2.27.2013

The White "African Queen"


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Nope, you're not seeing things.  This is a white girl, 16-year-old model Ondria Hardin, posing in Numero magazine as an African Queen.  She was painted from head to toe in bronzer *coughhackblackfacecough* for the shoot because, obviously, there are no working models who are, you know, really black.  This, to me, is a perfect example of "they don't want to be us but they want to look like us".

I strongly agree with Laura Beck's statement to the Huffington Post:
It's impossible to look at this and not ache for young women of color who want to pursue careers in modeling (and arguably, fashion by extension). When they don't see themselves on the runway or in magazines, it could be very easy for them to think, "huh, I guess modeling isn't for me." Then the status quo remains, and the runways remain monotone. If jobs for "African Queen" photo spreads aren't going to black women, what hope is there?
I would like to believe there is hope, but when I see things like this... *shakes head*

You know what I love about this though?  The crazy justifications for it!  People are saying "Hold up, some Africans are white!"  Well duh, some Africans are of European or Asian decent as well.  But does a blond-haired blue-eyed girl come to mind when one thinks of an African Queen?  No, I don't think so.  Clearly it didn't come to the mind of the photographer or editor when they thought to paint this girl's skin darker and okayed the printing, respectively.

But it gets better than the silly justifications.  No, seriously, it does.  Sadly.

To add insult upon injury, both Numero magazine and the photographer, Sebastian Kim, sent "apologies" to The Huffington Post.  Observe:

Some people have declared that they have been offended by the publication in Numéro magazine n°141 of March 2013, of an editorial realized by the photographer Sebastian Kim called “African Queen”, featuring the American model Ondria Hardin posing as an “African queen”, her skin painted in black. 
The artistic statement of the photographer Sebastian Kim, author of this editorial, is in line with his previous photographic creations, which insist on the melting pot and the mix of cultures, the exact opposite of any skin color based discrimination. Numéro has always supported the artistic freedom of the talented photographers who work with the magazine to illustrate its pages, and has not took part in the creation process of this editorial. 
For its part, Numéro Magazine, which has the utmost respect for this photographer’s creative work, firmly excludes that the latest may have had, at any moment, the intention to hurt readers’ sensitivity, whatever their origin. 
Numéro Magazine considers that it has regularly demonstrated its deep attachment to the promotion of different skin-colored models. For instance, the next issue of Numéro for Man on sale on 15th march has the black model Fernando Cabral on the cover page, and the current Russian edition’s cover of our magazine features the black model Naomi Campbell on its cover. This demonstrates the completely inappropriate nature of the accusations made against our magazine, deeply committed to the respect for differences, tolerance and more generally to non-discrimination. 
Considering the turmoil caused by this publication, the Management of Numéro Magazine would like to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this editorial. 
--Numero Magazine
Now, let us analyze this "apology".  Firstly, the magazine claims there is no discrimination as they respect the idea of a melting pot, a mix of cultures.  Oh, and they frown upon discrimination...which is why they didn't choose a black model for this shoot.  Hmm.  And we readers?  Well, we're just too sensitive.  Then we have the famous "I'm not racists because I have black friends" type of justification in the form of "our magazine is not racist because we use POC as models".  And in closing, we see that we're been fooled; this ain't an apology at all since the accusations were "inappropriate" in the first place.

Inappropriate Numero?  Really?  But this is not the first time you've done this, jus' sayin'...:

From Numero magazine, 2010.
Another painted white model. *facepalm*
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Sebastian Kim's "apology":

I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France. It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story. Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60's characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot. 
It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race. I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images. It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended. 
Sincerely,
Sebastian Kim
I'm gonna call BS on his "inspiration" and the fact that he "didn't know".  None of the models he mentioned are as dark-skinned as Ondria was made to be, and if he was shocked at the title of the spread when it came out he should have protested from the get-go.

As annoying, shocking, and offensive as this spread and the "apologies" are, I was quite happy to pictures on Tumblr from another recent fashion story from Vogue Japan titled "The Vanishing Underground" featuring two African models, David Agboji and Liya Kebede.  It's gorgeous:

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See Numero magazine?  Black models do exist.

35 comments:

  1. I'm at the stage of life when I desperately want to be surprised by someone's antics. Sebastian Kim is a waste of precious oxygen.

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    1. Bad enough & even cynically expected if the participants are white, but both Kim & NUMERO editor Nawel Abechar appear to be PoC. Ooh, the goddamned irony.

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  2. *effing eye-roll* That fact that this is the 4th or 5th time in the past 5 years that we're calling out fashion mags for the shyt just tells me that they don't give a damn.

    Oh, and when I see fellow Black people justifying this with, "Well, you do have White Africans*!", I realize people still think Massa's ice is colder.

    *Funny, they can't explain why she's bronzed up to high heavens as a White African.

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    1. *Funny, they can't explain why she's bronzed up to high heavens as a White African.

      And hideous as hell.

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    2. Sad how some Blacks justify it. Here is a question(or questions) that I would ask them: 1)Do they believe that colonialism and/or slavery was good for the world 2)That its okay for people to trespass on ones culture,their way of life and identity 3) Its okay that for Whites to be representative of Black beauty and/or used as characters for movies,while you're being told that you can't play White because yours Black.Something is terribly wrong if stuff like this is ok. Want to destroy cultures, just be indifferent to history. It happened once and people are slowly trying to bring it back.

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    3. M, that was perfect. I'm so going to quote you.

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  3. Why am I not surprised? Strangely enough, the first thought in my head was, "Leomie Anderson would look fetching in the last three outfits." But hey, if they could screw up on the makeup in Cloud Atlas, then why not intentionally bollocks everything in the fashion world, for the sake of haute couture?

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  4. Fashion mags are always pulling this kind of fuckery. I never read them for that reason.

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  5. I really hate that people were/are using the "white African" excuse to justify blackface, which is just another reason why I will always be against white people daring to identify as African. It's funny that I've received a lot of hate for saying that I don't consider the descendants of Europeans (or Arabs for that matter) to be African but apparently there is no problem when "white African" is a reason to put a white model in blackface, or when some European scholar grumbles about how an African country is "too African", or when someone goes on about how a beautiful African language is really connected to the land...when that language is Afrikaans. I find it doubly messed up that some Black Africans are okay with "white Africans" yet would deny that the Amazigh, Nubians or Beja (you know just the indigenous people of North Africa who were there before Arab colonialism) are African or that people who are descendants of indigenous Africans in the Diaspora are African. Ugh, I seem to have gone off on a tangent here *sigh* anyway Liya Kebede looks excellent as usual in those photos.

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    1. I don't consider the descendants of Europeans (or Arabs for that matter) to be African

      Neither do I.

      I find it doubly messed up that some Black Africans are okay with "white Africans" yet would deny that the Amazigh, Nubians or Beja (you know just the indigenous people of North Africa who were there before Arab colonialism) are African or that people who are descendants of indigenous Africans in the Diaspora are African.

      Mm-hm...like the Fulani and the Hausa.

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    2. Bring the tangents, please, this is definitely worth world awareness. When I was researching for the Selo & Inya cover art, I ran into a lot of North African information and I have to say that I am very interested, especially in the context happening right here.

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  6. The magazine wanted publicity and got it. What is sad is supposedly there are five models of color in the same agency they could have used!

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    1. The magazine wanted publicity and got it.

      Racism sells. Used to be "sex sells" but now if you really want that publicity, you gotta go the racist route.

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    2. Well we have a black U.S. president so now out comes the racism. Racism disguised as art. Racism disguised as comedy. Black face disguised as "equal opportunity". Call someone on it, you have "issues" and are "divisive".

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  7. Every industry seems to think they're some kind of exception when it comes to this crap, but the fashion industry in particular has always seemed (to me) like they are completely oblivious to the possibility of discrimination. It's weird...

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    1. On a brighter note, LOVING the Vogue Japan pics :)

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    2. Give a shout out to the Vogue Japan pics. Now they did it right!

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  8. Out of all the statuesque beautiful African models on that continent, you tell me that they couldn't find not one? Pleazzze! They think Africans/Black people are supposed to swallow this and respect this form of " art" because she portrayed an African woman.Oh no. If its not the real thing, it's more than an insult.Poor little Quevashine Wallis can't seem to get a break from her racist detractors for being considered for the role of Annie. Hypocrisy at its best.

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    1. Poor little Quevashine Wallis can't seem to get a break from her racist detractors for being considered for the role of Annie.

      Why do they have a problem? Willow Smith was supposed to do it, but she is too old for the role now. Were they complaining about her having the role too?

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  9. I love clothes, but that's one of the reasons why I don't bother buying or reading them anymore. I think that sometimes the directors of these magazines don't care for their non-white readers at all, they mainly target white people, and that's what matters the most to them.

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  10. You know what's the most damning thing about this whole scenario? Both the magazine editor & the photographer are people of color as well, as evidenced by their names and a cursory Google search. Guess there's no accounting for taste -_-'

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    1. To quote Zora Neale Huston, "All my skinfolk ain't kinfolk".

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  11. "Hold up, some Africans are white!"

    I can't get past the fact that people are ACTUALLY saying that.
    All native Africans are Black, everyone else is an immigrant. *looks pointedly at the occupants to the north and south*

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    1. Some people just 'want to be friends' no matter what. Rather than addressing the elephant in the room (i.e. "WHY the hell did they brown-up a white model instead of hiring one of the black ones from the same modelling agency?! Especially for an African Queen pictorial?!!"), we get this 'White African' kumbaya bullshyt excuse.

      Call me when they do a Scandinavian pictorial with Alek Wek.

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    2. "Call me when they do a Scandinavian pictorial with Alek Wek."

      HAHA, yes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      So funny that today in church we were discussing anatomy (as you do) and a man said "20% of whites do not have this muscle" then a south african (white) said "what about the percentage of us blacks?" Literally all the blacks looked at her and were like "you know your descendants are white right?"....Some south africans are convinced they are...black.

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    3. All native Africans are Black, everyone else is an immigrant.

      I just have to say that not all indigenous Africans are Black! Our Amazigh cousins up North come in different shades, from black to brown to pale white and they are native to the African continent. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the light-skinned people of North Africa are not Arab, but Amazigh, they are indigenous and share cultural links and history with West Africa (most Amazigh are not "mixed" either, rather it was them that "mixed" southern Europeans). Amazigh people can be found from Morocco straight down to Burkina Faso. I highly recommend this excellent article; Africa has not yet lost its North written by a young amazing Amazigh activist.

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  12. Fashion Bomb posted on this same thing on their facebook, and here was my response:

    I don't get why people are making excuses by saying there are white people in Africa. There are, and that's great but does that mean they own (black) African culture too? There are black people in France but nobody wants to give them an equal stake in French identity even when they're playing soccer for them.

    And if people want to talk about how this is "just art", art is open to interpretation and usually has symbolism and meaning. So in my opinion this "art" is metaphoric for a very complicated colonial history whether that is the intent or not. People aren't upset for nothing.

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    1. There are, and that's great but does that mean they own (black) African culture too? There are black people in France but nobody wants to give them an equal stake in French identity even when they're playing soccer for them.

      There it is. The people of African descent all over the world go through hoops and backbending circles just to get a piece of the identity pie and white people want to come to any African country and claim that they are "white African". kmt

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  13. Joan Smalls is going to be on the cover of Vogue Korea for March 2013.

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  14. This is racism disguised as art. And yet this is the post discriminatory/racist/ unequal western society we live in. You gotta love the media.

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