Is Black the new Black?
This is a picture of Dutch model Lara Stone that appeared in a shoot styled by Carine Roitfield and shot by Steven Klein. It appeared in the October 2009 issue of Vogue Paris.
This is the October 2008 cover of Vogue Paris with Lara Stone. No prizes for spotting the difference.
This editorial appeared in Vogue Paris last month and it sent waves through the fashion world. Many people voiced their outrage that in this day and age, images like this shouldn’t and wouldn’t be accepted. My thoughts on it are pretty simple. There are many beautiful and successful black models out there from Chanel Iman to Liya Kebede, Jourdan Dunn to Naomi Campbell that could be used in an editorial shoot like this rather than ‘blackening up’ a white model. PPQ used an all black model cast to showcase their Spring/Summer 2010 collection and in my opinion, they did not get nearly enough publicity and recognition as they should have. This ‘blackface’ debate (as the American’s call it) should’ve ended here. But thanks to America’s Next Top Model and V Magazine, it seems to be back. Blackface in its simplest terms is theatrical make-up used by white people to make them look like black people. It has seriously negative connotations that goes back to 19th century America when it was used to perpetuate negative racial stereotypes. Given that it has this history it seems in bad taste that it seems to be on the rise.
Tyra Banks, the queen of addressing controversy head on, seems to have landed herself in it, when she had her wannabe models made up in ‘blackface’ for a shoot in a sugar plantation on Hawaii on a recent episode of America’s Next Top Model (in America).
V Magazine has also jumped on the bandwagon and as they say three is a trend. The editorial shot by Mario Sorrenti, sees ‘blackface’ featuring with models, Sasha Pivovarova and Heidi Mount.
For me, fashion needs to be cutting edge and forward thinking at the very least,, to excite and inspire people and controversy is often not far off. However, there is always a line that should not be crossed and I think that the resurgence of ‘blackface’ is that line. It does not add anything to the images, it does not tell a story that anyone wants to hear so why use it when there are countless black models waiting to be booked?