Just a month after Italian Vogue was accused of racism for separating its black street style stars into their own “Black Vogue” section, the magazine has come under fire again for a far more overt misstep: A giant blackface editorial. Again.
For our latest installment of head-smacking awfulness, the editorial by Stephen Meisel features white model Saskia de Brauw painted in “warrior” paint and making aggressive faces while wrestling with taxidermied lions, goats, and other animals.
Not all the images portray Saskia in dark makeup, however the ones that don’t show the Dutch model painted in traditional African tribal markings. And the addition of the African animals doesn’t help matters.
Fashion just loves to dress a white woman in a pastiche of the costumes of a different culture to make her seem “exotic” and sell a bunch of obscenely expensive clothes.
We will never understand fashion’s adoration of blackface. No matter how many times designers, photographers, and magazines are called out for cultural appropriation and/or straight-up blackface editorials, they just keep doing it. This editorial, in the March 2014 edition of Italian Vogue, was shot by Stephen Meisel. Meisel is a respected industry veteran, not some 14-year-old art student trying to be “edgy” who doesn’t know any better. We can only assume at this point that fashion still thinks blackface is inherently cool for some reason, and we find it utterly bewildering.
Blackface is so pervasive in fashion that it has practically gone straight through “What the hell were they thinking” and into “Yawn, another fashion cliché.” It hasn’t actually gotten there yet, because we’re still shocked and appalled instead of bored by blackface editorials, but it seems like we see white models in blackface almost as often as we see florals for spring and models eating pasta.
Fashion seriously does this all the time, and no amount of our rage or negative press has any effect. The people producing these editorials know how much they offend people, they just don’t give a shit. We most recently saw inappropriate blackface in Vogue Netherlands, Numéro, and on the personal Instagram of Elle France’s beauty editor, and we are well sick of it.
It’s 2014. We should not still be seeing this kind of editorial in our fashion magazines.
(Photos: Vogue Italy)