French Vogue Paints White Model Black ... and Itself into a Corner
French Vogue's set off the sensitivity meter with its decision to paint Dutch model Lara Stone black for the October issue.
Another thing that bears mentioning, if only for its strangeness: after painting Stone brown, the makeup artist painted parts of her white again for some shots.
This is racking up the usual stink about racism in advertising (Birth of a Nation comes, unbeckoned, to mind). Commentary ranges from "Why not just use an African model?!!" to arguments that the move is a statement on the complexity of race and identity. Some people also think this is a knee-jerk reaction; one user observed that the rag once dressed a woman up as a man, and nobody complained.
Lady blog Jezebel has made its own view plain, however:
What [photographers] Klein and Roitfeld should know [...] is that painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people is offensive in ways that stand entirely apart from cultural context. France and Australia may not have the United States' particular history of minstrel shows [...] but something about the act of portraying a white woman as black ought to sound an alarm, somewhere.
French Vogue insists it is unaware of any controversy, which is bitchy regardless of how you feel about the photos' intentions, and IMG -- which represents Stone -- is simply keeping mum. But President Dominique Sopo of French org SOS Racisme admitted the shoot was "tactless" at best.
"If the aim was artistic, and not to pass off the model as a black girl, the fact that it produces such reactions shows that the world of images - advertising, fashion, whatever - is now paying for its long tradition of not allowing black people to show their bodies in public."