Vogue Runs Another Blackface EditorialS

Vogue Netherlands has published an editorial featuring blackface makeup. The model in the story is Querelle Jansen, the stylist was Marije Goekoop, and the photographer was Ishi. Both Goekoop and Ishi are frequent contributors to the magazine.

The spread was intended to honor Marc Jacobs' work over the years for Louis Vuitton. For the fall, 2008, and spring, 2009, seasons, Jacobs took inspiration from black beauty icons Grace Jones and Josephine Baker. To represent those seasons — rather than hiring a black model — Vogue Netherlands painted Jansen's face black and had her wear a wig intended to mimic the texture of black hair.

Vogue Paris pioneered the recent blackface trend in fashion with a 2009 editorial featuring Lara Stone and shot by Steven Klein. Blackface was subsequently copied by Numéro, L'Officiel Hommes, V, Numéro (again), and the makeup brand Ilamasqua. The blackface trend is so old, in fashion terms, that it's even been copied by America's Next Top Model. Even ignoring, for argument's sake, the fact that blackface is offensive to many people, you'd think that fashion's tastemakers would conclude that blackface is, like, totally played out. Can you think of a single other trend from 2009 that's still getting referenced in editorial photography today? I can't.

It's particularly troubling that blackface persists in a fashion industry that continues to display an overwhelming preference for white models. Models of color — even successful ones — often face discrimination on the basis of their race. Black models are told by clients that they won't be hired because they "already have" a black model, black models talk about encountering makeup artists and hair stylists who refuse to work with them, and black models say they have a harder time breaking into an industry that accords them fewer opportunities than white models. Models of color are also sometimes paid less than their white counterparts. It's not possible to argue that, all things being equal, blackface — despite its painful history in, particularly, the U.S. and Europe — could be an appropriate aesthetic reference for a fashion magazine or brand. Because for models of color working today, things are not equal.

As Fashionista points out, Vogue Netherlands has — even by the standards of high fashion, an industry where it's normal for 90% of the runway spots to go to white girls — a particularly poor track record when it comes to hiring models of color. The magazine is practically all-white. That, like fashion's apparently endless interest in blackface photos, seems sadly unlikely to change anytime soon.