by Krishana Davis
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
The fashion community is in an uproar over Vogue Netherlands’ attempt to pay homage to Black icons in a feature with a White model in Blackface in its May 2013 issue.
The editorial “Heritage Heroes” showcases white, blond model Querelle Jansen as American-born French singer and dancer Josephine Baker and electrifying Jamaican singer and model Grace Jones. Jansen is pictured in the spread with Blackface and a funky, black Afro wig and a cone-shaped high-top hair style in the other photo.
The feature was designed to underscore the contributions of Baker and Jones to the fashion world.
Fashionita.com, a leading fashion blog, said, “A couple of alternative ideas: use a model who already looks something like Grace Jones or Josephine Baker without face paint. Or just, you know, don’t paint a white person’s face Black ever? Why is this even something we have to keep pointing out? European editors and stylists especially, it seems, are really not getting it.”
Blackface is not uncommon even in 2013 in the Netherlands. During the winter holiday a Black slave, or helper, named Zwarte Piet, accompanies Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) on the delivery of treats and presents to the children. Today, White people often dress in Blackface to pose as Zwarte Piet during holiday celebrations.
Blackface has been a recurring issue in many of European fashion publications.
Numéro magazine was recently under fire for its March 2013 issue, placing model Ondria Hardin, 16, in an editorial “African Queen.” Her skin is painted black. The editorial was shot by photographer Sebastian Kim. In 2010, Numéro magazine published a similar editorial with model Constance Jablonski in black and blond Afro wigs alongside a Black toddler.
In 2009, Vogue Paris published an editorial with model Lara Stone dressed in black paint from head to toe. The 14-page spread was styled by then-editor Carine Roitfeld, who left Conde Nast to launch her own publication CR Fashion Book, now in its second year.