Model Constance Jablonski appears in blackface in a recent editorial for French magazine Numéro:
She sports an afro while playing with a baby that is either black or, like her, is white with skin painted black. The baby is also wearing an afro.
Numéro is following in the footsteps of several other magazines, like V and Paris Vogue, who have used blackface to either stir up debate or express their ‘creativity’:
Sasha Pivovarova in V Magazine
As I said in this post, “white actors [historically] 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 Sasha Pivovarova and Lara Stone were not depicted as mammies or stereotypical black tropes, it was clear by the controversy ignited in the blogosphere and on CNN that painting a white model black was just…not ok. Even if it was simply an artistic expression, it poured salt on open wounds rooted in slavery.
A full year later, Numéro knowingly paints a white model black again.
Is it for shock value? Or just that they don’t care?
Honestly, after the third, fourth time it happens, it begins to sting a little less. The first incident was shocking. The third time is offensive, but I’m yawning. Numero, is this the best you’ve got?
There’s also the issue of black artists and industry insiders using blackface:
Will.i.am at MTV’s pre show
Tyra Banks painting ANTM contestants black
Rihanna in her video for Rockstar
Exactly when did it become cool to wear blackface?
At any rate, for me blackface is similar to the n-word. The term and the practice are both pejorative and offensive, but one indisputable double standard remains: it’s ok for black people to do what they want with their own derogatory slurs and historical representations. For everyone else, it’s off limits.
What do you think?