French Vogue puts model in blackface


It’s amazing what some people will do for attention. Or in this case, what some magazines will do. French Vogue is known for its daring, cutting-edge spreads, and often starts trends that are frantically duplicated. As such they have a responsibility to balance the daringness with responsibility, which is exactly what they didn’t do for their latest shoot. American photographer Steven Klein did a series with Dutch model Lara Stone in blackface. Actually not just blackface – because it’s Vogue, Stone’s obviously got to be showing a lot more skin than just her face. So the makeup artist painted her entire body black. Then for some shots, she painted over the black makeup with pure white makeup.

Seeking ever edgier territory, having dispensed with motherhood and cannibalism as sources of controversy, Vogue Paris took pictures of Dutch supermodel Lara Stone in blackface. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before!

In the October issue of the magazine is a 14-page editorial featuring the Dutch beauty. Shot by Steven Klein and styled by editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld, the piece starts off by praising Stone’s “sensual” body, her “uninhibited gappy teeth” and the “radical break with the wave of anorexic models” that she supposedly represents. Too bad they changed everything they claim to love about her for the shoot.

What Klein and Roitfeld should know — as the producers of the Australian program Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday also should have known — 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 as a form of popular entertainment going back to the 19th century, but something about the act of portraying a white woman as black ought to sound an alarm, somewhere.

The fact that the issue, dedicated to “Supermodels,” contains no black models, should also have been noticed, and corrected.

Given Klein is American, it would be nearly impossible to even argue that the magazine didn’t know what buttons it was pushing. It’s kind of sickening to think that minstrelsy has become just another “reference” for po-mo fashion editorials to “appropriate” to show how “edgy” they are, “conceptually.”

After painting Stone’s body brown, the makeup artist then apparently painted parts of her white again. Inexplicably, the editorial moves from the studio to a location. The token Lady Gaga picture at least clears up one troubling question: why it is that Stone spends the editorial wearing only a black thong on her lower half. I looked at this editorial, and I just thought, pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. When I got to this shot, I thought lame. Since when does Carine Roitfeld seem so out-of-date?

[From Jezebel]

Jezebel does a great job of summing up the issue with blackface when they note,
“…painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people is offensive in ways that stand entirely apart from cultural context.” And the photographer being American means there’s absolutely no way they could argue they weren’t aware of the implications of what they were doing. It’s ignorant and offensive. I’m all for edgy, but as I said above, it needs to be balance with some basic level of responsibility.

Last week we talked about the “Hey Hey Hey” blackface controversy with Harry Connick Jr. I’m surprised that there’s another one so quickly. Blackface is such an obvious – and rightful – taboo that the issue doesn’t come up all that often. The Vogue shoot was obviously completed before the “Hey Hey Hey” scandal – and that’s all the more reason to pull it. It never should have been done in the first place, but to think that it got past all these editors and is now actually out in print? It’s mind-boggling.

Scans thanks to Laetitia at The Fashion Spot.

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69 Responses to “French Vogue puts model in blackface”

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  1. Firestarter says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but somewhere these fashion magazines have jumped the shark.

    I don’t even find them interesting anymore, just caricatures of their former selves.

    Of course, that picture of Karl Lagerfeld, lying down with the red lipstick on, is the best I have seen him look!

  2. Ellen Smith says:

    There is nothing wrong with this photoshoot. Artistic license should not be constrained by political correctness. The political correctness movement has gone too far – is my new car the color black – no – it’s Madagascar, or ebony, or slate – we just can’t say or do anything without fear of backlash. How enlightening is that?

  3. Gemini says:

    Somewhere there is a black model thinking I could have totally nailed that shot and they would have saved a fortune on make up too! LOL

  4. Annicka says:

    It doesn’t look like blackface to me. It just looks like brown paint. Maybe my idea of blackface is different from everyone else’s, but when I see black paint with clowny white lips, I think blackface. She’s painted entirely brown, then given a second coating with crackling white paint.

    This poor girl must’ve needed a box of brillo pads to get clean.

  5. BitterBetty says:

    I was gonna say, Gemini… why don’t they just hire a black model?

    I guess that wouldn’t be artistic enough *eye roll*

  6. NIKKI says:

    I wouldn’t call this black face painting either. I mean, her whole body is painted, and it’s also not making fun of a group of people based on their colour/ethnicity- as was the intention of “blackface”. Although I agree with Gemini! hahah! Seriously that’s the first thing that popped into my head. Even I could’ve done that shoot! But, alas, I’m not a model. LOL

  7. NIKKI says:

    Oh – on a side note, I didn’t realise this was an editorial on Supermodels and no blacks were included. I mean, that could’ve been rectified. But, whatever, I don’t aspire to be a model nor do I look up to them for any inspiration of self, so I’m ok regardless.

  8. bros says:

    what if they painted her green? in this case, there is nothing contextual to suggest that this is ‘blackface’ in that there is no association or suggestion of minstrel anything. he painted her a color. jezebel’s comment is whack because blackface only ‘works’ in context with other cues. there is nothing here that is trying to make a white model do or look like an african american. she isnt imitating or signaling anything. much ado about nothing.

  9. Gemini says:

    Well amen Miss NIKKI! Well said. It seem s kinda cool to see what you look like as a person of a different race. Hmmm…I wonder how I would look as a white woman…LOL Everyone, lighten up! That’s an order damnit!

  10. Bec says:

    I think I’m going to have to disagree on this one. I am a black woman and I find there is a difference between blackface and painting a model brown. Blackface–a caricature of black people focusing on distorted stereotypes meant to offend–often utilizes black (not brown) grease paint with exaggerated, oversized lips painted white and/or red. Its intent is to lampoon, mock, and shame.

    However, using brown paint on the skin of a person who is not of African descent does not strike me as immediately inflammatory or offensive. There is a long history of the use of a spectrum of grease paint and masks in theater and I would suggest that a magazine editorial could be an extention of that tradition.

    I don’t see mockery here, nor a joke which inadvertently (or advertently) offends. Yes it would have been great if they’d hired a black model, but the woman they chose likely has other physical characteristics which made her the right choice for this particular spread.

    Personally, I’m just not looking for things to be offended by anymore. Yes, we need to call out blantant racism, misogyny, homophobia, and culturalism, but this doesn not strike me as something to get up in arms about.

    We can comment on race through art without it being racist.

  11. bros says:

    nice comment Bec.

  12. isyss says:

    So it is ok for Monique to mock “Jap Pan” and Germans et al. during her interview with Steve Harvey on her show, but some how a magazine dedicated to extremes in fashion is disrespectful of blacks by a model being painted brown? And why aren’t we calling out the blacks who bleach their skin i.e. Michael & LaToya Jackson, have nose jobs, wear white style wigs i.e. Beyonce, Tyra & most of the black community, but whites have to mind their p’s & q’s? Go to the comments section of the website “Crunk & Disorderly” & you will see far harsher comments from blacks about blacks.

  13. Diwali6 says:

    Bec’s the BOMB! Well said.

  14. Susette says:

    Bros, both your comments took the words right out of my mouth. Bec, beautifully said.

  15. Katyusha says:

    I think Jezebel is reading too much into nothing.

    @Bros – agree completely.

    She’s a model painted in a solid color. That’s it. It’s very artsy.
    But I love the high fashion editorials, so maybe I’m biased.

  16. original kate says:

    this fashion spread actually reminds me of elizabethan fashion, when the upper classes would paint their already pale faces pure white (and the face paint they were using had arsenic in it, so that explains some of their wacky behavior). in any case, i don’t see blackface here, but i do see an uninspired and rather boring photo shoot.

  17. hatsumomo says:

    She looks more like a dark skinned mexican than african. I had the impression blackface was black grease paint on the face- not brown all over the body.

  18. bros says:

    i wouldnt go there hatsumomo….

  19. Praise St. Angie! says:

    “Personally, I’m just not looking for things to be offended by anymore. Yes, we need to call out blantant racism, misogyny, homophobia, and culturalism, but this doesn not strike me as something to get up in arms about.”

    A-FREAKIN’-MEN, Bec. people tend to make things a racial issue when they’re not. there’s enough racism out there, we don’t need to look for it where it doesn’t exist.

  20. mel says:

    @Bec, I agree, I’m not offended and think it was tastefully done.

  21. Kerri says:

    @Bec – I applaud your comment.

    While i can appreciate the artistic value in the shoot and i don’t think it was an attack on blacks, the first thing that came to my mind was – why didn’t they just get a darker skinned model to do the shoot?

  22. bros says:

    because the shoot was obviously about paint. not about skin color.

  23. Stephie says:

    Well said Bec.
    I think this whole shoot was a waste of makeup.

  24. Cath says:

    Why not just hire a black model?

  25. HEB says:

    They should have painted her blue or something

  26. linda says:

    interesting, dont like how her legs are cocked open in the header pic, otherwise…as you were.
    Black chick not offended!! And she looks bronze not black sooooo…breathe people we have enough crap going on like people being mad Obama won an award dont need any extra!!

  27. rose says:

    i don’t think it counts as black face- i mean it’s not intended to ridicule black people which minstrels obviously were and its not about hiring a black model, i don’t think they painted her brown so that they could have a black model it seems to be more a use of extreme theatrical makeup. the fact that they didn’t use any black models in their shoot is a different issue

  28. Allie says:

    Yikes, those pictures are terrifying! The way the model looks with the crackley white paint is going to haunt my nightmares. I think the brown paint is the least problematic part of the entire shoot. I’m not much of a fan of high fashion so I guess I just don’t get it.

  29. crash2GO2 says:

    Jaybird, why would you even categorize this as blackface? It’s a model painted brown. All over. Even her hair. *shrug*

    Of course I consider myself the last person qualified to discuss racial matters as I admit I am clueless. It took me the longest time to figure out what the big deal was with Barak Obama running for president. I honestly didn’t notice he was black.

  30. maddie says:

    I agree with Bec, being a black woman I find nothing racist about this shoot at all, matter of it reminds me of those Italian Harlequins.

    That’s what came to my mind when looking at the whole photo shoot.

  31. Annicka says:

    crash – For the longest time I thought the issue with Obama running for president was his name! I didn’t notice his race either. Since his name is Muslim, I thought people were freaking out over that. Turns out the real reason was just as silly.

  32. Ellie says:

    Meh. I don’t find this to be racist towards black people. I’m just scratching my head over why they didn’t just use a black model.

  33. Maritza says:

    I don’t care for it at all, but it’s no different than using that damn oompa loompa look that celebrities have been using lately. Either way it stupid.

  34. GatsbyGal says:

    I don’t think this is offensive or cutting-edge or interesting or anything like that…it just looks stupid. Incredibly stupid. I can’t believe people actually get paid money for making these outfits and designing this makeup and taking these pictures. I mean, really? Really??

  35. mollination says:

    The only thing that’s mind boggling to me is why blackface is offensive.

    I seriously don’t understand why we are so hypersensitive about black skin that a white person cannot don a costume to make them appear black.

    “Black” has become no-mans land. You can’t even touch it, because if you do, it’s OFFENSIVE.

    What part is offensive? Seriously. It’s not like they dressed her up as some black-stereotype. And don’t tell me it’s because doing this took a job away from a black person – that wasn’t the point of the shoot. They could have done the same thing with a black girl by painting her white. So beyond that, enlighten me. Why is this offensive?

    On an episode of America’s Next Top Model, tyra dressed all the girls up as different ethnicities to show how ambiguous we all really are. It was really interesting. And I do believe Tyra is black the last time I checked?

  36. Cheyenne says:

    They couldn’t find a black model? WTF?

  37. GatsbyGal says:

    Mollination – you really don’t understand why blackface is offensive? Just so you know, what these models are wearing isn’t true blackface. Blackface used to be worn by white performers in order to caricaturize black people.

    Also, I don’t think you understand the use of the phrase “no-man’s land.” No-man’s land is a neutral ground.

  38. Katyusha says:

    For those of you who keep wondering why they didn’t use a black model…please, stop wondering.

    As many people have mentioned, that wasn’t the point of this shoot. They weren’t trying to make her a different race, they just painted her a different color. Period.

  39. hmm says:

    mollination, if you’re unsure why blackface is a sensitive issue for black Americans you could do some research on its uses throughout history. I can assure you that the main purpose was to denigrate black Americans. We can quibble about this depiction but it would be a travesty to act as if the general abhorrence of blackface is trivial. As to the tired Tyra reference, according to you, she showed all different races and ethnicities. Even you would agree that her INTENTION was not to denigrate any group. That would be a key distinction. Also, for the record, no group is off limits for honest and respectful discussions about race, ethnicity, or sexuality. I have found that most people are willing to be open as long as the other person is not accusatory, judgmental, or rigid in their beliefs.

  40. Kaboom says:

    Apart from not being relevant as a publication to anything but the art of self-indulgence, very specific American sensibilities are of no deeper significance to a magazine appearing in France. Get over yourselves or prepare to equally bash anyone in the US who portraits the French as rude smokers who are drunk before noon.

  41. omondieu says:

    Bec rocks. 🙂

  42. I Choose Me says:

    I’m black and I’m with Bec.

  43. history says:

    First off, “politically correct” is a bs term people use to deflect criticism of shitty/ignorant behavior. It’s lazy. It allows you to never have to consider how someone else might feel.

    Everything isn’t about race, but some things are. Just because you haven’t picked up on racial subtext doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    It could mean that YOU don’t get IT. You could listen and reflect and try to understand …or you can defend your right to remain ignorant of perspectives other than your own.

  44. PinkLady says:

    Can the US send an official statement to the world on what shade makeup they can allow, what we can and cannot do. Are black jellybeans legal in the US and if not should we hide ours if they come visit? Are afro wigs ok? Is the surname Blackman ok? How long we need to serve the time for an American crime?


  45. Bete says:

    This isn’t anything about artistic license. If that is the case, then those who are for this BS ‘artistic license’ wouldn’t object to women being portrayed with obviously (artificially) slanted eyes?There are many (more attractive) natural dark skinned models out there (when I use the term dark skinned, I mean from a variety of countries, not just African), but someone needs to ask why French Vogue, namely, it’s ugly editor, made this decision.
    French Vogue perfectly summarizes the undercurrent of racist views within France. Many prominent personalities, including Brigitte Bardot, have proclaimed their ‘nationalist’ (aka racist) views publicly. France may have many ethnic groups but it is not a country that embraces ethnic diversity.

  46. K McFarlane says:

    Beautifully said Bec.

    Bete, it feels like you’re looking to take offence.

  47. Merridith says:

    That is really not what is considered “blackface” that is just dressing as a black person or pretending a costume, “blackface, the early American blackface Is more like what Ted Danson did, the overly exagerated features.”
    Neat pictures though, it looks like “art”, not “blackface”

  48. Merridith says:

    Wow pink lady what is up your butt???

  49. cassandria white says:

    I think she looks stupid, why not use a black women instead of a wanna be.

  50. wow says:

    If they want to showcase a black supermodel, then hire a black supermodel. The styling for the pictures could have remained the same by using a black model. This spread could have been accomplished without having to paint someone brown. There are a multitude of brown models who could have rocked this shoot.

    But French Vogue knew what they were doing. Controversy sells magazines. And the fashion magazine industry is in dire need of subscribers and press.

  51. Robert Whitefeather says:

    Geez folks. This is an artistic expression. Get over your assumptions that everything is about offending a certain group of people. There are boneheads who will find anything, and everything to whine about. Poor babies. Boo hoo. Look up “ego-centric”. Tell ya what: Join a military organization, go to war, get shot at and get over yourselves. Put’s things in perspective for you. Or try this; Come live with my people in the Blackfoot Nation, you’ll learn to appreciate all forms of art.

  52. Firestarter says:

    Gee Pinklady, have you noticed our President?

    Get over yourself!

    And what effin crime are you even talking about?

  53. shevot says:

    i have found that often when a big deal is made out of issues like this, it isn’t black people who bring it out. it is often the media stirring up drama. i am a black woman and i am not offended by this in the least and i have heard not one black person make mention of this, i just happened upon this article. anyway the photos are not appealing imo they are atrocious but not because of race or whatever, they are just not cute at all imo she just looks ugly with the brown paint on. they should have just hired a black model if that was even the look they were going for. but a white woman painted brown, there is nothing cute about that. imho

  54. Annie says:

    I think that there’s a fine line between artistic license and offensive imagery.

    I want to say that I don’t think they viewed it as racist or offensive. So that kind of takes the malice and intent away from what we Americans understand racism to come with.

    It probably wasn’t the brightest move, but I don’t think it was blackface (and all its awful history) either.

    I’d also like to note that Europeans view race relations in a completely different way from us.

    I mean, if you visit Spain or France (those being the only countries I’ve seen LOL, so I probably shouldn’t have made the broad statement of “Europeans”..but anyway), you notice that most of the shows only display light-skinned people and honestly, in the time I spent in Spain (and from my sister’s recounts of her semester abroad in Europe, mainly France and Germany), 1. I got stared at like crazy, but I’m gonna chalk that up to my being so pretty and not because I’m Vietnamese (LOL) but 2. On a serious note, I did notice that every single african person (and I mean EVERY) in Barcelona were vagrants of some sort, either prostituting themselves or trying to sell you cheap handbags and beer in the alleys.

    So it makes you wonder why so many can’t obtain legal jobs. Maybe it’s not a race thing, perhaps it a nationality thing, I’m unsure. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, I’m particularly on the fence about this.

    I can understand why people would take offense and in the same vein, I can see why people think that would be an overreaction.

    IMHO: It was just in poor taste.

  55. michellllle says:

    If anyone should be offended it’s white people. She looks fantastic in the brown paint & just ghastly in the white paint. Moreover, it reminds of the saying, “black don’t crack”. How quickly & easily pale skin ages is the real tragedy.

    Whether you find the spread artistic or not it is a refreshing change. Yeah it is the same old stale poses, & it seems to be yet another model both under age & under nourished, but hey at least they finally mixed it up a bit.

  56. Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

    I think the shoot is intentionally skirting a line, thus stirring up publicity through catalyzing debate over the nebulous nature of the portrayal.

    This particular incident doesn’t stick in my craw, but some of these comments do. You can’t just shove people out of the discourse, drag them back in, expect them to be entirely ameliorative to this whims and get vexed when they can’t be moulded on someone else’s terms and on someone else’s schedule. Isn’t ‘art’ ostensibly meant to spark and spur discussion?

    Are some people hypersensitive and looking for a fight? Sure. Does it negate the validity in the minds of some because of this preceding sensitivity? Sadly yes. However, bloviating about how people need to just ‘get over it’ is counterproductive and makes people defensive. I have chronic pain because of injuries sustained in a car wreck when I was eleven. I don’t think that someone telling me to ‘shutup’ is going to abate the pain, and ‘getting over it’ isn’t a cure for scar tissue.

    However, America is not the only game in town when it comes to racial discrimination, and to think that people are feeling attacked because of historical fact is…interesting. Good thing that there was never such a thing as military or cultural imperialism. And the fact that a negative comment on blackface or some backlash against a fashion shoot consititutes as paying for someone else’s crime is pretty damned rich, I have to say. No one is personally responsibile for a tainted legacy, but no one is suggesting that that is the case. But as I live and breathe, if ‘European History’–for example–decided to hold a dinner party, I can’t see this exchange happening:

    ‘Hey, you know what we’ve never done?’
    ‘No, what?’
    ‘Anything wrong!’

    Everybody carps about free speech until someone else exercises it, and that’s when the knives come out. But seriously, to hear privilege grouse about not having more privilige is…what is that? Just as it easy to pull out the ‘race card’, so is the case for reactionary invective to be spewed ad hominem and ad nauseum.

    At any rate, that we’re even able to do this proves that all is not lost.

  57. Indigo says:

    I’m as Black as they come, beautiful nappy hair and all and I totally agree with Bec. I’m not offended by this at all.

  58. kennedy says:

    Get real, this is not black face!

    You people who have a problem with this apparetly have no idea of black face and what it looks like.

    This girl looks AMAZING and I don;t find that anyone had any intention of making fun of black people which was the intention of early minstral shows.

  59. sexycandy says:

    i am a “african american woman” and i am not upset about this at all. people trying to get my color is actually flattering. the people that said we were ugly because of the color of our skin are the people who are tanning and paying for lips and asses. you know, everything that blacks are blessed with. not mad at all. (lol)

  60. Praise St. Angie! says:

    the more I look at her, the more I think they wanted to make her look like she was made of milk chocolate.

  61. amber says:

    I’m certain the shoot was not about race at all! The images are striking and make you aware of the process of making up the model for the shoot. If this was an editorial on supermodels, perhaps the methods were there to point out the fact that supermodels have to completely transform themselves at the whim of everyone else. That they are a glorified coathanger on which to hang WHATAVER the boss wants.

    There is not one single thing offensive about this spread, except perhaps towards models in general.

  62. AlisonLovesSean says:

    Why not just hire a black model? They need money too.

    How much time (money) and labor (money) and makeup (money) did it cost to turn the white model (money) into a “black” model?

  63. pickelhaube says:

    Mama Besser-

    Um, are you serious? EVERYTHING that has ever gone wrong in history is blamed on Europeans nowadays, so please don’t think that any of us think we aren’t capitalist colonialist imperialist pigs, because we are told that each and every day of our lives. I am not saying that Europeans have done nothing wrong, but the issue we have is with being blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong on this planet. Maybe if some other cultures took even 1% of some personal responsibility for their issues, more people of European descent would be more willing to take some blame, but by attacking us and blaming us for everything bad, while never giving us any credit for the massive GOOD we’ve done makes people a little bit defensive and angry.

    A good example is Zimbabwe. They’ve been out from colonial rule for a good long while, yet they are way worse off now than they ever were under colonialism. Yet now that they are masters of their own destiny, they’re failing horribly, but who do they blame? EUROPEANS! S. Africa is another example as well. It was a First World country just over 25 years ago, and is now basically a Third World country, and they refuse to take any of that responsibility, instead they blame Europe and colonialism. The more people blame past actions for their current situations, the longer they’ll remain in those situations. These are just the facts, whether or not they fit in with the prevailing “hate and blame Europe” mindset, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not doing some research on the subject.

  64. pickelhaube says:

    Oh, and I don’t appreciate being attacked because of something that was done YEARS before I was even born. How am I, or any other European-descendant responsible for the actions of others? If your father robbed a house, should YOU be punished? NO! You had nothing to do with it! That is how we feel…and even though we are trying to learn and grow as people, it is never, EVER enough. We can never do enough to make up for the past, so is it any wonder why people don’t even try? Especially when we didn’t even personally have anything to do with any of it?

    And way to fall back on the “imperialism” talking point. I knew you would…it just shows a lack of understanding of the subject matter. If the roles were reversed and other cultures had been capable of doing what we did, they would have done so, so why try and take the moral high ground here? It’s HUMAN NATURE, not a race issue, and to turn it into one is disingenuous and just plain wrong. But I guess since so much attention and fawning comes from pulling the race card, people are gonna go with what works, right? Crap like this just ensures that there will never be true racial harmony…but even though the Europeans aren’t to blame for this, we’ll once again be blamed. Like usual.

  65. Aspen says:

    That isn’t blackface. That is makeup intended to make her look African. There is a very, VERY distinct difference. Blackface is horrifyingly racist. Brown makeup to make someone look African or just…brown…is not.

  66. NFLer says:

    I would have liked to seen other colors used too. I just love makeup, the use color and photography and for what they were trying to achieve I think they did.

  67. Mr.Carrot23 says:

    Anyone failing to satisfy any of these criteria would be deported immediately, without the possibility of appeal. ,

  68. Mr.Carrot45 says:

    It seems neither adequate nor possible to dissect into discrete ‘properties’ the pattern of an organism which is essentially a unity, a ‘whole’. ,

  69. I love french vogue for this reason. It’s so edgy and pushed the envelope. American’s are too conservative.