Posted by: Staff | 11.02.2009

October Issue Disaster

TAYLOR HAYES ’12

For the October issue of French Vogue, a fourteen page photo shoot was done to honor supermodels. Shot by American fashion photographer Steven Klein, the spread featured famous European models such as Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer. A Dutch model, Lara Stone, was also featured, painted from head to toe in dark brown makeup to make her appear African-American. While photo shoots in fashion magazines such as Vogue or Elle tend to be cutting edge and sometimes even a little controversial, this has received strong reactions from around the world.

While this magazine was produced in Paris, France, the photo shoot has been a big subject of conversation in the United States. After slavery, the Civil War, the fight for equality, and the continuing struggle against racism in our country, situations like this are not taken lightly. The term “Jim Crow” came from a song performed by Daddy Rice, a white man, who would paint his face to look black while singing back during a segregated era of American history.  Within the next few years the character became extremely well known. In later years the term “Jim Crow Laws” was used to describe the harsh segregation laws. The act of painting ones face to appear African-American was then called “blackface” and promoted racial stereotypes. Since this has been such a prominent part of American history, it makes sense why the photos were received so differently here than they were in France. If this was intended for the American Vogue, there is no way Laura Stone would have ever been painted in blackface.

While the magazine’s aim was to be artistic, they sorely missed their mark. Given the amount of famous black supermodels, it was strange that none were used in the photo shoot.  Wouldn’t it have been more practical to feature real black models like Chanel Inman and Naomi Campbell (two very popular African American models) instead of being too radical? I think that the racy photo shoot was just plain racism.

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