Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vogue Black: Segregation or Inspiration

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Sorry, I missed you yesterday. I was away from my office allllll day.

Right now I should be grading papers, but I need your opinion, people. As I mentioned here last week, I have a new gig writing for the just launched, Vogue Black. Quite frankly, I was thrilled to be asked to join the blogging staff for this groundbreaking publication. I remembered how exciting the all Black Vogue printed issue was in 2008 and figured an online edition of Italian Vouge, dedicated to exploring and celebrating Black beauty, fashion and culture, would be more of the same.

Yes, I questioned why the Italians, and not the Americans (or even the British or the French) were spearheading a fashion book for Black women when there aren't too many Black people living in Italy (no offense Ragazza!). But I didn't think they were incapable of handling the job... especially since they hired Black American, British and French writers to provide much of the content. Pretty smart if you ask me.

But now that the site has launched, along with Vogue Curvy ( a site dedicated to plus-sized beauties), folks are criticizing Italian Vogue for creating a fashion ghetto for Black girls and big girls. They claim it's taking the industry backwards, and wonder why we can't just incorporate Black women and plus-size models into the pages of the regular magazine.

You know what I say. Shut up! (Pardon my French, but this really makes me angry.) You know why? Because right now we live in a world, where Black girls and chubby girls are starved for editorial content that takes us seriously. Where we are not just background material or a token image amongst a sea of White (and or skinny). I want an entire magazine (hell, I'd like five or six to be honest) where every single page and article is about people who look like me. I don't want to have to skip the make-up/hair/skin care pages because I don't have pale skin, light eyes and straight hair. I'll say it. I'm greedy. I want every page to relate to me. Kind of like most White people can do when they read Vogue, Glamour, Allure, Cosmo, Redbook, Self....

Maybe if we lived in a world where we were constantly bombarded with beautiful images of beautiful Black women and plus-sized women, we wouldn't need Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy, but until then, can we please enjoy this one publication that does?

Here are some of the stories that have run discussing the issue:

Seven Halos

New York Magazine: make sure you read the comments on this one.

Black Book

Okay, Meltingpot readers, tell me what you think. Is Vogue Black taking us backwards or moving us forward? What do you think about magazines aimed at a specific ethnic group in the year 2010? I really want to hear from you all. (And Fyi so do the editors of Italian Vogue!) Speak up.

(And just because I have a strong opinion, doesn't mean I don't want to hear yours. That's how we all learn.)



Xena said...

I'm fairly new to this blog and thought I'd share my thoughts on this topic. I'm from the UK btw.

I used to be an avid reader of magazines such as Essence, Pride (UK mag) etc. because it was so refreshing to see other black women like myself being represented and celebrated throughout its pages but then (recently) my views towards these black publications changed as I do feel that it is, in some way, segregating black women from being represented in mainstream media.

I also bought my copy of the all-black Vogue edition because I wanted to support black models being equally represented in Vogue. I just feel there should be more of an effort made for black women to gain recognition in mainstream media rather than settling for an independent publication aimed at just ourselves. We're not that much different to other women apart from, as you mentioned, skin tone and hair texture. I do agree that when it comes to make-up and different skin tones, there should be an effort to include make-up/fashion ideas to compliment all different skin tones.

Shouldn't the success of the all-black Vogue edition be an incentive to start integrating more women of colour into its pages rather than producing a separate magazine altogether?

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Ciao LT no offense taken!

Seriously, I agree it is interesting that it's Vogue Italia who is doing this. Yet France, the UK and America have much larger black populations.

I'm surprised about the backlash. People kept saying it's a separate website. It's not. It's a section of the main Vogue Italia website.

I do not have a problem with this at all.

Have people never heard of EW's Women in Hollywood issues or the InStyle Wedding issues? What's wrong with Vogue having an area where black women from different countries have a outlet?

The black experience in the U.S. is not the only one. I'm excited to read what women like me are doing in other parts of the world.

As a black woman in Italy who reads Vogue Italia and still gets American Vogue delivered, I've noticed there are many more models of color in the former. I assume even with the new sections on Vogue Italia's website, they will still do a better job than American Vogue when it comes to models of color.

To all the folks complaining...basta!

Chai said...

I have to say that I do not feel the slightest bit offended by the new publication. I'm barely thirty years old, and still find myself waiting to be recognized in the pages of a glossy magazine...still have ppl. telling me I should do like 'them' be like 'them' so I can move up and be well respected. Mesh into mainstream and it will all feel right. I say NO!

This feels right because, ME...I feel beautiful,recognized and seen. I have ladies who look like me, walk like me, think like me...representing Me in the pages of a magazine that has sustainable reach. What is wrong with that? These other publications KNOW black women exist...they understand the need, and the simple fact they continue to ignore it...or only acknowledge us during a trendy season when 'color is in,'...infuriates me.

I'm ready to be happy, tear through the pages (whether online or print) and read all that I've been missing out on. The essence of who we are should never be compromised in the form of a holding pattern...

adiaha said...

In my ideal world Black beauty is a standard which is accepted by everyone. But how can we African American women/people expect anyone else to accept our beauty when we don't appreciate or accept it ourselves?

When we stop giving away $9 billion dollar a year to make our hair look like white people's hair and appreciate all black skin tones then maybe we will find the will to finally take control of our image and dictate to the rest of the world how to perceive us instead of having our image dictated to us.


Shanda said...

You know, at first, I agreed with the idea that having separate publications for black and plus-sized women - particularly for black women - is a definite step backwards in the quest for equality in beauty magazines.
Now, I have to praise Vogue for stepping up. I am tired of purchasing overpriced magazines for WOC with low-quality editing (obvious spelling and punctuation problems), subject matter, documentation, etcetera (see: most black hair magazines, black woman-targeted fashion magazines, articles in E.bony and J.et - so shoot me! I said it!). And Essence is not fitting the bill, either. Vogue's effort should stand as a prototype for better fashion publications for black women. If there are going to be separate fashion magazines for black women, shouldn't they be of equal quality?
As an educated woman, I would rather read, to quote Lori, "Vogue, Glamour, Allure, Cosmo, Redbook, Self...." And if I can add a few favorites: InStyle, Marie Claire, Elle, M...to name a few. I enjoy well-written articles and full disclosure on the models, clothes, makeup, and accessories in fashion magazines. That's why I read them.
The material is out there. Just look at the blogs and forums. We're out here.
Sometimes you have to step back before you can move forward. If it takes Vogue to put together a great, eye-catching fashion magazine for black women that makes the world take notice, so be it. I can't be the only woman of color who feels the way I do about the dearth of quality American fashion magazines for black women. Hopefully, Vogue's magazine will inspire copycats. Even better, maybe someone will step up and do even better. I'll gladly subscribe.

Anonymous said...

I'm also new to this blog.

There is difference between segregation and inspiration. If you think about HBCU's, Miss Black America pageants,and Black oriented magazines, they were largely created because we could not get into these things.

These days to have all-Black magazines are increasingly becoming inspirations or learning experiences, but far as magazines like Elle being able to see Black people as equal, there is much work that needs to be done. Black people had no choice. It wasn't popular back then in the past and in 2010, the racists attitudes are still there.

For anybody who see an all-Black Vogue as segregationist, It shouldn't be considered as such. When Naomi Campbell was put on a Sport Illustrated Magazine cover,some of their readers was appalled by the fact that a Black woman graced the covers of their magazine. As a matter of fact, that was one of SI lower selling magazines. Beyonce and Jay-Z, was done the same way by the readers as one reader said that he didn't want it to go " ghetto" and let's not forget what recently happened to the talented Sibide Gabourney being snubbed from a popular magazine that in which the story was supposed to be about Oscar nominees.

Unless the world, (Italians included)is willing to see Black people and other people of color as beautiful and not as a derogatory race, a need like an all-Black vogue will always be needed.