May 16th, 2010
Blacks in Fashion, Diversity, Fashion, Fashion Bomb Exclusive, Fashion Discussion, Vogue, You Should Know
Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics
By Claire

So a few weeks ago we published covers of a fictional Vogue Africa created by photographer and makeup artist Mario Epanya. His work has sparked tons of discussion, so I decided to get in touch to ask about his background and motivations for creating what has become a somewhat controversial concept.

The Cameroon native grew up around fashion, as his mother was a designer and boutique owner. He was always very artistic–he painted as a teenager–and ultimately moved to Paris in 2000. He started his career assisting at fashion shows and doing makeup for small magazines before securing a job at cosmetics company Dessange. He said, “I was the company’s main makeup artist and hairstylist. I worked with stars like Denzel Washington, Jade Jagger, and Elijah Wood.” In 2007, he quit Dessange to start his own hair, makeup, and photography company, Mario Epanya Productions.

Regarding his idea for Vogue Africa, he said, “I read my first Vogue in 1979 and have been buying it regularly ever since. I always felt that African creativity was not represented.”
He continued, “I also realized that black women in Western magazines didn’t correspond to African beauty. Women in Western magazines frequently had light skin, fine features, and long hair. Today I think black women want to re-appropriate their image and don’t want others to dictate what is beautiful and what isn’t. Beauty is diverse and today we aspire to more diversity of choice. So when I got the idea to create the covers, I said, why not?”

While the covers are breathtaking–and beautiful–several people take issue with Mario’s idea, saying that Africa doesn’t need Vogue to feel validated. According to Uduak of Nigerian Ladybrille Magazine, “Africa has always been and will remain fashionable. African fashion and lifestyle focused magazines have emerged, including Arise and Canoe, offering both Western and African fashion consumers more options. Nevertheless, many Africans and African designers still feel the need for Western validation via VOGUE Africa and similar Western fashion brands, rather than wholeheartedly supporting their own with their pocket book and patronage. African customers will buy VOGUE Africa, despite an African renaissance, before they do their own. It is the reality and psyche of Africans and sadly is what it is. Ultimately, and this is no slippery slope, African publishing businesses in the continent will be forced out of business.

In response Mario says, “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Africa is behind in a number of sectors, including politics, chemistry, research, I could go on. I’m sorry, but we can’t enter into war with the people who created the internet, cell phones, and airplanes. No, I didn’t create the Ipad, life saving vaccines, or Google but I’m happy for the things that contribute to our lives so that the world advances. I’m not at war with the West…and I think that instead of living in the rancor of a difficult past between the races, we should look at how we can exchange between people.”

“…I love Vogue, champagne, cars, computers, and all the things that modern life bring, and I have no desire to enter into counter productive debates that won’t change anything in everyday life. I think it would suit certain people well if things didn’t evolve. Globalization is real and it’s time for Africa to sit at the table and propose what we can do instead of waiting to hear what we have to or should do. I say YES to Vogue Africa if it will permit dynamic creation in African fashion and YES to Vogue Africa if it would allow Africans to re-appropriate their identity, and YES 10 million times to Vogue Africa. Long live an open minded African continent that continues to make its voice heard. Amen.”

In the future Mario plans to launch his own magazine and also purchase the license to create Vogue Africa himself. He’s more than capable.

It seems the big debate is whether Africa should focus on building its own, or if the continent should embrace ‘globalization’ and align themselves with a powerful brand. There’s another argument: that Africa should put energy into development and building its economy over producing a fashion magazine. Mario responds, “Brazil has its favellas, as does India. And they have their own Vogue editions. I’ll leave you to reflect on that…”
Bombshells, what say you?

See more of Mario’s amazing work at

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25 Responses to “Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics”

  1. zimbabwechic says:

    Why not have Vogue, we have Marie Claire, Glamour etc etc. As an African I can say this whole African renaissance crap is off putting to say the least ladybrille. There is not a single independent African publisher doing it big in the African sector anyway. Maybe in other countries but I can say that all the mags I read back home are South African and published by Conde Nast and they aren’t African owned honey. Why are we Africans never happy. What he did was cool, so get over it.

  2. jboggie says:

    every country has its problems but I think that people don’t really know the half of the autrocities that are taking place all over Africa. How can Africa be the richest continent in the world and have so much poverty. I had a friend that is exploring this issue and I agree they have other things to be concetrating on. Just like mom said if your friend jumped of a bridge does that mean you must too. Don’t let your love a fashion and the finer things cloud what is truly important. What he did was beautiful but there is definatly no reason to create a revolution over not having a African Vogue. It there should be one there will be one.

  3. kay says:

    @jboggie – development and fashion are not mutually exclusive and can occur side-by-side.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think what people are forgetting is that the focus of this proposal is not fashion at all, but representation. One of Africa’s biggest problems, I believe, is a lack of understanding of our conditions and how they can best be helped. Perhaps reclaiming Africa’s image with something other than poverty and backwardness will help all people (African’s and non-Africans alike) get a better sense of what the continent has to offer. That in itself could sparks Africa’s global de-marginalization.

  5. Ms. Diva B says:

    More power to him! I say he should go for it…

  6. sun.kissed says:

    I’m on the fence about this one. I understand both sides of the argument.

  7. selective words says:

    Why is his picture air brushed and photoshopped?

  8. luso says:

    I’d prefer us to reclaim our image with something that hasnt historically left us out in the cold – that denier being Vogue. I’ve paged through Vogue India and found it not representative at all! If you looked at it you’d think India is just light-skinned or white people. Indians are mostly dark-skinned and Vogue doesnt even try to pretend to capture that.

    I think Uduak had some good points to make. Mario can think it’s bullshit but the reality on the ground is that when foreign publishing houses enter a country, they set the agenda. In South Africa Conde Nast(y) has a few items on the shelves and you hardly ever see black people in them. I think their standard-issue black people are the light-skinned Beyonce and Rihanna. Over and over, til you’re cappuccino in the face – Bey, Ri, Bey, Ri, Ri Ri. This in a country with so many glamorous black women. Even Oluchi had to complain!

    Mario – your photographs are beautiful, dont get us wrong. But for you to say that we dont have much going for us so we should cave in and just go along for the ride on someone else’s idea of a fashion jaunt is what rankles. You make it sound as if we will never have advances or discoveries so best to just shut up and take what we can, use those who have the money and the backing, as they will inevitably use us. Sorry, but, for my money I’m willing to bet on Africa, it’s always been good to me. I want to buy African, wear African, read – African. (and that means African-American as well!)

  9. [...] Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics [...]

  10. afro.t says:

    I think all the discussions about Vogue Africa are useless if no one from real Vogue magazine says something about it… Are you guys just trying to make a buzz online or having a business plan of Vogue Africa seriously??

  11. TiaB says:

    I can see both sides. Africa does’t need Vogue’s validation, but the truth is Vogue is still the creme de la creme of the fashion world. Having a Vogue spread = Mama, I made it lol

    If nothing else I appreciate the images. It’s nice seeing black people who look….black lol. And having them exist in their beautiful state.

  12. Laura says:

    I only dream about an African Vogue !!!
    It will helps a lot of models, stylists and many unknown artists. The world could see that Africa has a lot to offer ! Brasil, Japan, Korea, Spain, UK, US,… Where’s ours ? I encourage you and all the people who wants to start this project ! I am a future black fashion designer and I’d be so proud !
    Go Mario !!!!

  13. missyn says:

    i understand both sides of the argument here but if there’s a business case to be made for vogue africa, then why not? as long as the agenda is african-centric, it can work. one thing though mario, less of the photoshop please. you’re a great photographer, don’t dim your creativity!

  14. Dor says:

    It would be so amazing – and I think that there is a point in creating online buzz. the people at real vogue care about having a market – it’s almost as much about advertisers having the confidence that the ‘African’ market will be worth them spending their money – There is a Vogue India and a Vogue Russia because these countries have enough people spending their millions of dollars on luxury goods. – these countries still have other massive social issues- but it’s all about money. Personally I think there are many africans who spend a lot on luxxe goods….

  15. [...] The last we talked to him, he was pursuing ways to purchase the license to Vogue Africa. Imagine our disappointment when Mario posted the following message on Vogue Africa’s facebook page : “DEAR ALL. The Wait is over. Condé Nast said NO to an African license of VOGUE. So this is the last cover. Enjoy, but it’s a beginning of something.” [...]

  16. [...] even a Vogue Australia, there isn’t a Vogue Africa–and Mario was dedicated to changing that. The last we talked to him, he was pursuing ways to purchase the license to Vogue Africa. Imagine our disappointment when [...]

  17. VERIAB says:

    OMG..! I would love to order THIS Vogue Africa,Mario when you launch your magazine Im in line for my subscription.

  18. Cynthia says:

    Why would it be so wrong to have a Vogue Africa anyway? Yes, we have poverty and lots of atrocities taking place in Africa but do we all have to focus on it? There are people out there who are doing their bit to tackle a negative aspect or a problem in Africa. Mario is from a fashion background and his way of tackling our lack of representation in the international fashion scene is to create something that we can all be proud of eventually. Not everyone will see this as anything positive but those who are fashion conscious will. Having a Vogue Africa to me would have been a great thing. I would have loved to be able to pick up a magazine featuring black models and designers every month. Yes, and we speculate that maybe it would have been filled with white African models but the truth is we will never know now as it isn’t going ahead.
    Kudos to you my brother!!

  19. Sabu says:

    im African, love it, damn proud of it. i acknowledge the abject poverty rife in my continent, i lament over it, i pray over it and i help where i can. I live in a neighbourhood where there are mansions up the road (literally) and clay houses down the road, i know those who eat too much and those who simply have nothing at all. does the presence of poverty automatically absolve our right to establish ourselves in the world of fashion?i dont think so. we are a continent of problems but we are a continent of bright minds, and creative spirits…waiting for an international platform to show wat we’ve got. we will fight against poverty as hard as we can but at the same time we will fraternise with the Lagerfelds, challenge the Wintours, and express ourselves artistically…because its our God given right to. Vive l’Afrique..Vive Vogue Africa.

  20. Patrice says:

    It tickles me that he did not even answer the points so accurately raised by Uduak. Instead, he confirmed them.

    You can “reclaim” your image (if magazines are actually trying to depict African women, usually they’re focused on those in the Americas), without going to a White magazine to do it! Mario Epanya is well-meaning, passionate, but he has a very long way to go in terms of Black consciousness. He simply isn’t there yet, and Uduak is speaking over his head.

    I will support magazines like Arise, that are Black -owned and Black made!

  21. I personally don’t like Vogue; it conditions an idea and ideals of beauty that are not realistic to the peoples of my country (Nigeria) or to women at all. You look at Tone Goodman and Grace Codington or a close up of Mrs. Wintour herself, and you know they are selling a lie. Browsing through a few of their international publications you get the feeling that they are not aware of their consumers and the fact that we are not all white, and here (Nigeria), the majority not light skinned. I’d prefer to pick up a magazine and see my beauty represented, and I don’t think Vogue has the capability of doing that. This, simply put, is due to the marketing strategy in place -which any intelligent person can pick up on-. Their agenda is to sell their advertisers (some of which profit from lightening creams) and they will manipulate the image of beauty and mid fuck you to do so. The skin lightening industry commands a lot of dollars and they do indeed work with companies like Vogue. Don’t forget that beauty and fashion industries are a business, and people who work in them are in the business of making money. They could give a damn about how you feel about your appearance when you go to sleep at night. that means prompting lights skin and not representing the diversity of beauty of all ethnicities and all shades of colour, so be it.

    Rather than one publication, I’d like to see several high fashion magazines in Africa, which need I remind you is a continent of fifty fours countries, all are individual with unique taste and cannot be represented by one magazine. Nigeria is a place for great potential for this type of publication (we have several fashion periodicals) with its thriving film industry and seasonal fashion week. Viva la Africa!!! We don’t want Vogues white washed idea of beauty.

  22. [...] should check out this Fashion Bomb Daily article to see what Epanya has to say about his campaign and his plans for the future. Subscribe [...]

  23. [...] should check out this Fashion Bomb Daily article to see what Epanya has to say about his campaign and his plans for the future. Share [...]

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