Blackface, What is That On Her Face?

Posted by Lady Mel On Friday, October 16, 2009 4 comments

I said about a week that I love fashion and I do. But, as someone who admires the fashion and entertainment industries, I am also a critical critic with some of its practices and regulations. I am critical because I learned as a Smithie to challenge and question the status quo. I do it all the time now. Recently, French Vogue launched its November Issue and has anyone buzzing about Dutch model Lara Stone's blackface photos in her thirteen page photo spread. Thanks to Twitter and other online blogs such as my beloved for updating me on this matter. I seriously do not understand why a magazine publication would do this. How can magazine editors see this as art?

If you read the comments below this video on its Youtube page, people are commenting that this is a cry for black people to shout out "racism, racism, racism" every time some non-black people puts on blackface or allegedly does or say something racist towards black people. But I have some thoughts everyone should take into consideration:

1. The United States just elected its first black president. If you haven't noticed this even if you are not an American, remember that there wasn't a black president until 2008. There were 42 white presidents before him.

2. Wow, we just elected our first black president. Hooray! Racism is so over! We are free at last! If you follow this philosophy, where have you been these past 500 years?! Many political figures are spreading anti-Obama hate all across the country. This post-November election world is bombarded with people who do not think that Obama is an American citizen because his father was Kenyan and that he is spreading his socialist ideology to every facet of our society, including our children. Let just say the 2008 presidential elections brought the racists out of the closet.

3. There is always this misconception that France, Great Britain, and other European nations are more racially-tolerated because slavery ended in those countries way before slavery ended in the United States in 1865. But is there is a black or non-white British prime minister? No. I admire French culture, especially its intellectualism. Famous African-Americans in the late nineteenth century such as W.E.B DuBois left the U.S to France because France was more accepting of racial minorities than the land of the free.  Fast forward to 2009. Paris has a strong, present North-African immigrant population. Algeria was a former French colony. Yet, they live in the poorest Parisian neighborhoods around. Secondly, France has more strict immigrant and assimilation laws than the United States. So, I am not surprised if these people are having a harder time being accepted into modern French society because they also discriminated based on their ethnical backgrounds.

4. Europe started modern imperialism and the bondage of non-white people. So, don't make it seem that Americans are overly sensitive to these issues. Racism is everywhere.

5. There were NO women of color in this French Vogue issue.

6. Fashion has a long history of not accepting models who do not go by the industry's standard beauty qualifications.

7. Did I forget anything?

Although, French fashion is art, I think it is best to be fresh and creative in other ways. Unless, magazine publications want drama and controversy added to their resumes. Maybe, just maybe, the editors and photographers were not thinking about blackface in the context of the colonialist history. Maybe there were challenging our traditional notions of "race" and "racism". But, people have to be more careful and considerate of the current state of race politics in the United States and in other countries. The United States is not the only country with this problem. Trust me.


Tina Fabiano™ said...

I guess the whole premise of this post focuses around the civil rights movement... and how Europe pretty much never had one. Not sure if you recall around the last World Cup all the racial controversy surrounding French footballer Thierry Henry and pretty much the entire country of Spain. It's almost hard for me to wrap my head around.

Might be interesting to compare black race issues in the US to Roma issues in Europe. They seem to be following a similar pattern.

Interesting post!

Mrs. M. said...

i hadn't seen other pictures besides the cover but when I saw that I thought Lara Stone was supposed to be a bronzed statue. It's apparent though by the inside pictures that is not the case.

LadyGaga said...

Tina, it's not about the civil rights movement in particular. I am trying to be more global than this talking about race politics in the U.S hence I wrote brieftly French race politics. I think the last paragraph of my post is the most interesting because I don't want people to think "oh those backwards Americans. always over-sensitive about "race" and all." Come on, European countries were colonizing South American, African, and Asian nations WAY before the U.S, but Americans have the problems. Race politics may not be discussed in other countries like the U.S but it is THERE.

TINA, I'll read on what you recommendation about Spain. Thanks for reading! :p

Tina, Slacker Chic, this is not the only thing this model or the photographer used "blackface" in French Vogue. I heard it happened in the February 2009 issue as well.

And yeah, I don't believe in race. But most people don't believe that..

Kimolisa said...

I am a black person and although I understand the concept of being artist and all, if they wanted the model to be of a darker hue they may as well have used a model of colour. When I look at this model, she just looks wrong, the features were just wrong. Definitely not a fan of this move by French Vogue.