Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Independent: Black is finally in fashion at Vogue

...Mr Knight blames business people at the top of the industry. A common attitude among them, he says, is that black models are "not aspirational" or "don't sell in Asia"...

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, told The Independent on Sunday: "We are using a lot of black models, like Iman, not only the models of today – a lot of different girls." Asked why she had decided to do this, she said: "Because nobody is using black girls. I see so many beautiful girls and they were complaining that they are not used enough."

Ms Sozzani admitted the issue could yet prove to be unpopular among some in Italy, where the xenophobic Northern League is part of the new coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi: "Maybe in our country it is not the best idea. But I don't care. I think it is not my problem if they don't like it – it's their problem."

Read the rest of the article here

First, I'm going to have to start a rock band called The Not Aspirational Black Girls.

Second, for as much as I am looking forward to gobbling up this issue as soon as it hits the stands a few things continue to vex me. Like:

--Why does this issue have to come out in July? July is the weakest month for newsstands magazine sales across the board. When I first heard the rumor about this issue and there was no date or details attached I wondered with optimism if it would actually be the big ass September issue but I guess that's just too big of a risk to take.

--Is it just me or is anyone else tired of these grand gestures? Be real, they always seem to let people down. Vivienne Westwood is probably still patting herself on the back over her grande dame gesture of using Ajuma for her Spring ads and you already know how I felt about that campaign.

I also wonder what the next step is for Franca Sozzani. After this issue will there be a return to business as usual at Italian Vogue? Are there any plans in place at the magazine to include more models of color across the board? Why this grand segregation gesture instead of say, just using more Black and other non-white models in editorials overall?

Whatever. I guess we'll all have to wait and see.

If Someone Calls You an IT Girl, Run!

Why is it that being the black "it" girl doesn't usually translate into long lived success? Pimping may not be easy but being the sole black girl of the moment has its own share of hard knocks.

Black "it" girls are prone to meltdowns (see: Hill, Lauryn), excessive wackiness caused by deadly accidental overdose of patchouli and bohemianism (Lisa Bonet and daughter Zoe), drug abuse and shiftless men (Whitney and Dorothy Dandridge, or horrible circumstance (R.I.P Aaliyah.)

While white "it" girls sometimes travel in packs, gaily laughing arm in arm while exiting The Ivy, in general only one black woman at a time is allowed it status and thereby allowed to enjoy its spoils (designer clothes, makeup campaigns, magazine covers and film offers.)

Sharing is strictly frowned upon but on occasion a crumb may be brushed from the table for other aspiring it girls of a darker hue to enjoy. For example, Beyonce may have had a starring role in "Dreamgirls" but did you also know that Kelly Rowland (also of Destiny's Child) was a co-star in "Freddy vs. Jason?" or that Michelle Williams gets to keep all those outfits that Mama Knowles designs? That's how Matthew Knowles spells parity.

Anyway, I write all that because I came across an article in this month's Bitch magazine that answered a question of mine, namely what ever happened to Gerren Taylor?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the model once branded as the "next Naomi*," 12 year old statuesque Gerren exploded onto the modeling scene about four or five years ago and was immediately everywhere. She walked for many major designers, appeared in ads for Marc Jacobs and was a darling of Tommy Hilfiger. Her wide set alienesque eyes laid the groundwork for similarly featured models to come like Gemma Ward. She was quite literally everywhere and then POOF! she seemed to fall off the face of the earth just as quickly as she appeared. These days her name never comes up in discussion of who's who among top black models.

Turns out that when the slender girl grew up and developed a few curves she was labled "obese" by the industry and her bookings (and self-esteem) vanished. She says of the name calling: “It hurt for a while, because I didn’t really understand why they were saying that. A part of me was saying that I wasn’t obese, but what they were saying was making me think twice about why I wasn’t booking jobs ... whatever — so my feelings were fluctuating.” For the record, "obese" here means a gain of 6 cm across her hips and 8 cm across her chest.

For a girl who, according to America the Beautiful documentarian Darryl Roberts "bas[ed] her self-esteem on her work in the fashion industry," this was a terrible blow. At NY Fashion Week that season, a few designers used her in shows for the publicity her name garnered but grumbled about her size. She wasn't booked at all during Paris Fashion Week.

Robert's documentary is playing in festivals around the country. It deals with this country's obsession with beauty and how the the cosmetics/fashion industry underminds the development women, particularly young women by building an industry around making them feel bad about themselves. In interviews he has said that companies have a vested interest into getting us to buy into a monolithic view of what is beautiful. In another interview one of the producers of the film added that cosmetics companies in particular "bring women down to sell them products to bring themselves up."

Of course, I totally agree with these sentiments but at the same time, I am very aware of how much I buy into them myself. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a cosmetics counter or makeup aisle to buy a little something to perk myself up. For me, being aware of how women like me are played by the industry hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the myriad of products they offer.

Honestly, I don't know what that makes me (hypocrite with lipgloss?) but I'm still looking forward to seeing Robert's doc when it comes to my town or DVD.

Darryl Roberts's blog
Gerren's MySpace

*is it just me or has the only model to ever successfully become the "next" Naomi, Naomi Campbell herself?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Louis Vuitton Sues Artist Over "Simple Living" Darfur Charity Image

Artist Nadia Plesner created this image to satirize the lack of media attention a genocide like Darfur gathers compared with the relative overexposure of say, skinny white women with little dogs and designer bags.

Louis Vuitton (who one writer claims, had ties to the Nazi Party) has responded with a lawsuit demanding that Plesner stop producing the image (which appears on shirts and as a poster print) and an additional $20K per day in damages for copyright infringement.

Now I know very little about copyright law so I have no idea where satire ends and infringement begins so I can't comment with any authority there. I do however think it's in poor taste (to say the least) that LV would even bother with a lawsuit. For all the money they are spending in legal fees, they could have just as easily made large splashy donation to Save Darfur! instead and reaped the benefits of good press.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vogue Italia to Publish an issue featuring Black models

According to Fashionista blog, Steven Meisel has already shot an entire issue of Vogue Italia with all black models. His hope is that the other Vogues will take note and start to diversify their own pages. I couldn't find any information on which lucky models will appear in the issue or when it will go to press. I just know that I might have to camp out at the newsstand when this one lands and if I see any animal print on the cover somebody is going to get hurt. Thanks to Carmen at Racialicious for the update. My vacation is nearing its end and I should be back home updating this blog around the end of the month, much fatter and poorer thanks to French wine and cheese and the unspeakably awful USD exchange rate in Europe.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Going offline

Hey, everyone! Just wanted to let you know that I won't be updating this blog again for a few weeks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

If Bey-Z gets married and there are no photos released, did it really happen?

There is an article over at the NY Daily News today that wonders out loud if tabloid magazines are bias against non-white celebrities.

In this instance they're pointing to the soft coverage given Beyonce and Jay-Z's recent wedding.

Of the major celebrity tabloids, only US Weekly gave Beyonce the cover while most of the other relegated the wedding to the sidebar. Interestingly, People Magazine (the bathroom literature of choice for Middle America) gave Beyonce the cover as well.

According to the article a "top" tabloid editor said that the wedding was played down because (wait for it) "African Americans don't sell covers." Another source shared that ""We have a saying, 'Only Oprah.' Oprah is the only black celebrity big enough to put on our cover."

Yep, we are sharing air with people who think that "stars" from fake reality TV shows trump established actors for space on magazine covers. No big surprise here.

But is the lack of attention from tabloids really a bad thing?

I'm reminded of an article I read a few years back about Raven Symone who is one of Disney's top moneymakers yet rarely appears on the pages of celebrity magazines alongside other Disney stars like that dude with they eyebrows who kind of looks like a robot and that girl who posted nude pictures of herself online.

If I remember correctly, the conclusion of the piece was that this fact was a double edged sword.

On the one hand, black celebrities don't have to deal with the unwanted attention that fame brings while the flip side makes them less visible to the people in Hollywood with enough clout to keep them gainfully employed.

Then there is the issue of certain black celebrity focused blogs.

I'll admit that I read them. I am just as curious about who wore what wear and general entertainment news but I usually have to draw the line at reading the mainly anonymously posted comments given about any particular actress. I'm just too old and the comments are usually just too mean. The focus of some of these blogs is "who are we going to hate on today" instead of just providing the mindless entertainment I crave.

Now, this isn't to imply that celebrity magazines represent the bastion of journalistic integrity but damn, at least someone over there has to talk to a publicist every now or maybe do the most basic fact check.

So back to Beyonce. I think it's great that it appears that she hasn't sold her wedding photos to the highest bidder and is keeping the whole affair private but....

I do want to know what her wedding dress looked like and if it was designed by her mama.

I want to know if the former members of Destiny's Child sent gifts.

I want to know if the Popeye's chicken that was reportedly served at the reception was served on fine china or if they just passed around a bucket.

Lastly, I want to know the identity of the guest (or guests) that is rumored to have brought a handgun to the ceremony (I know in my heart that it was Gwenyth Paltrow.)

I'm just nosy like that. I love weddings and babies and cake. Sue me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are Gay Men to Blame for Racism/Sexism in Fashion?

Honestly, because I have no idea. But I hear and read this opinion all the time. It breaks down like this:

Gay men run the fashion industry.
Gay men secretly hate women.
Gay men are responsible for the racism and sexism in the fashion world and only want to work with models who look like fuckable androgynous boys.

I find it interesting that opinions like these bandied about like the gospel. I don't recall ever reading them challenged.

Now, I don't doubt for a moment that gay men have a strong foothold in the industry. The overwhelming majority of bold face designers as gay white men. And I'm not so naive as to believe that just because someone is homosexual and may have suffered bigotry because of it, that that person is automatically free of any racist notions.

I just wonder if this blanket statement is really true?

Part of me believes that it is yet another attempt by fashion magazine editors (who are overwhelmingly white and female) to shift the blame. Like when they claim that there just aren't any ethnic models at agencies or that the bookers never send them over for a shoot when they are looking for a fresh face.

It reads to me like the myth that if a black person is on a magazine cover, it will be the lowest selling issue of the year.

It makes me laugh to envision a scenario where Vogue's Anna Wintour is battling in her plush office for hours with Andre Leon Talley, just begging him to let her put a size 6 model (or actress more realistically) on the cover. It just doesn't ring true for me.

On the flip side I am convinced that she was more than a little reluctant to put full figured Jennifer Hudson and believe that the Dreamgirls star would never have made it if it wasn't for a certain 6'6" gay black man.

Wintour's passive aggressive side showed through however when Hudson's ill chosen gaping mouth photo was picked for the cover (which incidentally, was neither the worst or best seller of the year.)

Lastly, nothing will convince me that any gay man worth his salt would champion slack jawed yokle model Agyness Deyn because she looks like a hot dude. To me, the chick doesn't look fuckable to anyone.

I read somewhere once that true fashion magazine editors just don't care about making the names and faces they promote accessible, they just care about their own exclusive world in which everyone is whiter, richer, thinner (and slightly more miserable in my estimation) than YOU.

I mean, it's not like they're eating anything either.

So what do you think, who is to blame. Is it really all about the gay men in fashion?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pour La Victoire

Sandals season. Ugh.

As much as I am looking forward to warmer weather and trading in gray Seattle skies for something clear and blue, I hate dealing with my crocodile feet in the summer. There is simply not enough cocoa butter in the world to keep the ash at bay on my dogs.

I've decided that I need a new pair of gladiator sandals but I keep putting it off because I don't want to deal with the injustice of showing the shoe salespeople at Nordstrom the crusty fire-walkers called my feet so online shopping has become my method of choice. This even though I have terrible luck buying shoes this way. Last month I bought two pairs of the sandals Pierre Hardy designed for the Gap only to be disappointed with how they looked in person and last year I bought four pair of Steve Madden flats only to have them arrive and discover that just because something is marked size 10 medium does not mean that it will fit.

I spotted this gray and cream faux reptile pair at and fell in love on the spot. They're made by Pour La Victoire, which is a Brazilian shoe maker with a "French" twist. They arrived today (free overnight shipping!) and I couldn't be more pleased. They are pretty, comfortable and stylish and they come nicely package in a pretty pink box. They're just so darn cute that I had to share them with you.

Now if I could just find my Ped-Egg...

Atong Arjok - Diesel

Source: Simplylovely/TFS

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Jourdan Dunn - Observer Magazine

Scan uploaded by decadent_chains/ONTD

From the article:

...Dunn is a fashion star, but first and foremost she's a teenager, and a very smart one. She's articulate and observant not only about her own history but about the fashion industry. At London Fashion Week in February, her comments about race made the news. 'London is not a white city,' she told the press, 'So why should our catwalks be so white?'

Race replaced weight as the story of Fashion Week and anonymous 'fashion insiders' opined that the industry had to bow to customers who apparently demand white, thin, blonde, models. "The way people said I was stupid...saying that fashion is just a business so they need to use models who sell things....I don't see change. It needs to be said because I think about these things and other girls do too."

It warms my cold cold heart to read quotes like this from such a young woman, especially one caught up in an industry like this one. It's commendable that she thought enough about the current state of race and the fashion industry to speak on her thoughts and then not shy away once it became media fodder. She and Chanel Iman are probably working more than any of the other new Black faces in the industry and I think I would have been a lot easier for her to cash her checks and say nothing.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oh Naomi!

According to The Times, Naomi Campbell had to be removed from a flight out of London's Heathrow airport last night after pitching a fit over a missing piece of luggage. Later, she was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police office and was seen "ranting" and "screaming" as she was lead away.

Her fabulousness aside, I can't defend her actions if they are true but I will say that the only place I've ever come thisclose to losing my mind was at Heathrow airport and all my crappy luggage was with me.

No word on what became of her luggage but an airline employee was seen leaving the employee locker room looking fierce.

Post About Nothing and 10 Cane Rum

It's no secret that I am obsessed with images of black women in the media. I can't look at an ad with a black model without scrutinizing every little detail about the image. I write a lot in this blog about the lack of black models in advertisements and how many in the fashion industry seem to have narrow views of how a black woman should be depicted. Occasionally, I wonder if I might be overdoing it, looking for biases or other flaws where there is none intended.

I think part of that just comes from having a blog and subscribing to too many magazines. I'm always looking for the next thing that moves me enough to write about it. Since the Lebron/Vogue dust up, I've been thinking about this quote from The Washington Post's Robin Givhan:

“It’s so exhausting that every time people see an image of a black person they work themselves into a tizzy that somehow it doesn’t adhere to the way in which they think a black person should be presented...The whole LeBron thing really comes down to … maybe Vogue should have more people of color on their cover, male and female...Maybe then they won’t be so scrutinized when they do put a person of color on their cover.”

I took that quote to heart because I really think there is a lot of truth in it. So, I'm going to try really hard not to over shit all over this series of "affluent lifestyle" ads for 10 Cane Rum (which were developed by Mother New York.)

Instead of pontificating on inherent plantation vibe that seems to be a part of all Caribbean made rum ads, I'm going to focus on the positive for once.

For example, there are no pirates in this ad. Obviously the shitty last chapter of the "Pirates of the Carribean" series has put the final nail trend that was pirate chic.

Second, the older white guy has black friends. He invited them to his beach party and he cares enough about them to take a picture. Who cares if he's only going to use the photos to show his friends back home how not racist he is. The fact is, everyone was having a good time. Also, he has a black girlfriend and apparently she can swim because why else would she be hanging out with him on the water in that prop plane? Stereotype shattered. Black chicks can swim. This is a good thing. In one of the photos he even let her bring her dad along in the dingy. See? Family values, another mark in the positive column.

See? That really wasn't hard at all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tracee Ellis Ross in Essence

I've always admired Tracee Ellis Ross' fashion sense. She's one of the few celebrities who isn't a slave to the latest trends and really knows how to mix vintage pieces with high and low fashion. I've been completely envious of her wardrobe ever since I read several years ago that she still has many of the outrageous outfits her mother designed for the movie Mahogany. Seriously, I would kill to spend a day rummaging through her closet.

I try not to post too much celebrity related stuff but I had to share these images (that I found on UrbanScanz) because the lady really doesn't get enough credit from the fashionistas and also because after eight seasons, Girlfriends was abruptly canceled by the CW and the network has decided that a proper finale is "too expensive" and will not be produced.

Now, I've been watching the show for years and will admit that the post-Toni seasons have ranged from lackluster to downright painful to watch. I've done more than my share of complaining about it over at Television Without Pity but it was still the only show of its kind on TV and it will be missed. Here's to hoping that something even better is on the horizon for the shows largely Black female audience.