ELLE France Beauty editor wears blackface in Instagram photo, spawning controversy

ELLE France Beauty editor Jeanne Deroo has come under for wearing blackface in a photo of herself she posted to Instagram over the weekend.

In the image, the editor wears a large Afro wig in addition to having painted her skin dark brown.

The photo was taken down, but not before fashion and news web sites commented on the phenomenon, and the fact that donning blackface seems to be an ongoing trend among the fashion elite.

“Fashion has a painful and embarrassing past of putting white models in blackface, and it appears some of them still haven’t learned their d**n lesson,” commented writer Laura Beck on Jezebel.com.

Deroo: Didn’t mean to offend

The Fashion Bomb, which is credited with discovering the photo, questions why the beauty editor would engage in an act that is so insulting to black women, when a black female leader in France was recently saluted by the publication.

“ELLE France just put justice minister Christiane Taubira, a black woman, on their ‘Woman of The Year’ cover,” the urban style site observed. “How ironic, then, that Ms. Deroo would set out in such an offensive representation of a woman of color.”

But for Deroo, this image was not intended to offend. She has since posted an apology to her Twitter account in French and English.

“I realise how much the fact of painting oneself brown is an offensive act,” the statement reads. “I didn’t realise the seriousness of my action when I went to a private party last Saturday evening, which the theme was ‘Icons’, and where I chose to embody Solange Knowles, of whom I am a fan. During this private party, I posted a picture of myself on my Instagram without intention of hurting anyone. I deeply regret and would like to present all my apologies. I would also like to indicate that this picture published in a private context does not involve in any way the french ELLE magazine I work for, and I am sorry for the prejudice it has caused.”

Fashion’s recent history of blackface

This apology will likely not be easily accepted by fashion watchers who are tired of the consistent appearance of blackface among the style elite.

Just weeks ago during Halloween, a major scandal erupted when images of the designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua, among other design stars, were snapped during the annual Halloweek party in Milan showing many in blackface.

And this is just the latest in a string of similar incidents that have occurred over the past year, including the now infamous use of a white model painted brown for a photo shoot in Numéro France magazine. This caused international outrage.

“The fashion industry (and beyond) just can’t seem to understand that Blackface is NEVER acceptable,” opined fashion writer Julee Wilson of The Huffington Post. “Whether magazine’s are painting white models black or famous fashion designers are painting themselves black, it’s an issue that we sadly can’t seem to escape. What gives?”

A lesson seldom learned

Many have theorized that the insulting nature of blackface is not deeply understood in Europe, which is where many of these fashion images arise.

In the United States, it is more likely for students creating costumes — or celebrities acting in poor taste — to wear the dark makeup people associate with the racism of minstrelsy.

Yet, the commonality that binds these groups is the offering up of ignorance as the reasoning for using blackface as a means of self-expression, regardless of how many times ensuing controversies make it clear that this practice is unacceptable.

Hopefully, this development will be one more additional lesson on the matter, and lead the next person considering blackface as a form of dress-up to just say no.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb.