Vogue‘s Blackface Editorial Commemorates Nothing Besides Racism

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By now, you would hope that fashion magazines would have caught up with, oh, the rational thinkers of 2013. But no, mis amigos, this is simply impossible — after all, the seemingly most beloved and sacred tradition (or else it would’ve been eliminated by now, surely) is blackface. I want to be more humorous about this, but I can’t. I don’t care whom Vogue Netherlands is commemorating — in addition to Marc Jacobs, they’re also saluting and perpetuating a racist tradition. (In b4 people ask, “How is this different than whiteface lol?” It’s different, and we shouldn’t have to explain it again.)

In an editorial meant to honor Marc Jacobs’ work for Louis Vuitton, Vogue took inspiration from the fall 2008, and spring 2009 for which Jacobs’ was influenced by black icons Grace Jones and Josephine Baker.

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Two looks from Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2009 collection.

Naturally, instead of hiring a black model for their editorial — because we all know there are, like, none to be found anywhere! — Vogue just dressed up white model Querelle Jansen (who normally looks like this) in blackface. To ensure maximum offense, they also included wigs to mimic what they apparently believe is how “black hair” looks. As Fashionista points out, the Netherlands has an especially bad history of racist depictions, as their Zwarte Piet tradition consists of Dutch people dressing up in blackface to “celebrate” Christmas.

For the record, it is totally possible to dress like a black celebrity or icon without using blackface (thanks, Miley!). Josephine Baker had an extraordinary amount of beautiful fashion looks over the years, all of which can be mimicked using accessories, clothing and beauty techniques (not including dark foundation).

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This look, for example, could be easily imitated — by any model of any race — using satin gloves, a low-cut white dress, gem-encrusted choker and hairpiece, false eyelashes, brow sealant and pencil, deep-colored lipstick and a similar pose (as well as a genuinely thrilled smile!). It does not, however, require blackface.

There’s a rather stunning number of examples of fashion including blackface, insulting appropriation and racism. Though many people, including models, have become both outraged and deeply frustrated with this ridiculously out-of-touch and offensive — yet accepted — ignorance. For an industry that’s supposedly so modern and motivated by the present, it’s one of the least progressive ones out there. And there will always be some who say “racism doesn’t exist anymore” or “get over it” or that it’s just a fact of life we all should deal with because it’s not going way. But it’s not acceptable, it never will be, and we need to do the exact opposite of get over it.

Photos: Vogue Netherlands, WDR/dpa/B. Weissbrod.

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    • Tusconian

      But really, would they let anyone who looked like Josephine Baker anywhere near a runway in the world of high fashion?

      • Poetre

        Probably not because of racism. You seem to be missing the entire point. Josephine Baker left the United States because of racism, and she is beautiful, so what point are you trying to make?

    • ChattyCathy

      ….the fuq…

    • Poetre

      I’m African American and I think she looks good on the pic. Times are changing, and as long as she doesn’t have her lips painted white and eyes bulging out it’s fine with me. Not hiring black models is racism. The pic above is art and I love it. Just looks like the smooth black skin that I’m use to. I especially like the fact they did her lips black also. They should have done everything in black and it would have been more dark and sensuous. Like I said not hiring black models is racist; the pic is artistic