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The purpose for this blog post is to defend the idea that Vogue Italia was being racist with their ’Haute Mess’ editorial. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you have a look and draw your own conclusions. In a nutshell, it features some of today’s most famous models, photographed by Steven Miesel, looking a bit over the top to say the least. The models wore outrageous hair adorned with skittle wrappers and baskets, crazy fingernail art, and overexagerrated makeup.
Personally, I think to accuse the Vogue Italia of racism, is unfair and unjust. I myself am an African American woman and in no way did I see myself in any of these photos. Nor did I have the idea that they were poking fun at African American culture. In an interview with New York Magazine, Vogue Italia Editor, Franka Sozanni, explains that one of the inspirations was based on drag queens and I do not understand why that is so unbelievable. I can clearly see the correlation of the hit TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race; a competitive reality TV series that sets out to find America’s next top Drag Queen.
Let’s just say that Vogue Italia was exploiting ‘ghetto culture’, is it any different from what the fashion industry has been doing? Using aspects of pop and ethic culture to sell clothes, magazines, etc has always been apart of the business. There have been plenty of Hip Hop editorials done by top fashion magazines; which I wouldn’t necessarily deem as being flattering portrayals. Yet, I wouldn’t say that they were being racist. My time spent studying fashion in London and working in the fashion industry in Berlin, revealed some start truths about how Europeans from their opinions on African American culture. The main one being that the European ideal of what is going on in America is based highly on Hip Hop videos, Jerry Springer, and Maury Povich reruns. Also, the level of racial sensitivity is not the same. I’m not saying this makes it right, but that’s just the reality of the situation.
Recently, LA based photographer Steven James Scott, photographed an editorial piece entitled “Chola.” Chola is a term used to refer to young Latina women from the less than glamorous neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The photos show a young lady dressed in Dickies, big earrings, white tank top, with big hair and heavy makeup and basically the reader is invited into a day of her life. The piece, which was produced independently, was picked up by LadyGunn Magazine and was featured in their latest issue. pic courtesy of www.ladygunn.com
Already bloggers are hitting back with the same accusations that have been made against the Vogue Italia issue. One blogger accused LadyGunn magazine of using stereotypes to sell magazines. When I asked photographer Steven James Scott, what his purpose was he stated, “I wanted to show these young women and their style as a thing of beauty. In no way was I trying to poke fun at their style or this aspect of Latina culture.” Bottom line is, no matter how subcultures are portrayed, someone will always find it offensive.