Last week, the first-ever issue of Turkish Vogue hit newsstands. While many of the editors of the new mag are Turkish, the cover features Canadian model Jessica Stam… in keeping with Vogue's habit of using white models on international editions.
In 2005, Vogue China debuted with Australian model Gemma Ward on the cover. Though Gemma was flanked by Chinese models (Du Juan, Wang Wenqin, Tong Chenjie, Liu Dan, and Ni Mingxi), she was clearly front and center; her blue eyes and blonde hair jump out from the image.
In 2007, Vogue India debuted, and guess who was the cover model? Gemma Ward. (Though a few months later, Indian model Lakshmi Menon landed a cover… Then again, so did Victoria Beckham) Again, there were five other (Indian) women on the cover (three behind the fold), but blonde, blue-eyed Gemma is at the center of the cover — and the center of attention.
It's obvious why Vogue would want a blonde, blue-eyed model on an international edition of a magazine: It's a Western publication, marketing Western ideals and Western brands like Dior, Chanel, and Calvin Klein.
But the message being sent is really sort of sinister. Because it seems like the white model is being used to not only legitimize the publication — but also the other, non-white models. In addition, Gemma Ward and Jessica Stam's presence reinforces the idea that fashion is for and about white people. White models dominate not only fashion magazines, but fashion runways and advertising. White models have become associated with everything a glossy fashion magazine promotes: Glamour, Hollywood, luxury, money and beauty. Jessica Stam — alone on the cover of Vogue Türkiye, without any Turkish backup models, captures the essence of the statement: This is fashion.
Even without Vogue, the target audiences of the international editions — young Chinese, Indian and Turkish women — might already think that being white is fashionable, that being blonde and blue-eyed means you will find success no matter where you go to, and that aspiring to look or be white is normal. (Let's not forget that skin lightening is big business in India and other countries.) But Vogue really hammers the point home: Fashion may be a global business, but it has one face. And that face is not dark, with dark eyes and dark hair — In other words, not at all like the majority of faces in Turkey, China and India.
Earlier: Dear Anna: I'm Outsourcing Your Job To Vogue India. 8 Pictures That Explain Why…
Vogue India Debuts With Australian Blonde On Front, Bleeding Heart Inside?
Vogue India Puts Fendi Bib On Impoverished Child; Critics Freak