Why Africa Vogue is considered out of fashion

For the last few months, famed Cameroonian photographer Mario Epanya has been on a campaign to convince Vogue publisher Condé Nast to create an African version of its hallmark magazine. He went as far as creating fictitious magazine covers, featuring models from the African Diaspora. Apparently, Epanya’s bid was rejected by Condé Nast, according to an announcement recently on his Facebook page.

Epanya’s campaign to display black beauty and fashion was inspired by his fashion designer mother, as well as to develop support for Africa’s budding fashion scene.

“I read my first Vogue in 1979 and have been buying it regularly ever since,” Epanya said in an interview. “I always felt that African creativity was not represented. I think today’s women would like to re-appropriate their image. Beauty is diverse and we aspire to have more of a diversity of choice. I say, why not?”

Condé Nast has not officially given a reason for “why not” yet, but is anyone really surprised by this? The company publishes Vogue in 18 countries as well as other magazines like Glamour, W and Allure. With the occasional cover photo of Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek or Liya Kebede, all of these magazines for the most part feature unrealistically thin white women who look like they just purged at the nearest toilet.

Some thought this trend was on the verge of changing two years ago when Italian Vogue published an issue featuring all black models. That issue was so popular that ad sales went up 30 percent and it was the first in Condé Nast’s history to be reprinted to satisfy demand. This all went against conventional wisdom that black models don’t sell magazines. However, despite the success of this issue, Condé Nast still doesn’t see the potential in African Vogue.

However, my anger is not necessarily directed towards Condé Nast; I want to know why the black community is still depending on the mainstream media to present us. Magazines like Ebony, Jet and Essence were created out of a need to fill voids that weren’t being met in white publications. Unfortunately, these voids still need to be filled in 2010, despite having a black president and first lady in the White House.

Today there are more than enough brains, money and resources in our community to make an all-black fashion magazine a reality. Instead of calling for a boycott of Vogue, we should take our collective anger and tap into the entrepreneurial spirit within the African Diaspora to present ourselves in a magazine the way we want to be seen. If the “black issue” of Italian Vogue is any indicator, a magazine created by us would not only be a lucrative cash cow, but could also change the standard of beauty worldwide.

When Epanya said on his Facebook page that although his African Vogue bid is over, and that his experience is the “beginning of something,” I think he meant to say that his magazine was Condé Nast’s loss is a window of opportunity for us.

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