Teen Vogue criticized for only using fair-skinned models in African braids feature

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The latest issue of Teen Vogue has sparked controversy over the absence of dark-skinned models in an article about Senegalese twists; a hairstyle popular among African-American women.

The June/July issue includes a personal anecdote by the magazine’s beauty and health director Elaine Welteroth. In the piece, she writes about having her hair braided in Rwanda and the reaction she received on her return to New York City.

While Welteroth, who is black, uses her own pictures in the online edition of the story, the print version prominently features a model named Phillipa Steele and only cites white and fair-skinned biracial women as examples of “Plaited Ladies”.

The omission of darker skinned women, while celebrating hairstyles so closely linked to the black community, immediately caused a stir on social media.

Welteroth, who wrote the article, tried to defend the choice of models on her Instagram page.

“How do you define black?” she writes in response to one poster. “Just curious. Is it about skin color? Eye color? Hair textture? I ask because this mixed race model is as black as I am. Also, how do you define cultural appropriation? I ask only because I want to better understand your point of view.”

Model Phillipa Steele also commented, writing, “For the record, if anyone even cares . Yes im half black and half French.”

Yet many felt both their responses seemed to miss the point about representation — which is that the magazine seemed to deliberately choose models who were either white or as close to looking white as possible.

@JOJOTHAJAWN summed up most of the general frustration when she tweeted, “Why can’t I look in a magazine and see models who look like me?”