Nastassia Davis' Blog

Blackface in 2009 Fashion Shoots

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The “Blackface” French Vogue photoshoot featuring Dutch model Lara Stone released this month is getting tons of negative response from the American media and black community. Although, I completely understand where the outrage is coming from, I’d have to say I do not agree with most of the negative feedback this spread is getting. Yes, I am a Black-American woman who knows very well about the history of “Black Face” but from an artist’s point of view who loves the art of “the pretend” and “the imitation” I can appreciate this. Plus, it’s not “Black Face” in the historical or tradition sense where 1) a white person’s face is painted black because societal restrictions prevent a black person from taking the role and 2) it’s not done in mockery, or degrading way as to make fun of a black person (like black actor’s in “Gone With The Wind”, “Stepin Fechit” etc). The model looks regal and beautiful posing as close to a black woman as she possible can. Because let’s be honest, if you weren’t told that this model was white, more than likely, you’d pass it as another high end fashion photo shoot. (I don’t like the face and angle on the first one sitting down, just for the record.)

How is this conceptual shoot any different then playing “make-believe” and transforming a model into someone or something else other than she? That’s what fashion shoots are all about – telling a story. Then some ask, “Well, why not use a real black model?” I do not believe it was ever about using a real black woman to begin with, but more about how can the creative team pull off evolving a model into looking like something completely opposite. It’s ultimately about the “make-believe”, about the “dress-up” in the most challenging way possible. It’s also showcasing how extremely gifted the makeup artist, stylist and the photographer are by coming close to the real thing. Have we forgotten the ultimate form of flattery? To “copy” or “imitate” (in good taste, no matter what the subject) has always and will always be the greatest form of that.

However, the only thing that the magazine editor failed to do was actually included authentic Black/African models in this issue! Now the media can and has every right to really turn what I’m sure was originally a creative and fun idea into a racist situation. How you doing a tribute to Black beauty, but not show authentic black models throughout the magazine? Can we say hypocrites?

Tyra Bank’s ANTM is also being criticized for using Blackface recently (although she’s done this concept already a few seasons back turning black, white and latina models into Geishas.) So what’s the big deal turning now? Turning white and asian models into African beauties is wrong now? Absolutely not! It’s a genius idea and a great way to show diversity across the board of races. The natural skin color of a model shouldn’t matter, because she’s simply a canvas for the make-up, clothing and hair styling anyway. If anything, the complaining and close-mindedness of these people opposing it shows the true ignorance and racist attitudes that still lives today. Also, I object to ANTM’s beautiful works of art being group in that same disgusting category of “The Jackson Jive” minstrel skit on an Australian Variety Show last week. Those 5 men smiling, dancing and laughing about like baffoons in tar-black face paint was so painful to view. (Much love and thanks to Harry Connick Jr. for speaking out!)
Tyra, THANK YOU for pushing the envelope by blurring and questioning the lines of race with these amazing new ANTM photos! Love them.
So let’s celebrate! Black is the new Black.
Black does sell.
Black is beautiful.
“B’twix B’tween” For commentary – ClickHere
(Photographed, modeled and post processed by me.)

“UBlack2” For Commentary – ClickHere

(Photographed, modeled and post processed by me.)

Written by Nastassia Davis

October 31, 2009 at 2:04 am

Posted in blackface, tyra banks, vogue

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