The XX Factor

Is the Use of Blackface in French Vogue Offensive?

There’s always been something a little obnoxious about French Vogue’ s attention-pleading “artistic” endeavors. Two years ago, the September issue featured some devil-worshipping size zeros drawing blood crosses on goats and last April’s rebellious motherhood spread unsurprisingly had the mom-o-sphere’s collective panties in a bunch . So what was left on the roster to draw gasps this month? Blackface, obviously.

In the latest issue, Dutch (and very white) model Lara Stone is painted black for an extensive photo shoot styled by editor Carine Roitfeld. I can see how one might position the spread more as social commentary rather than blatant racism-as the spread progresses, more patches of Stone’s real skin color keep breaking through, highlighting the fact that the previous shots were just a construction, that race itself is just a construction. But then again, Vogue doesn’t operate in a post-racial vacuum, and that’s a pretty obvious-not to mention grade-school simplistic-piece of social commentary to point out, especially when it hinges on something so historically offensive. It seems more likely that the blackface bet was taken to ensure that the spread would become a sensationalistic talking point. It may not be offensive, exactly, but it’s definitely obnoxious.

What is offensive: hiring a white woman to pose as a black woman when it’s no secret that black models rarely get jobs in the fashion world. To make matters worse, Jezebel points out that not one actual black model was used in the ENTIRE issue, and New York magazine’s blog The Cut names them:”The roster - including Kate Moss, Kristen McMenamy, Yasmin Le Bon, Eva Herzigova, Claudia Schiffer, Anna Selezneva, Diane Kruger, Constance Jabloski, and Eniko Mihalik - is entirely white.”