Maybe the Fashion Industry Just Doesn’t Care That White People Pretending to be Black is Racist

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine

Another day another supposedly chic editorial featuring powered-skin models dressed in African-inspired garb and tribal face paint, all under the guise of “high fashion.”


I don’t know many times or how many ways we can say it. Whether it’s for the sake of a cheap laugh on Halloween or in the name of elite fashion amped to a degree this Target shopper will never understand, white people prancing around in shoe polish smeared faces will never, ever (like ever) be acceptable.

But again the lovely people at Vogue Italia missed that memo, and the blog posts, and the tweets, and the side eyes. The magazine’s March 2014 issue features Dutch model Saskia de Brauw posing in what can only be described as a twisted, WASP interpretation of some ethnic culture far, far away. In the spread Brauw is photographed wearing mock-tribal war face paint, awkward but apparently artistic poses, all while adorned with head wrap 2.0, tribal-inspired clothing and taxidermied wild animals. Shaka Zulu would be so proud.

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine


According to the Huffington Post, the spread is entitled “Abracadabra” and was shot by photographer Steven Meisel. As if the face and body paint, tattered clothing and bird gnawing on the lip weren’t enough, the spread features Brauw in a myriad of overly exaggerated, “I’m not in my right mind” facial expressions and poses.

I get it, finding high-fashion black models is tough work these days, particularly if you’re wanting an African model to showcase African-inspired clothing. But with a little hard work, a skim of the Twitter feed and a casting call it can be done, and produce a freaking fantastic result. But in Vogue’s defense maybe African clothes do look better on non-African people.

For some reason, time and time again the fashion industry continues to give a shellac and bedazzled middle finger to minorities of color. Were Fubu, Baby Phat and Sean John that much of a threat to the international fashion elite that the only way to pay us back was to parade blackfaced, wafer-esque models across the pages of the Holy Grail of fashion mags? You would think after the hoopla caused by the Vogue Netherlands blackface shenanigans or that tragic photo of ELLE France’s beauty editor Jeanne Deroo, someone atop the fashion publication throne would wave a wand of sensibility to end the foolishness.

No this isn’t the traditional “blackface” we’ve come to know and loathe (well most of us); but it doesn’t lesson the message sent when pounds of car paint and stuffed rhinoceros’ are slathered across a white model whose most ethnic experience is likely “The Lion King.” I’m not cozy with too many native African tribes but I highly doubt this is how they spend their free time.

With prints set to be the must-have trend for the summer, I sure hope this isn’t what I have to look forward to this season. An African-inspired print I can do. High-end, overly priced fashion spreads that make a mockery of the culture that inspired the very fashions which grace it’s glossy pages. Well, that I can’t and I won’t.

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine

Photos courtesy of Vogue Italia/Visuelle Magazine

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