According to StyleList, the first seven minutes of Tyra's talk show yesterday were devoted to discussing the "biracial" shoot on America's Next Top Model, in which some contestants had their skin painted with dark makeup. Tyra said:
"[If anyone was offended], I apologize because that was not my intent… It's my number one passion in my life to stretch the definition of beauty. I listen to many heartbreaking stories of women who thought they would be happier if they looked different. I want every girl to appreciate the skin she's in."
It's clear that Tyra had good intentions and meant to celebrate diversity, Hawaii and hapa people. And it's true that the photoshoot did not involve blackface in yhe historical sense of the word — as a minstrel-type of impersonation.
The fact remains: Race is a construct, and Tyra and her team acted as though it has a rigid structure. She used certain signifiers — hair, skin — to indicate a model's racial makeup. If you have brown skin, does that mean you are black? Tell it to all the light-skinned black people out there, or to someone from Fiji or South America. Does wearing something made of grass make you Polynesian? If you wear feathers on your head, are you Native American?
Also, how can you look at this and think that it's okay?
But It's just fashion, right? It's just about an interesting picture. Mixed people are cool, looking mixed is cool. As one blogger noted, "it's not like the girls were made to pull their eyes back while standing in the middle of a rice paddy or wearing blackface while eating watermelon." But as I wrote in October, race is not silver eyeshadow, a bubble skirt or couture gown. It's not something you put on for a photo shoot to seem "edgy." Race is not trendy; you can't take off when you feel like it. Tyra apologized to those offended, but not for the concept… Does that mean we'll see her do it again?
Tyra Banks Apologizes Over Bi-Racial Episode of 'ANTM' [StyleList]
'America's Next Top Model' biracial photo shoot: Uh, been there, done that [Zap2It]
Today on 'The Tyra Show': Tyra Addresses Biracial Controversy... And MY Headline! [BuddyTV]