Our Crazed Efforts To Mimic French Beauty Stop At Blackface

And here we go again: Elle France’s beauty editor Jeanne Deroo posted a photo of herself in blackface and an afro wig on Instagram. I’m not sure how complicated this is, but here’s the bottom line: don’t wear blackface. End of list.

Apparently, this is Deroo dressed up as Solange Knowles for a private party. The photo was, as expected, taken down from her Instagram account, but Fashion Bomb Daily has a screen shot of the costume:

jeanne-deroo-sports-blackfaceAt this point, seeing a fashion industry bigwig promoting blackface is far from surprising, but it’s the defense of Deroo’s costume that really stings. Many of her commenters loved the ensemble.

As Fashion Bomb Daily points out, “the problem with Deroo’s appearance seems to be lost on the photo’s commenters, who call her look “perfect,” and wonder if she would wear it to work on Monday.”

Deroo tweeted an apology this morning:

I realise how much the fact of painting oneself brown is an offensive act. I didn’t realise the seriousness of my action when I went to a private party last Saturday evening, which the theme was “Icons”, and where I chose to embody Solange Knowles, of whom I am a fan. During this private party, I posted a picture of myself on my Instagram without intention of hurting anyone. I deeply regret and would like to present all my apologies. I would also like to indicate that this picture published in a private context does not involve in any way the french ELLE magazine I work for, and I am sorry for the prejudice it has caused.

I’m finding it hard to believe that a person in her position had no idea that blackface would be offensive and not an appropriate way to honor her icon Solange Knowles. While Deroo may not have intended to be racist and went with the cultural appreciation route, it’s saying a lot that she cluelessly posted this to Instagram, perhaps thinking her followers would appreciate the level of effort she put into her costume. Oops! The rest of the world: not a fan of blackface.

This incident is doing no favors to Elle France, which had previously caused a firestorm with their claim that the Obamas were teaching black people how to dress with class which they then defended when the backlash started.

In our crazed desire to emulate all things French and our worship of fashion, why don’t we ever talk about the race issue? France’s very loud and institutionalized racism is well-documented (this is not to make a sweeping statement that all French people are racist, because obviously that’s not true), and the fashion industry at large has been shockingly slow to embrace critical thought when it comes to race. Is it possible that that environment is what breeds what should be a well-informed, cosmopolitan woman who doesn’t realize that blackface isn’t an appropriate way to pay homage to an icon?

If so, in this case posting the photo to the light of day on Twitter was a rude awakening for her. Hopefully incidents like this and Julianne Hough‘s blackface Halloween costume will make other people prone to casual racism realize that black face is never, ever acceptable, regardless of intention.

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