Sunday, March 3, 2013


'I am an African woman. Yet I am white...' Marie Claire magazine's Marisa Crous insists in a response to the controversy surrounding Numero Magazine's 'African Queen' shoot. See, the shoot uses a white model which some argue is not right. I don't think liberal is the dirty word that most people seem to think of it as but right now I cannot resist calling Marisa's point of view way too liberal for my liking. Miss Crous speaks of how she thinks using a black woman in a shoot titled 'African Queen' would perpetuate racism in any case and while she kind of- and I really mean 'kind of'- acknowledges that this may be wrong Miss Crous goes on to contradict herself as she tries to convince us that race should not matter in fashion.
She writes:
"I agree that this is all offensive. And yes there should be a much bigger representation of black, Asian and other non-white models in magazines spreads, beauty campaigns and overall in the mainstream media. Yet, I don’t necessarily believe that using black models in African Queen-type shoots will break down stereotypes of what a black woman is today. Black women everywhere are different. They live in modern and rural settings. They live in Mali and in Manhattan. Using black models in fashion stories that depict them as African Queens might just reinforce the stereotype, ingraining that image in the consumer’s mind."
She later says:

"I think that, instead of asking, ‘Why has this magazine used a white model in an “African Queen” shoot?’ we should rather be asking, ‘Why does race still matter so much in fashion?’Shouldn’t we be looking beyond the race of the model and let the fashion that was inspired by, say, Africa, India or Japan speak for itself?"
I do not take too kindly to this kind of thinking and it's not because I don't want white women to see themselves as African. By all means and by all accounts Marisa, being Afrikaans, is every inch an African as I am with my round nose and curly hair. I know a lot of people that may disagree with me in this regard, but that is what I believe. It is also not because I think Numero should have never used a white model in a shoot about clothing that is so-called inspired by Africa. My only problem is that they used black face and by doing so Numero clearly wants to define their 'African Queen' as non-white yet they saw it fit to use a white model and use make-up to make them appear black. That is just nothing short of disgusting and there is no argument that can defend it! And no, Marisa, you cannot go from saying in one paragraph you agree with the fact that African women are much less represented in mainstream fashion to saying 'Shouldn't we be looking beyond the race of the model...' We live in a world where this 'looking beyond the race of the model' has made sure that black models stay out of work because beauty has been defined as having blond or brunette hair.
Fashion does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a world where black people have for centuries been made to believe they are not good enough. This is why race matters- not just in fashion but in many aspects of public life- and I find Marisa's point of view in this regard as offensive as the black face used in Numero's photo shoot.


Annika said...

I completely agree with you. I cannot believe she would think painting a white model black better than to use a black or a white model. Maybe one day we will be there, but for the time being it's not liberal, it's not fashion forward, it's just wrong and creating awareness of a bigger issue for all the wrong reasons.

Model citizen said...

Ja I also think that if they wanted the 'African queen' to be black then they should have used a black woman, not make-up. Haibo what kind?

Anonymous said...

As a black model its very disheartening to witness such fashion spreads & the justifications given by fashion editors as to how it should be interpreted. Unfortunately race is still a huge problem in this industry, Marisa Crous' sentiments on the issue are the epitome of bigotry & racism