years old), but you also shouldn’t hold up these structures you speak of just so you can “destroy” them, as you so delicately put it. “Destroying” people and their culture was how the slave owners broke down their captives and made them slaves in the first place. Seems like you just want to see people grovel at your feet. Does that make you any different than them?

        We should strive to overcome racism together, not punish and destroy one another. There is no excuse for what was done and we should never forget it. We should learn from it and strive to be better people than our predecessors. Which seems to be lost in the anger you hold on to, as you so clearly displayed with your comment above.

        And please don’t put words in my mouth, I never claimed reverse racism. It was just a comparison between two similar situations, for the sake of discussion. So check your ignorance, love.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        I should’ve explained further: there’s a connotation and a history to blackface that is non-applicable towards whiteface. Blackface was used to mock and insult African-Americans at a time in history when they were considered to be literally less than human. Caucasians have never had this problem, thereby making whiteface lack that negative connotation. Blackface was a symbol of discrimination in and of itself; just like pointed white hoods or burning crosses, it instantaneously gives the viewer a recollection of the hatred and ignorance that surrounded those beliefs.

      • kickrocksb

        I totally understand, thank you for clarifying. I’m not diminishing the significance of black face. But why aren’t we looking at the context in which it’s used? Like I mentioned somewhere in my other rants(hehe), it’s not done to offend. I just don’t understand why people take it offensively if someone is trying to emulate them because they admire them? That’s a compliment as far as I see it. It just always seems to take a negative turn and it shouldn’t.

      • Nubian Quuen

        LeBron James painted white face for fun….for Halloween, totally different from the professional fashion industry!! and btw Kickroksb. there is a big difference between Halloween party and the issue here!!! WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!!

      • kickrocksb

        YOU make it a big difference. This is simply someones artistic vision, however skewed it may be. YOU read into it more than you should (more like you want this to be a problem just so you have something to complain about). This was in no way done to offend. I would understand if the photographer did it to ridicule African culture, then I’d be behind you 100%. YOU need to stop being so damn close minded, WAKE THE FUCK UP!! and join the 21st century.

        And to clarify to every other critic, I’m not defending his choice of model, but he has a right to photograph whomever he wants to.

    • anna

      she’s very pretty, but looks like a white girl painted darker. obviously not the right ethnicity. HOW did anyone think this is ok?

    • Nubian Quuen

      With all the Black Models in the world you have to bronze up a White girl to look like a black girl? Are you gonna say Black models are not good enough? SHAME ON YOU!!!! What is wrong with you people? She does´nt look one bit like a black girl!!!

    • not a racist

      isnt expecting an african queen to be black, also racist?

      • Please know history

        They’re basing this shoot on heritage and culture. With that being said, historically speaking, when Africa was populated with entirely an African culture and race, those who were amongst the royalty, i.e. “African queens,” the Queens themselves were obviously of a darker complexion. As this shot is based on that fact, assuming an African queen to be black is not racist at all.

      • Celia

        Actually? Cleopatra an Egyptian and therefore African Queen was if Greek descent and fair skinned

    • K

      Thanks for all your concern. The shoot was actually based on Talitha Getty in Morocco in the 60′s and iconic model Marisa Berenson.

      • kickrocksb

        The Talitha Getty images in Morocco are absolutely stunning. Can’t believe I’ve never seen them before!

    • Lastango

      I think it’s fresh and funny. Certainly, it has succeeded commercially beyond their wildest dreams.

      For their next trick, they should do a repeat but with a drag queen. It’ll be fun watching the critics torn with angst about whether that’s a step backward for black models, or a step forward for the LGBT community.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        I suppose you’re blackface’s target audience, then.

    • Priscila

      African queen should be a model from Africa! How silly would look to take an African or American model to pose as “Asian Queen” or “European Queen”? It’s lame because such photographer as Sebastian Kim travelled the whole world and still keeps his limited square shaped creativity based on the conservative mentality of the western world. Art should be much wider than this shit.

      • Nubian Quuen

        Right on Priscila!!!

    • http://www.wix.com/seakicreativeservice/designnow seaki ache’

      My take on this ignorance Concerning the above scandal, would it not have been more beautiful and striking to have hired a TRUE ‘African Queen’, a model of african lineage, like Alek Wek. Posing her in these beautiful fashions, having her gaze at the camera, taking us back in time, igniting our imaginations.Visualizing this long, sinewy beauty in all her dark black glory, we would be swept back to the mystical serengetis of Africa, juxtaposing european high fashion with the magical beauty of Africa, all in one picture. Instead, one paints a european model a darker hue and have her ‘mimic’ what Alek Wek was born with naturally. One can not be in the mind of the creator of these images, nor the minds that decided to christen the images “African Queen”. We will never know if their motives were based on racism, as it is difficult to know what is in the heart of such individuals. What is evident is the scandal that such images have created, individuals of color and their supporters around the world crying foul. I blogged about said incident and my own experiences with racism in corporate fashion america : http://seaki.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/numero-magazine-apologizes-for-using-blackface-on-model-creative-license-to-discriminate-or-plain-artistic-freedom/.

    • Poetre

      Frigging ridiculous, now that’s stupid. She should be embarrassed for even trying to pull that off. And what were they thinking? She just looks stupid and to think they got paid for that. Just stupid and there supposed to be the leaders in the fashion industry. rofl…

    • Poetre

      She looks like a robot in one pic and in another she looks like a space alien. That’s just stupid. She looks stiff and awkward in all the pics. Good grief talk about some mess. I thought fashion was about good taste, some one obviously had been tasting to think that mess would work. They were probably doing drugs also.