October 12th, 2009
Fashion News, Paris, Vogue
Lara Stone in Blackface for French Vogue
By Claire

Jezebel Magazine has the following scans of the October issue of French Vogue, which features Dutch model Lara Stone in what has been called contemporary Blackface:

Lara Stone Blackface French Vogue

The issue, dedicated to supermodels, features Naomi Campbell in small front of the book articles, but Ms. Stone is the only “woman of color” who scored a multipage editorial. Shot by Steven Klein and styled by Carine Roitfeld, Stone dons seemingly ethnic inspired feathered garb while holding a meditative, almost angry gaze:

Lara Stone Blackface French Vogue

The editors at Jezebel say, “What Klein and Roitfeld should know…is that painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people is offensive in ways that stand entirely apart from cultural context...something about the act of portraying a white woman as black ought to sound an alarm, somewhere.”

Lara Stone Blackface French Vogue

A little history: As early as the 15th century, white actors used blackface to portray stereotypical archetypes of African-Americans (the buffoonish, lazy, lascivious cowardly male or matronly, at times mannish mammy). The practice, called mistrelsy, was used to promote and cement racist attitudes and feelings about black people. Though Lara Stone is missing the white outline around the mouth or bright red lipstick, this photo shoot definitely strikes a raw nerve:

Blackface

Bface1

Why the French Vogue team thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Some things you should never be so bold as to say or do, but it seems there are no standards of grace or social decorum when it comes to fashion.

Some say the images are simply artistic, and that calling the shots ‘racist’ is going too far.

What do you think?

For more about blackface, view this montage from Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled:

Source: Jezebel

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38 comments

38 Responses to “Lara Stone in Blackface for French Vogue”

  1. Septembre says:

    I though I was the only one who was extremely offended by that spread. It’s is extremely offensive and shows that racism is still a very real problem on this planet. Who thought that was appropriate?

  2. Genevieve says:

    Eh. I’m not offended. Aside from her being painted dark… there’s nothing else about it that’s like “black face.” I don’t feel like its “mocking” blackness. I’d be offended if she had painted on exaggerated lips and had her in some stereotypical clothing.

  3. Crazzi Thick says:

    OH HELL NAH!!!!!
    i don’t think that is acceptable.. fashion or not. i get culture, i get diversity… but why not just use those people for the shoot? why anyone would think of painting a white person or any other race for that matter black is beyond me!! DON’T PAINT SOMEONE, SOMEONE ELSE!! Just get that particular person you are looking for, period, point, blank. {nice peice… thank you for posting}

  4. Midtown Girl says:

    They couldn’t have figured out any other type of spread…its 2009!

    XOXO
    Amy

  5. MWNY via Twitter says:

    wow..well she was just seen on video asking Rihanna to work with her…SMH at them doing blackface they cld hv clld B.M’s

  6. EmJha via Twitter says:

    ..I like the spread don’t understand why they didn’t us a black women though

  7. moi says:

    im not offended at all by it. its tastefully done, some of yall need to chill

  8. KimB says:

    The photo spread is offensive for the reasons stated by Claire. I think ppl are having issues separating the art from the context. Something can be done ‘tastefully,’ & ‘beautiful’ while still off-putting & offensive. I find the photography nice & Lara Stone is striking as usual. Unfortunately, art that hearkens back to a time when blacks were excluded from many mainstream things & blackface was king can diminish the beauty of an art object for many. I hope this made sense.

  9. Fatimah says:

    I completely understand the history and politics behind blackface, and I think we should sound an alarm when this occurs. But seeing these images doesn’t offend me so much, I think it’s meant to be artistic above all else and I got it. Also it’s about context: France and the United States are not the same and both have in the past and currently treated race differently.

  10. Theo says:

    Co-sign on Kim B’s post. There’s no such thing as “tasteful blackface” because blackface is inherently offensive and therefore inherently tasteless. The fact that this example happens to be a model from a French Vogue shoot instead of a bunch of drunk white guys from Alabama (or Australia–is October International Blackface Month and someone forgot to tell me?) wearing Afro wigs and shoe polish and singing “Mammy” doesn’t mean that it gets a pass. Apparently Conde Nast was determined to piss away whatever diversity cred it picked up from Italian Vogue’s special all-black issue.

  11. Brandi says:

    i think it’s horrible and it doesn’t even look right. it’s not artistic to me at all.

  12. Theo says:

    Actually, Fatimah, minstrel shows were very popular in France starting in the late 1880s, and they were just as terrible as the ones in the U.S. The abstract is the third one down.

    http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/files/cMMqzu/Interpolation%20of%20LAfricain.pdf

    Furthermore, while France may have been a refuge for Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, and select black American expats, it has a nasty colonial track record in Africa (and elsewhere). So there’s not much traction for the argument that blackface stands for something positive and inoffensive in France. They just shouldn’t have gone here.

  13. tricia c says:

    I could understand why some people are mad but what’s the difference between these photos and the ad for mac cosmetics style warrior collection that came out this past summer. The model in the mac ad is not black she was covereved with makeup to look black, and they gave her a kinky wig…does anyone remeber this photo it was like 2 months ago

  14. Realtalk says:

    It is racist. Just use a black model. Black models need jobs too.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It is not fair!!

  16. monica says:

    Artistic my butt! It looks tacky to me.

    There are too many beautiful brown models they could have chosen to do this spread. I guarantee you it would have turned out a hellofalot more artistic than this mess.

  17. Fatimah says:

    I stand corrected! Thanks for that info Theo.

  18. bxbornretro says:

    And they said they don’t want black models…I mean if you have to go and paint a white model. The fashion world is confused….and I disagree with the use of black face its uncalled for!

  19. Moni says:

    @ Tricia C: This is not at all comparative to the MAC style warrior ads. I could be completely wrong, but this definitely looks like a black model http://media.photobucket.com/image/mac%20style%20warrior/femenemopee/media_stylewarriorsp001.jpg Note the uniformity of color on her neck and hand and fuller lips and nose. It looks like they use highlighter to make her look paler on her face, not vice versa.

    Because of the history of blackface, I agree with Theo that there is no such thing as tasteful blackface. At the very least, there can only be tasteful blackface when a post-race society is a reality and not a catchphrase used to ignore or justify true racism.

  20. HBG WordDiva or just Tosha says:

    Well…I was wondering when this would happen. There was a America’s Next Top Model episode where Tyra had one of the white contestants put on makeup to make herself look “Black” and a kinky wig…it was very unsettling for me to see and I was offended instantly, there was also a girl portraying an Indian woman…I was just as disturbed…I was correct in my feelings, but it was art and I beleive I was innocent…it is art …but it is not art for me it is offensive…I could not grasp why a model of color could not be used?…the offense comes from the fact that they could have acheived the same results with a real model of color.

  21. Mimi says:

    I’m with Theo. The comments about how this is “art,” or “avant-garde,” ignores the deeply problematic history of European avant-garde movements that were completely invested in colonial/racial aesthetics, e.g., primitivism.

    Also, please check out my co-author Minh-Ha’s take on these images over at Threadbared!

    http://threadbared.blogspot.com/2009/10/blackface-and-violence-of-revulsion.html

  22. Leontyne via Facebook says:

    I read about this. They should be ashamed of themselves

  23. Lakisha via Facebook says:

    Dumb. Just hire black models.

  24. Erin via Facebook says:

    Insensitive. A reflection of yet how some things still remain the same …unfortunately. It’s just so inconsiderate.

  25. Mysha via Facebook says:

    A little of both. The issue is dedicated to her, they were trying to be diverse w/out having a diverse group of models to pick from . . . Then again, she could have said: NO. I blogged on this a well: http://myshasripple.blogspot.com/2009/10/tar-baby.html

  26. Tooty via Facebook says:

    Black models need to work a little bit more !

  27. crystal g. says:

    when i first seen the pictures i instantly thought the vogue team and others who approved/approve of this spread were blantly saying “we don’t need black models or models of color for that matter; we can entertain ourselves.” might sound simple and petty but this spread implied to me that they see black/colored models as invaluable.

  28. david says:

    This is PURE RACISM. SHAME ON STEVEN KLEIN AND CARINE ROITFELD at FRENCH VOGUE. HAHA HA HA very funny. you made fun of black people… DID you get what you wanted???

  29. Vuitton says:

    This topic REALLY hits close to home because of someone from my old university who thought that it was cool to posthumously honor his favorite rap artist. Trouble is, he painted himself black, wore an afro, and left his lips pink. Here’s the link to a Facebook note I did in regard to it. If there’s foul language, I apologize. It just really struck a nerve.

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/note.php?note_id=34556128217

  30. Reader says:

    I think the one in the headdress is a reference to the Black Madonnas. Regardless of the wisdom of the spread — I don’t think the other photos are successful — I don’t view this as blackface, which involves exaggeratedly ugly “Negroid” features and childlike postures.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Madonna

    http://images.google.com/images?rlz=1C1GGLS_frUS315US315&sourceid=chrome&q=black%20madonna&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=fr&tab=wi

  31. conni3 says:

    These people are not dumb; they know the ever present issue of diversity in the fashion industry and the history of blackface. It’s extremely tacky and they did this for publicity, which they are getting. To me it was kind of hinting at “we don’t need black models when we have brown paint”. This is highly offensive.
    But of those who are also offended how many of you will continue fawn over the magazine monthly and buy it?

  32. Alicia Renee says:

    Wow. I am not offended by the photos primarily because I think they painted her black and not in blackface. If this were an American fashion magazine, I would question the artistic integrity of the layout. But is this any different from going geisha girl (Galliano & Viktor & Rolf) or ethnic chic shown on many runways and too many fashion spreads?
    Fashion Bomber you’re in Paris and the history of Blacks in France has morphed from this love of Black Americans(Josephine, Langston) to this kind of disdain and weariness for Africans or those from Africa who some may consider poor & uneducated.

  33. Shyaine says:

    SMH….no matter how hard they try….they cant be like us. She couldn’t even pull off the makeup, she still looks white…

  34. Krow says:

    I don’t think the point is to make her look black. It has to do with the history of stereotyping white and black women. The stereotype is that black women are more sexually alluring to the male viewer. This spread is a form of racial masquerading, which allows a white woman to be as sexual as a black woman. It comes from the Victorian belief that white women are passionless and virginal and black women are erotic. This belief stems from the justification of slave owners seducing their female slaves by claiming their bodies were irresistible. There is no wonder these images hit a nerve with the black viewer. A huge lack of taste is being displayed. But, black or white the bottom line is these images are about sex. Sex sells, especially in the fashion industry.

  35. aesweg says:

    Um… I guess you’ve never seen a movie called White Chicks?
    With the Wayans brothers in drag as white women?
    But that’s OK?

  36. Wonderful collection, Eric, appreciate it. Bookmarked and shared :)

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