So I was pleased to receive the July issue of Vogue Magazine in my mailbox.


I knew that this was the issue where they would publish letters regarding the whole Lebron/Giselle/King Kong snafu.
I knew there had to be at least a handful of reader letters, and I was ready to delve in…and I was reading to see if perhaps the magazine would issue an apology.
I looked at the Editor’s Note…no sign.
Then I looked in the letters section:
And saw two letters.
One was from Christine Fox, who says plaintitively, “I‘m an African-American woman who sees nothing wrong with the cover…I know there has been a lot of buzz about it, and folks are outraged, but it’s ridiculous! It is just fashion…dahling…don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” A voice, true, but one that was a minority, right? When I blogged about it briefly here, only a couple of you said “What’s the big deal?” And mind you, this was a cover written about in the Chicago Tribune, Women’s Wear Daily, and ABC News.
The second letter published in Vogue was from Stephanie Jackson. She says, “The April cover bothers me…More devastating than the perpetuation of stereotypes in mainstream culture is the dismissal of the counterargument as if it doesn’t make sense. If controversial imagery rubs a minority group the wrong way, shouldn’t the appropriate response be an apology?
She brings up a good point: shouldn’t there have been an apology??
Then I kept flipping, and found it. Sort’ve. There’s an article in there called “Is Fashion Racist?

Basically it profiles Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, and rising star Arlenis.
It talks about their fortuitious careers, then basically recaps the past three “Blacks in Fashion” talks that The Fashion Bomb has been covering since last September.
It also has a beautiful spread profiling all the instances in Vogue history with black models (maybe taking a cue from Italian Vogue).
Was that the apology? To be like…here, we see you, we know the issues, we get it??
I guess so.
But something just seemed very lame about it all.
I applaud their effort to quell the fire, and do see that PR powerhouse Bonnie Morrison is pictured in the Index Section…
…Jourdan Dunn makes another appearance in Andre Leon Talley’s ‘Life with Andre‘ section…
And our favorite African-American socialite Genevieve Jones is sprinkled into the Society pictures…
Good job?
Keep it up, I guess.
An apology would’ve been admitting guilt, right?
What do you think?

18 thoughts on “Vogue’s July 2008 Issue Asks: Is Fashion Racist?”

  1. Claire Bear-I’m so over Vogue! Whatever! Don’t they know that African Americans are the number one consumers? They should DO BETTER! I love that they put in a little more effort than usual but let’s be honest, will it last? Only time will tell. The leader of the free world will be African American, with a BEAUTIFUL African American and stylish wife standing next to him and we must be satisfied with these few pages? NO-come again. Nice START-let’s see when and where it ends.

    Keep it moving VOGUE! Bring back Suede!

  2. It’s interesting. It feels like there’s a near-insistence at Vogue (through its pages, the attitude of its editor-in chief, the kind of people they hire) to not deal with multiculturalism period, let alone add more black models. And why should they (asking a bit sarcastially)? Likely to them, their most important constituent is white, affluent, and unconcerned with such matters (think Tinsley Mortimer and many of the other similar kinds of women they tend to feature in the editorial pages). I don’t know if they believe that women of color and non-POCs who really want to see diversity make up a substantial enough portion of their subscribers to respond to those concerns. When they will really pay attention is when their readership or advertisers decide to boycott. It’s the only way to make a business (and image aside, that’s what they are) change: encroach on their livelihood. I’m not holding my breath because Vogue is exclusive and that is one of the things it has always prided itself on, much like the country clubs that still insist on no black or Jewish members. And we know those places don’t change because their members aren’t much interested in changing, anyhow. And I gather the Vogue readership with the most amount of influence may likely feel the same.

    I have always wondered what Andre and any of the other POCs who work there think of this. My guess is they obviously realize the problem but no one wants to seriously take Anna Wintour to task. And believe me, I admire the woman’s taste and style but let’s face it, from what I have read of her background she seems to aspire to old-school British aristocracy through and through (read: it would not surprise me if she had a somewhat colonialist attitidude about race and ethnicity). I don’t see her having an epiphany any time soon unless her revenue is threatened.

    Good thing that media outlets like the FB and other sites have emerged. They cater to us and we can support them unabashedly or without feeling like outsiders. We need to continue to create our own thing if other publications won’t give us a fair shake in theirs. As politicians sometimes say, “be interested in only those people who are interested in you.”

    (sorry for the long mssg)


  3. Yeah, this entire incident definitely rubbed me the wrong way. Of course they aren’t going to apologize- at least not in the standard way (which we saw here) but you’re right- an actual acknowledgement would have been pretty decent.

  4. I was debating posting something about that letter to the editor on my blog but I just had to leave well enough alone. That woman is entitled to her opinion no matter how much it grates. My eyes were ROLLING when I read it, I just KNEW there would be a letter like that in this issue.

  5. I agree. The Lebron and Giselle cover was definitely contrived and intentionally racist. But this is the society we live in and if we continue to support magazines such as this then they will continue to do what they do best- sweep African Americans under the rug.

  6. I’m sure Vogue received tons of letters (I wrote one!), e-mails and complaints. They edited out the sound and fury to make it seem like the issue DIDN’T EXIST. Which is worse? Systematic racism where people spit in your face? Or insidious racism where they just IGNORE YOU????
    At least we have forums now where we have a voice, because we still don’t have a voice in their eyes.
    And, honestly, that first letter sounds like it was penned in the halls of Vogue. You know they do invent letters sometimes (and throw the rest in the trash bin).

  7. I think an apology would have been admitting guilt. People only apologize when they are wrong. Miss Wintour does not look like the apologetic type to me. Furthermore I don’t think she cares one way or another if the picture was offensive to African Americans.

    Someone in that office MUST have seen how that picture looked before it went to press and brought it up, whether it be to the Editor in Chief or the Editor at Large, or just water cooler chatter, they have a responsibility to their readers. An apology to those who were offended by it should have been made. They apologize when they misprint or misquote info. Major newspapers don’t make an effort to address those small issues, but one as large as this should have included some type of note from the editor. An issue with an article devoted to models of color, although appreciated, does not make for an apology nor does it deal with the issue at the heart of the matter.

    VOGUE dat nah mek it! (insert Jamaican accent here)

  8. All of us emerging Black Fashion Heads need to come together and start our own ish…isn’t this what the genealogy of the Black American experience has taught us? Did we not learn from them?

    I don’t subscribe to Vogue, rather I be in the lab waiting on my sisters to take the industry over!

    Ready or not!

  9. the issue does exist … fashion is definitely racist and exclusive to the caucasion persuasion.

    however, i did not see the lebron/giselle cover as racist. anyone who knows me knows that i don’t miss an opportunity to call out any injustice to my people. i call it like i see it; this time, i didn’t get the racist undertones that many others seemed to sense.

    either way, i hope all of this will encourage more Black publications … all the pubs i love (suede, honey, vibe vixen) are now defunct. so let’s make a statement with our wallets and support those pubs that support us!

  10. The country club mentality is partially correct, except Anna Wintour is Jewish and there are plenty of families of multi-generational wealth [the elite] who are Black. There was a time in the 70’s when it was de rigeur to use Black models. It started tapering off in the 80’s and 90’s until now when there’s hardly any. Of course they were still left out of most of the lucrative contracts. If enough people stopped buying the products of those companies that do hire Black people – aside from using models – then they would do it. We don’t demand it and exact a punishment for it so it will continue. Shame only goes so far.

  11. Oh yeah I remember the 1997 July Vogue with Kiara Kabukuru on the cover where Anna wrote they were trying to be more open to diversity or some other bs. I found it incredibly condescending plus it was the lightest issue of the year. I sent a letter telling her I did not NEED her to validate my existence.

  12. I think that they absolutely should have apologized. It’s outrageous. Oh, and that spread you called “beautiful” that detailed the important instances of black in Vogue? Did you notice the last cover featured was over a decade ago? Before Anna came on as eic? The whole thing makes me sick. Is there racism in fashion? Blatantly and more egregiously than in any other media field. Dying to pick up this months Vogue Italy though! tried to get it today but Barnes & Noble didn’t have it yet.

  13. I think that they absolutely should have apologized. It’s outrageous. Oh, and that spread you called “beautiful” that detailed the important instances of black in Vogue? Did you notice the last cover featured was over a decade ago? Before Anna came on as eic? The whole thing makes me sick. Is there racism in fashion? Blatantly and more egregiously than in any other media field. Dying to pick up this months Vogue Italy though! tried to get it today but Barnes & Noble didn’t have it yet.

  14. I was just reading Charles W. Mill’s construction of White Supremacy this week, where he highlights the “Somatic” ( body-norm/ideal) dimension as one of the six dimensions of White Supremacy.

    Basically, he says images such as those described here, “influence how people see others and how they see themselves”.

    He writes:

    “A white ‘somatic norm’ assumes hegemonic standing, serving as an important contributory measure of individual worth”. He talks about how Richard Dyer, author of a book called “White” documented the pervasive iconography of the white body ideal, constructing it in movies via special photography and lighting techniques for decades. Basically, Mills says the non-white body has been demarcated as alien, grotesque, ugly, and simian. Mills goes on to claim that non-whites will carry an alienation more fundamental than the one from labor – they will be estranged from their own bodies:

    “Non-whites socialized into the acceptance of this somatic norm will then be alienated from their own bodies, in a sense estranged from their own physical being [read: be-ing] in the world”

    It’s therefore important to call out subtle imagery and media that perpetuate this dimension. And it’s even more important to have a vehicle like The Fashion Bomb to celebrate the bodies of people of color so that people of color feel less alienated from themselves, prouder, and empowered with a beacon of hope they can use to defend against the somatic imagery pointed against them.

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