I saw the latest French Vogue when I was in Paris last week. I peeped the offensive Lara Stone in blackface story but I was too harried to address it in a post earlier. There’s so much offensive content out there when it comes to race that if I were to address everything, this forum would become an annoying soapbox for airing all the racial insensitivities I see in fashion.
To my surprise, the offense of the French Vogue story started to pick up steam in the American press (of course, this wouldn’t happen in French press) and after viewing a CNN segment on the issue yesterday, it was time for me to weigh in. To put this fiasco in the simpliest terms, Steven Klein lensed a story with Lara Stone as the model dressed in black face in a few shots and is wearing ethnic looking clothing. She’s so black looking, if you weren’t familiar with the model, you’d think she was a new fierce black face.
The whole thing feels icky. Why play around with such a racially touchy issue? Or why not use a black model? Blackface historically has been used as a way for whites to parody blacks. Back in those days the lips were exaggerated and these white characters in blackface jumped around the stage looking like buffoons—a commentary on the lack of intelligence of black people. Carine Roitfeld is French, she may not be so familiar with this history; it may have gone over her head. Steven Klein however lives in America and you’d think that a flag would have been raised that this may not be ok, it’s a frigging blackface shoot for crying out loud. No such self-checking took place.
And to add sting to the wound, this issue of French Vogue was about celebrating models yet not one black model appears in the issue. Ahem! This has me re-thinking the Andre J cover a couple years back. Andre appeared with Carolyn Murphy on the cover of November 2007 French Vogue wearing a fetching turquoise coat cum dress, a Louise Brooks-esque bob and in full beard. What a creative tour de force, I thought, now my thinking is, was that buffoonery?