Our snapshot from today got me thinking about the portrayals of black women in fashion, and how they’re so typically placed in “Out of Africa” spreads that suggest their closeness to and affinity for animals. I blogged about the Naomi Campbell pictures (photographed by Jean-Paul Goude) for AOL Black Voices, and in my research stumbled upon these pictures of Grace Jones and Amber Rose:
Grace Jones, also photographed by Jean-Paul Goude, was featured on the cover of Goude’s 1981 book Jungle Fever. Amber Rose (who is of Cape Verdean descent) appears in Complex Magazine’s September 2009 issue.
Though the photos were taken decades apart, the message is the same. These women are so wild they must be caged–they’re sultry, snarling sex beasts. No matter how many years pass, it seems as if black women can’t shake the same animalistic image.
Naomi Campbell, Russian Vogue, December 2008
In my AOL post, which suggests this portrayal was offensive, one commenter said, “This is why blacks are so often held back because we spend too much time and effort sweating the small stuff to fight the big fight. There are real issues to be addressed right now but I see those aren’t being touched.” Another said, “This “small stuff” sends a wider message to everyone regardless of color, if the recent events with Gates and even Obama slanders have taught us nothing: that people of color and black people specifically, are so far removed from white or whiteness that they can never be considered human(e), therefore are in fact, the animals their (supposed) ancestors roamed with.“
Iman photographed by Peter Beard, 1985
On what side do you fall in this debate? Is it small stuff? Or are you offended?
Also, what roles do models play in this? Someone like Naomi should have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ No?