May 5th, 2011
Ethnic Models, Fashion Discussion, Fashion News
Separate but Equal? All Black Editorials
By Claire

Though I was super proud to write an article for Vogue Italia paying tribute to the diversity of black beauty, I’m well aware that some may take issue with the concept of all black editorials in what can be considered mainstream publications.

An author of the Gloss recently wrote, “There’s the somewhat irksome idea that black women need their own special issue, while for the other eleven months out of the year, the magazine will revert back to “normal” (i.e., mostly white). It seems a little condescending to me to treat racial minorities as some kind of separate category, whereas if Vogue Italia were really going to treat all ethnicities equally, they’d simply use all different kinds of models all the time, without seeing fit to comment on their race or make it into a gimmick. I guess it’s better than ignoring the issue completely, but it seems like a pretty shallow and tokenizing solution to me.”

I can see the ‘tokenizing’ argument, and do feel that there are many ways Vogue Italia (and other magazines) could be a little more nuanced in their treatment of minorities. But, I do appreciate efforts to acknowledge black models (and black writers), and think these editorials are the beginning steps to full inclusion. I also believe (and hope), that this is not a phase, and is instead the beginning of a conversation that started in the 70′s, ended abruptly in the naughts, and is now on the table again.

The Life Rhapsodic US Vogue March 2011 featuring Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Ajak Deng, Joan Smalls, and Anais Mali


How do you guys feels about All Black Editorials?
Should they be eradicated completely and replaced with ‘We are the World’ type shoots?

We are the World: Liu Wen, Lais Ribeiro, Kasia Struss, Magdalena Frackowiak, Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls and Karlie Kloss styled by Edward Enninful and shot by Steven Meisel for US Vogue September 2010.

Images via Italian Vogue

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22 Responses to “Separate but Equal? All Black Editorials”

  1. Miss Smith says:

    Personally, I think that all Black editorials are gorgeous. I think it’s great to see so many gorgeous women who look like me in my favorite fashion magazines. After reading Robin Givhan’s article on why fashion keeps tripping over race, it did make me wonder why there was a segregation. I think that using editorials with races of all different women would be just as beautiful. Remember the Benetton ads? I definitely hope this isn’t a trend, and I hope it evolves into something more so we won’t have to continue to have discussions like these.

  2. Nikita says:

    I think they are wonderful. How often do we see all white editorials?? So why not have editorials that are all black, all Latina, all Asian, etc. There is nothing wrong with it. And frankly it’s necessary. Because if it weren’t, would an all black editorial even be headline news? I applaud Vogue Italia and kuddos to you as well, Claire, on a fab article!

  3. Gemini says:

    I think it’s nice that they have their own editorials but it is also sad at the same time. C’mon who wants a issue called Black Beauties?? I don’t see Asians w/ issues titled Asian Persuasion or something? I am just saying Blacks should be in issues without making it a “Black issue”. It needs to be just a magazine issue instead of creating “Black Tribute” magazine issues.

    Whites don’t have “Euro issues” we need to be in mags without adding a title like “Black Beauties” i think many of you can understand my point here.

  4. Myssdee says:

    When it comes to the subject of black models in editorials, I am kind of neutral on the subject. It seems as if we as black women are looking for validation within the magazines. I understand that we want our beauty to be recognize but at times I can feel we can get nit picky and too sensitive.

    At first, we complained about not seeing “enough” black models on the runway and in editorials. Soon after, we began to see that the runways and editorials were becoming diverse.

    No matter how many times tried the industry leaders tried their best to put some diversity into fashion, most of us STILL dared to complain.

    I have heard some complain that the models used were too dark; too light; too skinny; too thick; hair too straight; hair too kinky…its like…”Well do you want these ppl to do as far as recognizing our beauty.”

    The only way I was able to sum everything up…is that It’s The Business…That’s the way it is.

  5. Myssdee says:

    BTW…these all black editorials featured in this post was the magazines’ most HOTTEST, FIERCEST, AND SEXIEST out of everything they have produced.

  6. Ally says:

    Black editorials are fabulous and its a proven fact that they are hot sellers. I honestly don’t know why race is still an issue in 2011. I remember watching a youtube video of a young lady trying to make it into fashion week (not sure if it was on your blog) and she went to a few gosees and afterwards the crew interviewed the agent that was looking to hire her and he said that she had too much hips. The girl had to be 5’11 and 90lbs, what hips?? I think it not only has to do with our color but our shape plays a large roll in it as well. We are naturally curvaceous women. But we are not the only race that suffers at the ignorant hands of the fashion industry, look at Indian women. They are less reconigzed than us. I’m tired of this being an issue and I’m tired of hearing how this designer decided to “step outside the box” because he hired ONE girl with a tint, GTFOH!!!

  7. Leonie says:

    While I appreciate the above editorials I am getting sick of ‘All Black’ editions of magazines, editorials etc. It shouldn’t be a black thing or a white thing but fashion and models should be cast because they look good and make the clothes look good. I’m getting tired of all black editorials…it shouldn’t have to be like that, black models should get work because they’re good models, end of. It’s annoying that there’s such a stigma around black models..pretty is pretty in any race.

  8. zimbabwechic says:

    Ugh, there is nothing cool or great about all black editorials it just shows that the only time most black models are featured is in an all black editorial. There is a whiteout in the media and by us getting happy with an all black editorial they feel that’s all they need to do to shut us up.

  9. Leigh says:

    what Leonie and Zimbabwechic said. I concur

  10. Sasha says:

    I totally agree with your stance on this Claire. I see the issue from both sides of opinions. Black editorials are needed but they should be moving forward into becoming a norm. Having a “special” issue once a year is not enough. Maybe by looking at the high fashion world it would seem, fashion has a white face. But looking out into the streets of the city and elsewhere where fashion truly thrives, there’s a plethora of diversity.

  11. TicaPica says:

    Personally, I really don’t like them – I’ve generally found editorials which mix models in group shots (by age, ethnicity etc) to be of better quality because you are at liberty to select the particular models who best fit the job, not just selecting them according to their race.

  12. Ju'lia says:

    I can’t speak for Vogue or anyone who is contributing to the initiative of celebrating black models. However, I don’t view these editorials as shedding light on anything negative in terms of ethnic models. I view it as a celebration of all the women of color who are in the modeling industry. I feel like it is saying that not only are we beautiful but we can hold down a spread as well.
    Especially when you consider that the argument for not using women of color, let alone placing them on covers, generally is that black models don’t sell like white models. I feel like the magazine is celebrating women of color and making a statement that women of color can be high fashion as well. I can see the other side of the argument, but I would be lying if I said I never wanted to see an all black high fashion spread.

  13. Natasha says:

    Is this month’s issue of Vogue Italia, dedicated to black models including editorial content by black editors, controversial or is the issue itself controversial by nature?

    FashionBombDaily posted new images from the Vogue Italia’s newest issue featuring fashion’s top black models and sourced content to the industry’s leading black editors. Claire Sulmers, author of the blog post, felt “that these editorials [were] the beginning steps to full inclusion,” something she hopes that is the beginning “of a conversation that started in the 70′s…and is now on the table again.” While Jamie Peck of The Gloss felt it condescending of Vogue Italia to give black women a special issue once a year, and revert back “to normal (i.e., mostly white)” for the other eleven months of the year. Other commenters argued that the women in the infamous issue

    Me, personally, I love this issue of Vogue Italia, and I hope it remains a regular yearly feature. When last year’s issue hit the newsstand, I was in heaven. I gushed and teared and was absolutely blown away by all the brown and black lusciousness. It’s a rare occasion to see so many black beauties in one fashion magazine. (I am well aware of Jet, Ebony, and the others, but they are NOT high fashion magazines.) I loved every second of it – flipping through pages, seeing image after image of beautiful brown and black women rocking what the God Lord gave them, and looking fabulous from head to toe.

    To be perfectly honest, I never would have guessed that this had the potential to return again in 2011. I just assumed that last year’s issue was a one-off to be savored and saved, never to be seen again.

    Born in 1977, I only vaguely remembered old copies of Ebony and Jet, with their striking images of black models, singers and celebrites, stashed away in circa-70′s end tables that housed a collection of my parents favorite magazine issues. I will forever have their images ingrained in my head. Outside of a few famous faces throughout the 90s & 00s, such as Beverly, Iman, Naomi, (and….okay, fine!) Tyra, it is a rare occassion to see so many modern women of African descent featured in a single issue.

    Does it suck that the we need to have a separate issue by ONE top fashion mag to see more than a single black model in an issue?

    Yep, it sure does!

    Does it make me a little crazy in the head to be joining the ranks of fashion industry considering the treatment of women of African descent?

    Yep, it does. (But then, again, if I were honest, I would admit that I am already a lil bit crazy…in either case…)

    But I don’t really care, because it is oh-so-fabulous! Give me that one amazing, fantastic issue a year, and keep the other eleven because I won’t be reading them anyway. It’s not like I am a regular Vogue Italia reader – it’s an import and I can’t afford to pay almost $10 US for an issue every month anyway. But I will happily shell out my $10 once a year to read this issue. And because of all the warm, happy feelings this issue gives me, every time I hear “Vogue Italia,” I listen closely.

    The fashion industry is well aware that there are amazingly beautiful black women all over the world. They are also aware that we look just as good as our white counterparts in high fashion clothing and can sell magazines. They choose not to cater to us or put too many faces in a single issue – that is a decision made by some of the world’s top fashion magazine editors, and the rest of the industry chooses to follow (out of fear, I suspect, of Ms. Wintour).

    But that’s okay, cause “You may write me down in history, with your bitter, twisted lies…still, like dust, I’ll rise….I’ll rise, I’ll rise, I’ll rise.” (I know, I know. I got a little sentimental and had to throw a little Maya in there!)

    But does it suck? Yep, it does.

    But life sucks, too, and some times it’s unfair. That is just the way it goes.

    I could rage and cry and get all mad inside – or I could pick up my latest issue of Vogue Italia and wonder who’s going to make it in next year?

  14. AK says:

    #shrugs

  15. llehsal says:

    I think we need to stop sometimes and just admire something without over analyzing it. This is a beautiful spread and as someone just said, you see less represented races in this business than black people, but we do not hear them griping all the time.

    Yes ok there are hardly black models on the runways and here there everywhere in the fashion world, but come on, shoot me if you want but black people complain too much! OMG it’s like we have some sort of inferiority complex. I don’t see indian and asian women crying and complaining all the time about things they didn’t get or things they’re not getting due to their race…quite frankly they don’t have time for that.

    Their time is spent building things for themselves, building their own businesses and empires so that they can leave for their kids, raising their children and looking out for their families. They don’t have time to try to prove to the world that they are something because bluntly put, they know they don’t have to. We as black people need to do the same thing. It is unfortunate that this is a fact of life in this industry, but we must remember that Rome was not built in a day.

    These things happen all the time with examples like sports and other professions. There are some ethnicities that will reach further and are more exposed than some due to very different things, be it physique, social status, complexion and oh the list goes on.

    To have an all black editorial is fabulous. Let’s don’t hate but appreciate. We complain that black men are always used as props, but to the models, that’s something they can now add to their portfolio. I of course don’t really care who agrees or disagrees with me, this is my opinion and as far as I am concerned, I will be relaxing and enjoying the niceties that the fashion world offers me.

  16. Lynaya says:

    I agree with zimbabwechick. If we are thrilled with the all black editorials we are saying that’s all we need to ignore the fact that we’re shut out the other 99 percent of the time.

  17. nik says:

    I understand what the author from The Gloss means, but as a minority what can you expect? What I don’t like is the presentation of the issue itself. Everything coming from the Vogue brand should meet a certain standard. I wish the presentation was better. This is VOGUE not some random unknown magazine. The editorial could have been more creative, the layouts could be better, etc. The only reason this would catch my eye is because it’s all black models. Why not use all black models and be amazing? This was just…ok.

  18. I understand where the writer is coming from, but i also love to see a sea of our faces in one spot! it’s tradition. I love it, and i don’t know what else to say about it. I mean it would great to see them all in magazines more often, but truth is they are in magazines, they might not be in elle, vogue all the time! but there are hundreds of magazines in the world.

  19. Baise says:

    If this was 20 years ago, I would say yes, this is a step in the right direction. But it seems like we’ve had our foot on the same step since the 70s and I’m tired of it.

  20. esme says:

    i am ambiavalent about it. on the one hand i love to see black models. i think it is affirming for black women to see aspirational and beautiful imagery of black models. on the other hand i do agree that black models are in a way being tokenized and marginalized by having one off special editorials and issues in mainstream magazines instead of being integrated on a large scale.

    overall, i just want to see this lead the fashion industry to never again dismiss black models or any other models of color as not being in fashion, which is what happened in the 90′s and 00′s, and led to a total white out. i think if people keep making their voices heard this will happen someday .

  21. carla says:

    On one hand I agree with “the Gloss” on this one. On the other hand, though…unfortunately going to the extreme of having an all black issue is really the only way to call widespread attention to an issue that, as minorities, we are very aware of. For other races, it can be very easy to turn a blind eye to the fact that blacks in editorial are still very scarce.

    I have to also say that the spreads are beautiful and also show that the black community is not one size fits all…black women come in all shades and are far from being a one-dimensional group.

    Fashion Bomb….thanks for doing this post and starting a conversation about an important issue that should not be ignored in the fashion community!

  22. Staci says:

    I like the love that is shown this crew of all-star Black models as a whole. However, sometimes the all-Black editorial is a little self-conscious. There is usually a tribal or nostalgic element. Within the images, there is an assumption of “sisterhood” amongst the models. I am not sure if these editorials speak to a more diverse outlook on the part of the powers that be. I do know that Black models are still not getting the same opportunities as Raquel Zimmerman, Caroline Trentini, or Daria Werbowy. No offense to those ladies.

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