‘African Queen’ Photographer Sebastian Kim Responds to the Blackface Controversy

After a firestorm of comments in response to the ‘African Queen’ editorial featuring white model Ondria Harmon, shoot photographer Sebastian Kim took to his agency Jedroot’s blog to offer an explanation.
08 Ondria Hardin for Numéro #141 March 2013 in African Queen
He said:

I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France. It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story. Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60′s characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka, and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot.

It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race. I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images. It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended.


Sebastian Kim

04 Ondria Hardin for Numéro #141 March 2013 in African Queen
Take a look at the shoot was apparently inspired by:


Talitha Getty
Talitha Getty
Marisa Berenson
Marisa Berenson

The ladies are certainly tanner than most, but nowhere near the bronze/brown glow apparent on Ms. Hardin.
05 Ondria Hardin for Numéro #141 March 2013 in African Queen
Perhaps the ‘darkening’ and “African Queen’ moniker were added later.  So maybe Mr. Kim shouldn’t be the one apologizing.
What do you think?


Claire Sulmers is the publisher and founder of Fashion Bomb Daily, the #43 most influential style blog in the world.