Monday, August 04, 2008


I believe in giving credit where credit is due and will sing the praises of Italian Vogue, particularly photographer, Steven Meisel, and editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, for showcasing the wealth of talent and beauty that's abundant in the black community.

Vogue has been much maligned, on this blog and elsewhere, for their seemingly singular focus on perpetuating the view that lighter skin, and fine European, features are the epitome of beauty. Consider the inaugural Vogue India and Vogue China covers. I mean, we all know that beauty comes in many shades and forms, but the continual bombardment of everything but women of color is pretty annoying, isn't it? Or maybe it isn't, but if it isn't, it may be because we are so used to seeing the same images that we become desensitized (or start to accept the familiar as truth).

It's little wonder that July's Italian Vogue, touted as the all-black issue, was so widely anticipated. The blogosphere and traditional media were abuzz with talk of this groundbreaking issue--featuring Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez and Jourdan Dunn as covergirls. But, I kept thinking: "What's so groundbreaking about a magazine featuring women all of the same race...I mean, we see that all the time, no?" Obviously, this issue is special because for the first time, women of color, specifically black women, grace most of the pages.

Check out the slide show below for images from Italian Vogue All-Black issue.

And, while there may be "innocuous" reasons for the dearth of women of color in fashion magazines (and on the runways) --the lack of black models may be because of a misguided focus on the color green instead of on any particular skin color--I do think that the underlying reasons all stem from the same horrible place and, as such, is not quite so harmless. It's only fashion, but women and girls are affected, on many levels, by the images that they see in magazines. So, if some women starve and continuously diet in attempts to achieve the waifish ideal that was so rampant on the runways and in magazines, imagine the damage that's inflicted on women and girls of color who (cosmetic surgery-bleaching creams-contact lenses and hair extensions-notwithstanding) will never become white.

While this issue stands as a flagrant slap in the face of traditional notions of beauty--and squashed the idea that black faces don't sell magazines--I was disappointed to note that almost every advertisement (with the exception of a couple) featured white models. Also, maybe it's just me, forgive me, I don't read Italian (or any of the European) Vogues often, but was anyone else taken aback by the blatant (hyper) sexuality? Let's just say this issue was provocative in more ways than one...

Pros: (i) black models are gorgeous; (ii) Photography is magnificent; (iii) issue was well rounded--spotlighted models from back in the day as well young talent, even featured Essence and Ebony magazines.

Cons: (i) most of the ads feature non-black women; (ii) the issue is written in Italian (duh, can't have it all; who needs to read when we can look at the beautiful photos-- see first and second romanettes in pros section above); (iii) issue is faddish, are these women mere caricatures, is it now ok to return to the status quo?

The winners of the two issues featured in the post below are: Q. Meyers from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Monique W. from Belleview, Florida--they, and many others, knew that Sessilee Lopez is originaly from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Congratulations!


Christina said...

I think, in general, they're just more comfortable with sexuality there. The thought crossed my mind as well when I saw scans from the issue. But I remembered reading/hearing about there being porn rental booths, or something like that, in Italy and how people were shocked by it when they went over there for the last winter Olympics in Turin (Torino).

Resa said...
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Resa said...
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Resa said...

Somehow to me these pictures do not appear overtly sexual – just beautiful. I think its amazing that the photographer could capture the strong (and sometimes viewed as “automatically sexual”) features of black women, and still attract your eyes to the marvelous fashion! No easy task, which is why I believe black women are often left out of the high fashion magazines. Vogue and others simply don’t want to invest the time and money it takes to create the mindset that black women can sell also your clothing, and not just their face or body. One odd thing to note is that there really weren’t any dark skin models. And I do agree with Iman about the women becoming mere caricatures.

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