by Rebecca Nuttall
Courier Staff Writer
Last week the fashion industry was again criticized for it’s lack of racial sensitivity when a spread in Vogue Netherlands featured a White model sporting blackface.
The editorial spread featuring blonde model Querelle Jansen, complete with black face paint and afro inspired wig, was meant to evoke images of Black style icons Josephine Baker and Grace Jones, two women who broke barriers in the entertainment industry. The question most are asking: why wouldn’t Vogue just use a Black model?
“Here’s the thing, fashion is art and part of art is intended to shock, intended to create a buzz and controversy, but when you’re dealing with the underrepresentation of people of color, that’s a very tricky tight rope to walk,” said Lamont Jones, local fashion expert and former fashion editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
For Jones, the issue is about more than the resurgence of a racist tradition. He says it reflects the lack of diversity in the fashion industry as a whole, or more specifically the fashion industry’s refusal to embrace more African-American models.
“There are plenty of African-American models of all shades that you don’t have to use blackface in an editorial,” Jones said. “These magazines don’t have people of color; there might be tokens here and there but it’s going backwards.”
Diversity has long been a problem in the fashion industry and for Vogue in particular. The fashion magazine has only had 14 covers featuring models of color in its 118 years of existence.
But the Netherlands in general has perhaps a worse reputation for racist behavior. In January, an African-American soccer player was subjected to racist chants during a Dutch Cup match in the country. And dressing in blackface is also part of the country’s Christmas holiday celebration.
Although the editorial spread was run in Vogue Netherlands, Jones said it reflects on the entire Vogue brand. Vogue’s publisher Conde Nast, which is responsible for publishing Vogue variations in 21 countries, is in fact an American company.
“What people need to do is boycott Vogue and take to task the people who run things. They keep doing because no one gets mad enough; it’s ridiculous,” Jones said. “There needs to be some accountability. Where’s the outrage?”
What do you think? Should Vogue and Conde Nast be held responsible for this racially insensitive editorial spread?