Vogue Netherlands is coming under fire for showcasing a white model in blackface in a May 2013 spread. Model Querelle Jansen was featured in a recent editorial wearing dark make-up on her face in some shots, and textured afro-wigs with several other looks.
The editorial, called “Heritage Heroes,” provides a retrospective overview of creations by designer Marc Jacobs, who is said to have been inspired by African-American style icons including Grace Jones for some of his recent collections.
Fashionista.com translated a caption featured in the spread, which it stated reads: “This collection is inspired by the style of the Parisian showgirl Josephine Baker, mixed with tribal influences.”
Some believe this editorial shoot underscores the high fashion world’s insensitivity to race, and highlights the industry’s poor track record for using models of color.
“It’s particularly troubling that blackface persists in a fashion industry that continues to display an overwhelming preference for white models,” Jezebel.com writer Jenna Sauers stated. “Models of color — even successful ones — often face discrimination on the basis of their race. Black models are told by clients that they won’t be hired because they ‘already have’ a black model, black models talk about encountering makeup artists and hair stylists who refuse to work with them, and black models say they have a harder time breaking into an industry that accords them fewer opportunities than white models.”
Just weeks ago, French publication Numéro ran a controversial series of images under the header “African Queen,” in which a different white model was painted a dusky hue from head to toe and dressed in ethnic garments. This stirred similar accusations that style tastemakers discriminate against black models even when the concept of a creative project might best be served by a black model.
Among many other examples, supermodel Claudia Schiffer famously donned blackface for a 2010 editorial that some found shocking.
Not only have there been numerous incidents in recent years of white models in blackface that many have found offensive, clothing designers have been accused of racial insensitivity as well.
Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana was accused of sending earrings that looked like stereotypical “mammies” down the runway in late 2012. In addition, Chanel’s couture chief Karl Lagerfeld sketched an image of President Obama to celebrate his win of a second term — depicting the president as a chef — that some say made the leader of the first world look like a household servant.
“When will fashion brands and magazines come to realize that not alienating a large segment of their possible market is far more advantageous to their bottom line than, say, the potential to be avant-guard or cutting edge?,” asked Yahoo! writer Shereen Dindar about these types of acts that seem to recur in fashion.
TheGrio reached out to Vogue Netherlands for comment, but did not receive a response to questions by publication time.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.