Vogue Italia’s “Black Beauties”

Posted on May 05, 2011

Vogue Italia releases their annual salute to people who aren’t white and we’re once again squirming a bit in our seats at the prospect.
Vogue Italia May 2011 Issue
Photographer: Ellen von Unwerth
Stylist: Giulio Martinelli


We have a confusing reaction to these types of editorials. On the one hand, they give the spotlight to a group the fashion industry tends to either ignore or downplay. On the other hand, the existence of these types of editorials only serve to point out how bad the fashion industry’s track record is in this matter the other 11 months out of the year.

On the other, other hand… gorgeous women of color looking gorgeous.

The bottom line is, as much as we cringe at titles like “BLACK BEAUTIES,” which objectify and dehumanize women of color, and as much as we decry the very idea of race-based issues of magazines or editorials (instead of the much better in theory, but far less likely to be equitable “color blind” standard of beauty and fashion journalism), the alternative is to not highlight or showcase these models at all. We can cringe at the concept and the title, but are the American fashion mags doing a better job when they almost never feature a woman of color on their covers and only intermittently sprinkle them throughout their editorials and ad campaigns? There’s something a little condescending about these issues and editorials but even more important, there’s always a sense of disappointment because nothing’s really going to change. We’ll see one or two women of color on fashion magazine covers in the time between this issue and next year’s “ALL BLACK” issue; just like we saw one or two women of color on the covers last year. These issues may “shine a light” on an issue, but that’s all they ever do. The status quo remains in place.


Still, the ladies are gorgeous and working the shit out of their time to shine.

[Photo Credit: fashioncopious, zfashionblog]

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  • http://profiles.google.com/kegrayson Kate Grayson

    At least it’s not tribal themed!

    • Vera H.

      Thank goodness.

    • Anonymous

      Nope, just 70s blaxploitation themed instead. I suppose it’s a step forward.

      • no josh

        It’s certainly a step more fabulous.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sara.e.munoz Sara Munoz

    Condescending is an understatement. Just one more reason to avoid these magazines. I’ll keep getting my pretty from you two.
    Also, I am getting used to the new website, and I like it. :) Congrats again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-TallGirl-Freeman/1043623567 Jessica TallGirl Freeman

    Whats with all the open mouth shots? The women still look stunning!

    • andyleigh

      I mentioned this the other day. Apparently the trend is to make women believe that being a mouth-breather is somehow attractive. As with many beauty trends, this is just wrong. Close your mouth, ladies! You’ll look beautiful while avoiding parched tonsils.

  • http://twitter.com/KwanaWrites Kwana Jackson

    When they did the 1st issue I was behind it and all for it. I guess full of hope that it would shine a light on the subject and something would change in the industry. But seeing these photos which seem to take the easy way out and jump on stereotypes with the Afros, Soul Train, the church ladies, and Josephine Baker all in one editorial I cringe too. I will not be buying this issue. As for the title I think it’s just awful. On the plus side. Beautiful models. Let’s hope for future bookings for them.

  • Guestier

    I used to work for a women’s magazine and the bottom line is covers with black women don’t sell as well (that’s why you typically see black women on January covers, the slowest sales month of the year). So if we’re going to point a finger, it should be pointed at the mirror. The magazines are feeding the public what they want. Not that this lets magazines off the hook, but the problem is far bigger than a few asshole editors and designers.

    • Anonymous

      (that’s why you typically see black women on January covers, the slowest sales month of the year).

      Self fulfillling prophecy.

      • http://visceralresponse.com Dina dV

        My thoughts exactly. “You’re less likely to sell covers so we’re only going to put you on covers that historically don’t sell well.” Ummm, there’s a reason “stupidity” is often euphemistically referred to as “conventional wisdom.”

    • Anonymous

      That’s why you walk past a news stand and are greeted with a sea of covers that all look alike. I used to work at a photography magazine and HATED that they always put bimbos on the cover. I would always ask WHY, with all the great photography out there, why always make the cover a masterbatory aid – why no great photojournalism? And the answer always was, photojournalism covers don’t sell. I never really believed that though.


    • MilaXX

      I get really tired of this chicken/egg BS response. These magazines are supposedly showcasing trend setters. I refuse to believe that if they wanted to they couldn’t change so called public perception.

      • slagheaps

        Absolutely. This is the real deal. These mags are supposed to be the “trend-setters” so they should be calling the shots on what’s hot & new. Not: ‘what sold in the past’ ~

    • Nonono

      Do you think a Cover with Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks or Halle Berry won’t sell as well as a Cover with fucking Sienna Miller or Blake Lively?
      How many times do these accomplished black women on Vogue and how many times do bimbos with no credits like these on cover of Vogue?

    • Party-Greek

      I’m so tired of people citing this decade old factoid as today’s gospel. It simply isn’t true. Vogues lowest selling issue last year had white boring actresses on the cover even though other covers featured black women. The first time Angelina Jolie on on the cover of Allure, it was also the lowest seller.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mpytka Meghann Pytka

    Because “Black Beauties” doesn’t invoke a horse.

    • Anonymous

      That’s just you I didn’t think of that at all.

      • Anonymous

        You weren’t ever a horse-crazy 8 yr. old girl, I’m guessing!

        • Anonymous


      • Anonymous

        Not just her. First thing I thought of. It is the title of a book about a horse that a lot of little girls loved, including me.

        • Anonymous

          My main critique of the the title is that it is a little condescending. Why not just refer to them as beauties? Or those the word beauty somehow not encompass black women (models no less!) as well? The title “black beauties” implies that there is something inherently exotic about these models by virtue of the fact that they are black. Just felt the that the whole “bestiality” comment was a bit of a stretch.

          • Anonymous

            I absolutely agree with what you said regarding the qualifying use of “black” with regard to beauty. I think where we’re diverging here is that the bestialization criticism has to do with context and references, not with language per se. I agree that the phrase “black beauties” does not necessarily connote animals. However, the book Black Beauty is indeed about a horse, and it’s the single most iconic use of the phrase that I know of. Obviously, that’s not the case for every person who might see this editorial, but part of an editor’s responsibility is to know what they’re doing. Picking a title to headline an issue without at least Googling it to see how else it’s been used is incompetent; doing so on a sensitive topic like this is stupid, and they deserve whatever egg they get on their face,

            The alternative, of course, is that they DID look it up and decided it didn’t matter or wasn’t relevant, which may not be incompetent but is much, much worse in terms of colossally missing the point.

          • Anonymous

            I have heard of the book (though not read) “Black Beauty”. It just wasn’t my first association with the title (plus I don’t know how popular that books is in Italy). I supposed they could have gooled the title to see how else it’s been used. I actually associated the title with the 1960’s Black is Beautiful movement.

          • Anonymous

            Very fair point. I also kind of hoist myself on my own petard when I said “most iconic,” since obviously the Black is Beautiful movement is much more relevant here. Definitely my own bias there; my bad. In that context, your earlier point about the language becomes even more salient, I think, since referring to someone as a Black Beauty was not uncommon around that time and sometimes earlier–it’s the sort of language you’d expect (hope?) to see in a clipping on Of Another Fashion, not in a magazine today.

            As for how popular something is or isn’t in Italy, I’m not sure how big of a consideration this should be; in the fashion world, at least, Vogue Italia is pretty transnational. (Not true, of course, of all Vogue franchises, but I think it applies in this case. I mean, one of the prizes on America’s Next Top Model is a cover and spread in Vogue Italia.)

    • Judy

      Actually, this Italian editorial (and the other one TLo featured some months ago–surely not a year?) make me think of the nightclub scene in La Dolce Vita in which two perfectly matched (and very beautiful) black women with long “ponytails” do a rhythmic and somehow horsey dance through the club. These pictures don’t exactly bestialize the women but they do emphasize a sense that these women are exotic and not quite human. I suppose fashion shoots aim for that anyway…

  • scottyf

    When I was a kid, I used to watch the Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller. Of course there were always scores of black people costumed in someone’s idea of “native dress.”

    When I got older, and realized that these “natives” were working actors who were just trying to get paying gigs, I used to wonder how it felt for them to go from reading Shakespeare or James Baldwin on the way to work, to putting on these grass skirts and shouting “Oooga Booga!” What a mind-fuck it must have been to have to choose between doing those movies and being out of work.

    When I see editorials like this, I often wonder if these beautiful and talented models are feeling something similar.

    • MilaXX

      When I got older, and realized that these “natives” were working actors who were just trying to get paying gigs, I used to wonder how it felt for them to go from reading Shakespeare or James Baldwin on the way to work, to putting on these grass skirts and shouting “Oooga Booga!” What a mind-fuck it must have been to have to choose between doing those movies and being out of work.

      There’s a scene in an old Robert Townsend film called Hollywood Shuffle that depicts this. It’s a scene called Black Acting School

      • scottyf

        One of my favorite movies! In my opinion it’s the best thing Townsend has ever done.

      • http://visceralresponse.com Dina dV

        “Hellooooo, my name is Ro-bert TAAAYlor,”

  • Anonymous

    The name of this issue is cringe worthy.
    But the pictures are beautiful. Especially the white dresses and the chiffon dresses with gigantic straw hats and sky high platforms.

  • Anonymous

    “Tlo said: There’s something a little condescending about these issues and editorials but even more important, there’s always a sense of disappointment because nothing’s really going to change. We’ll see one or two women of color on fashion magazine covers in the time between this issue and next year’s “ALL BLACK” issue; just like we saw one or two women of color on the covers last year. These issues may “shine a light” on an issue, but that’s all they ever do. The status quo remains in place.”


    And the reason the status quo remains in place is because the very people on the masthead, who are ‘highlighting’ this issue, are the very same people who could change it any time they chose too.

    But again, these are also the very same people who arbitrarily declare physical attribute in or out (ie; this season long legs are IN, big breasts are OUT, etc.)

    As for the pictures themselves: With this styling and direction, my first thought was, Where’s Shabadoo?


  • KC

    It would be lovely if YOU, Tom and Lorenzo, started showing a bit of diversity in your coverage beyond Shelley O and Amber from Glee. There are stars of color that are on red carpets but don’t make it to your blog. I think that would help, too. You both are tastemakers and I’d love to see it happen here at my fave fashion blog.

    • Anonymous

      It’s amazing to us that this is an actual response. To a post highlighting models of color. When Usher and Janelle Monae are staring back at us from the front page. In the same week when we depicted and commented on the red carpet looks of Beyonce, Janelle, Jennifer Hudson, Kerry Washington, Frieda Pinto, J Lo, Rosario Dawson, Sofia Vergara, Solange, Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson, Serena Williams, Iman, Rihanna, and Zoe Saldana.

    • Anonymous

      It’s amazing to us that this is an actual response. To a post highlighting models of color. When Usher and Janelle Monae are staring back at us from the front page. In the same week when we depicted and commented on the red carpet looks of Beyonce, Janelle, Jennifer Hudson, Kerry Washington, Frieda Pinto, J Lo, Rosario Dawson, Sofia Vergara, Solange, Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson, Serena Williams, Iman, Rihanna, and Zoe Saldana.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=50311873 Ashley Arceneaux

        translation: Bitch, please.

        • Nevermind

          “Bitch, please” is right. Because then if they dared speak of a black model in anything but glowing terms then that would induce a hysterical round of “racist” cries from the peanut gallery.

          • scottyf

            Preach! ‘Cause all of us PoC are irrationally overly sensitive; and everyone knows that racism doesn’t exist any more.

            …oh, and don’t think I didn’t get that the “peanut gallery” is a veiled reference to George Washington Carver! ROTFL

          • Anonymous

            Scottyf, your incisive analytical surfacing of the peanut gallery/George Washington Carver tie indicates that if you are not a Ph.D. researcher with a strong emphasis on media representations of the racial and/or gender signifiers used in conjunction with historical persons and events, you should be.

            Some days, the comments section of this blog bring me quiet joy.

        • Lisa

          I know!

      • Mac

        I concur!

      • Anonymous

        I think a comment implying you lack even “a bit of diversity” is going too far, because I can often tell you’re keen to showcase a range of stars and I love the posts on Indian, Chinese and other non-western fashion shows. I also don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand, because I am white as anything and I have still noticed some trends – the big roundups of red carpet looks generally include a number of chromatic stars, but the more analytic posts focussing on individuals are a lot whiter. Michelle Obama and RuPaul are the only PoC I can think of who have regular, frequent posts about them and only them.

        Obviously it’s your blog and you can’t include everything (and I know everyone has an opinion on JUST HOW the owners of big blogs should run their sites), and a lot of In or Out/WERQ posts are about the stars of big Hollywood films and thus working from an existing bias against PoC. And I love this blog and it looks like KC does as well – fashion is very much a side interest for me, I don’t know where you get half of these pics, and I certainly couldn’t come close to doing what you do. But I don’t think noticing a trend, or a way the posts could be a bit more representative, is either groundless or in bad faith.

      • http://profiles.google.com/briarmoss11 Alexander Rich-Shea

        Really? This is how you respond to a comment encouraging you to show more diversity? You’re going to mock them and then list off all the people of color that you recently put on your site? As though there’s some sort of “diversity quota” that you have fulfilled, and therefore you are absolved of any concerns regarding the placing of whites in the center and people of color as add-ons or afterthoughts. You must be eminently learned experts on issues of race if you are so sure that your white privilege isn’t impacting your coverage at all.

        Combating racism is not a fucking numbers game.

      • 3foxes

        And let’s not forget TLo’s undying devotion to Iman!

    • Anonymous

      KC, what are you talking about??

    • MilaXX

      I think TLo put I forth great effort to show diversity in their posts. It’s a fine line trying to be all things to all people. I applaud them for even discussing the subject of race as they have in their comments regarding the Vogue Italia “Black Issue”

  • imdone

    I am glad I have TLo in my life to address this so eloquently so I don’t have to. Either white editors/readers get it or they don’t. I am exhausted by their chicken-egg arguments about what the public wants, and pseudo sociology and history about racial acceptance. I hate that cover, but I guess I should be thankful they didn’t put a bone through her nose or dress her in a skirt of bananas.

    • Terry

      “bone through the nose” and “skirt of bananas” – brillant.

      I totally agree. The photography and models are gorgeous but the poses strike me as unseemly. Do have to say, I love the discourse going on in the comment section though.

  • scottyf

    It also doesn’t help that the model on the cover is striking a pose reminiscent of minstrels.

    • Zerographic

      Thank you, Scotty! I’ve stared at the cover feeling really odd about it and know I know why. It’s the kind of pose that’s such an obvious reference that it undermines the supposed point of the issue…

    • Anonymous

      Oh, my god, I know. I just mentioned that picture in my comment, before I saw yours. BTW, re your other comment, about “Tarzan,” etc.: There’s an Off B’way show I think in previews now (I was supposed to see it last night but I was sick) called, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark”; from what I understand touches somewhat on this subject: http://nyti.ms/fd9kci

      • scottyf

        I’ve been hearing about it. I am SO there!

    • MilaXX

      I didn’t see it until you mentioned it, but yeah…. :(

    • Anonymous

      Oh holy lord.

    • http://twitter.com/phreddd F. Eloy Vaughn

      I thought “blow-up doll” initially…

  • Alexis

    TLO said…
    “The bottom line is, as much as we cringe at titles like “BLACK BEAUTIES,” which objectify and dehumanize women of color, and as much as we decry the very idea of race-based issues of magazines or editorials (instead of the much better in theory, but far less likely to be equitable “color blind” standard of beauty and fashion journalism), the alternative is to not highlight or showcase these models at all.”
    Oh man, don’t be so defeatist!
    This editorial just sucks ass anyway. Every single shot is about the colour of the model. It’s shitty and thoughtless and yucky.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RDEDI3ONWSVDQS5GXKKBIML3H4 Chase

    What I don’t understand is that these pictures are so very fabulous, you’d think it would wake up a few editors. Why wouldn’t they want to use these women all the time? These models make these clothes look amazing and fun–isn’t that the point, always the point?

    • Anonymous

      I KNOW. When you think about all the lifeless Eastern European blocks of wood you see standing around in lookbooks these days (especially for “up and coming” designers), these models are just off the chain. Of course it’s the old chestnut of having to be not just as good, but better. I wish up-and-coming designers would see they have an opportunity here to get INCREDIBLE CALIBER modeling that they couldn’t otherwise have access to; it could be an incredible partnership for models of color and lesser-known designers. Alas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

    There’s a lot of “You GO Girl!” posing going on.

  • Anonymous

    The Italian fashion industry is a reflection of Italian culture in general: contributing so much in some areas while remaining entirely tone deaf in others. This editorial would be somewhat improved by the removal of the cover picture and title but, even then, it’s just wrong. The models and the clothes look fabulous, yes, but I can’t accept that the alternative is not to showcase black models at all. There is another alternative: people could decide to wake up and stop being idiots.

  • MilaXX

    Marry me.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kbryna kbryna frogboots

    In the fourth picture or so – the one with two models, one standing in a short blue coat, one crouching – the crouching model reminds me SOOO much of Raja. It’s eerie. The title “Black Beauties” is extremely creepy. I assume, hoping I’m wrong, that it’s an intentional echo of the book/film Black Beauty, which is, of course, about a horse. I actually don’t love the poses or models here that much, or the clothes – I’d love to see these women in an editorial that isn’t 1) tribal or “ethnic” theme or 2) looking like an ad campaign for The Gap or Old Navy.

  • Anonymous

    Really regrettable. Is this what Italians think of black people? Of American culture generally? Isn’t it great the sterotypes we have exported over the years. They seem to have more staying power overseas than at home.

    Beautiful models though, and I hope to see more of them the other 11 months of the year.

  • Vera H.

    Beautiful women. Sad editorial.

  • Jeroengogo

    I think Vogue ITALIA (and only Italia) does put its money where its mouth is and features black models throughout the year.

  • Judy_J

    The models are gorgeous, the clothes are fabulous. It’s unfortunate that the editorial is so condescending and that the magazine chose the title”Black Beauties”. We’ve still got a long way to go, haven’t we?

  • Long Island

    Honestly when I looked at the editorial it made me uncomfortable beyond just the title. As someone else pointed the cover has a minstrel quality. The following photo essay just about hits every racial stereotype out there.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way. It is just suggestion and honestly I am not sure it is even a good idea or all that accessible. Yesterday I got sucked into watching Bollywood you tube clips. These South Asian actresses really “bring it” in both fashion and beauty. I really wanted to learn more about what they are wearing. I know on occasion you feature Asian women but I personally would love to learn more about fashion trends in the East.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vvincent23 Veronica Vincent

    Thanks for keeping the discussion going and pointing out the underlying issues that get easily lost beneath the surface these very attractive editorials.

  • MissMissy

    Model in the blue hat: oh my god, her LEGS! It looks like they’d go about up to my shoulder. Those are some fabulous legs.

  • http://profiles.google.com/denise.alden Denise Alden

    I think it’s because I’m fat and never see any woman above a size four represented in fashion, but I just see gorgeous, very thin (de rigueur) models, and I really, really don’t get how these women aren’t featured in editorials on a regular basis. They’re MODELS for pete’s sake! But that’s the thing about racism: it never makes any sense, does it? I agree with the comments about the vaguely “icky” vibe the editorial has, too. Lastly, I find it impossible to believe that having a model of color on a cover of a fashion magazine diminishes sales. I think this is bullshit, and serves as self-fulfilling prophecy and justification to keep things the way they are.

  • http://twitter.com/margo8461 Marguerite

    So Uncomfortable: Title; Race-based “Theme”of issue; instances of stereotypical stylizing. However, the models are gorgeous and the photos are really beautiful. The dresses, hats, shoes, and bright colors make sure these pictures really pop. I wish the issue felt more like one that is “celebrating our differences” and the models’ talent and beauty, rather than one that is highlighting the continued and pervasive failure (of the fashion and beauty industries, society at large…??) to embrace diversity and broaden our definitions of beauty.

    Although I feel Scottyf’s comments, as a mother raising children in a multicultural and interfaith family I choose to believe that the models in these issues are pushing back at the artificial constraints created by limited definitions of beauty and marketability, one smile and one photo at a time.

    So the issue makes us uncomfortable? Maybe that is a good thing. By highlighting the racial-divide that still exists in the fashion and beauty industries, this magazine keeps it from being completely swept under the proverbial rug, where we can pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe showcasing these beautiful women in a manner that creates discomfort isn’t such a cynical move after all. Maybe its a calculated move meant to trigger awareness and to create an opportunity for open discussion, both of which are necessary before there can be change. And even if I am engaging in extreme wishful thinking in regards to the motives of the magazine’s editors? By starting this discussion you are helping ensure that the models’ efforts do indeed help bring about change, one smile and one photo at a time.

  • ailsieengland

    I know this a contentious, and not entirely related issue – but wouldn’t it be nice to see black models with more typical ‘black’ shapes? Most black women are much curvier than these women.

    Actually, this might be part of the problem with the lack of representation of models from non-white ethnicities. The status quo for models is very tall and very thin. While that’s rare among white women, it must be even rarer among black women, who tend to be curvier, and Asian women, who tend to be shorter. Could that be part of the problem? Just a thought.

    • What

      Actually there are a lot of Black women who are tall and thin.
      And Asian women being shorter is a stereotype perpetuated again and again. At least in Northern Asia, girls are of similar heights to American girls. A 5’5” girl is average height here, and she’s average height in Northern China and Korea.

    • http://twitter.com/graceishuman Grace

      Most black women are much curvier than these women.
      So are most white, Latina, Asian, etc., etc., women. They’re models in a mainstream fashion magazine because they don’t look like most women of any race.

  • KC

    It’s a sensitive subject for me to be in a group that is not considered worthy except for one issue in Italian Vogue and as an afterthought – “oh let’s get some diversity” – everywhere else. I love your blog and check it constantly. But in fashion and all things mainstream beautiful, I’m more often reminded where I don’t belong than where I do. I appreciate your coverage of stars of color.

  • curious kitten

    I wonder if they meant to make a statement in the photo of the darker skinned model pushing down the lighter skinned model…

  • Lor

    “are the American fashion mags doing a better job when they almost never feature a woman of color on their covers and only intermittently sprinkle them throughout their editorials and ad campaigns?”

    I hear what you’re saying, but African Americans make up only about 13% of our population. I think proportionally to our population, they’re well represented in the fashion world. If we’re going to gripe – let’s gripe about Asian, Latino, Arab (etc) women not being fairly represented. Better yet, let’s gripe about large (normal) women not being represented. Better still – let’s pipe down on the griping all together.

    • scottyf

      From iluvblackwomen.posterous.com:

      African-Americans Major Influence in Tech, Media and Buying Power
      “According to a comprehensive BET survey of the African-American community recently released, African Americans in 2008 accounted for a 10% increase in population from 2008 versus 2000, while African-American buying power increased more than 55% during the same period to $913 billion. By the year 2013 black buying power will reach $1.2 trillion dollars, a 35% increase versus 2008.”

      Speaking from my own experience, one of my neuroses stems from accepting your argument and beating myself up for feeling as if something wasn’t quite right with the paradigm.

      It’s all about money.

      But I’ll give you this: unless People of Color and people like Soul Brothers T&Lo consistently, continuously and pragmatically raise the issue, then it’s no one’s fault but our own.

    • MilaXX

      “Pipe down on all the griping” sounds a lot like be happy with what we give you. Problem is if no one complains, then nothing ever changes. We have to let out voices be heard.

    • Jen

      Sorry, but citing census numbers does not give an accurate picture. 13% may self identify as ‘African American’ but if you add in those who are ‘multi racial’ and ‘latino’ who share some african roots, you’re dealing with a much bigger segment of the US population. I’m not disagreeing with you that groups that are lumped together as minorities are being ignored (or portrayed in a stereotypical fashion when presented) but it’s the mental attitudes that need to be changed, not creating quotas based on census data.

    • Emma Wallace

      “I hear what you’re saying, but African Americans make up only about 13% of our population. I think proportionally to our population, they’re well represented in the fashion world.”

      You do make one point. If we are aiming for proportional representation then black models will still be in the minority. But 13% is about 1 in 8. I don’t think that I see that ratio in the magazines, so I would guess that it’s still not proportional.

  • Anonymous

    I think you need to cut Vogue Italia some slack here. The black population in Italy is less than 1% of the total and most of those are very recent immigrants (ie. within the last 10 or so years) with a very different culture to indigenous Italians. You can go to a medium sized Italian town and literally never see a black face. There is NO homegrown ‘black’ culture.

    So yes to people in the US who’ve had over 400 years to assimilate their black population this seems patronising and stereotypical but that’s

    • Anonymous

      Since (brace yourselves for sweeping generalization ahead) I find Italian culture inexplicably sexist, given the many strong, intelligent Italian women i have encountered – and they’ve had quite a few women around for, like, y’know, forever – I suppose it makes sense the representations of persons of color are also appalling.

    • Alison

      Good comment. I do think some effort has to be made to judge editorials like this in the context of the country publishing it rather than a US context. History, experience and population make-up are vastly different.

    • imdone

      I’m sorry but Italian Vogue is not published in the remote towns you reference. It comes from Milan. Milan has television and internet connections, so do Rome, Florence and all the other major cities, so there’s plenty of exposure to “black” populations. The magazine is called “vogue” which used to imply innovative. How ironic.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve LIVED in Milan. If you see black faces there they’re either tourists or the occasional street seller from West Africa, or ironically, people to do with the fashion industry. My Italian family lives in an very middle class town not far from Turin. It’s not in any sense of the word ‘remote’, yet I’ve spent a ton of time there and never once seen a black person there. My Italian family is well-educated, well-traveled and multi-lingual and yet as far as I know none of my cousins has a single black friend. Not because they’re racist, but because they don’t know any.

        Yes, they have Internet and TV, but funnily enough most TV programming and Internet sites are in Italian and reflect Italian culture. American music, TV programming and movies exist of course but are seen as very ‘American’ and very foreign and exotic (and they often just reinforce the racial sterotypes they have anyway). Most Italians don’t speak or read English particularly well, so the subtleties of any English-speaking media they consume just pass over their heads . Black culture is just not something that most Italians, even sophisticated urban populations, has any day to day intimate contact with.

        Again, blacks represent way less than 1% of the Italian population. It’s akin to criticising Americans for stereotypical portrayals of Pakistanis or something. And in that context Vogue Italia is being innovative and daring, even if they’re not as sensitive to a very foreign culture as Americans would like them to be.

    • http://twitter.com/graceishuman Grace

      I took TLo’s comments to be about the fashion industry in general – which is, after all, an international industry – and not Vogue Italia specifically. It’s not as though American Vogue hasn’t had huge issues with stereotypical or offensive depictions of people of color, despite the larger population of people of color here (and nowhere near 400 years of assimilation – more like 50).

      • Anonymous

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear, I agree that TLo’s comments were more addressed at the fashion industry at large. I meant ‘you’ more for some of the commentariat, who are clearly judging Vogue Italia through a VERY American lens.

  • andyleigh

    Okay, what’s with the bad afro wigs? I haven’t seen hair like that since the ’70s.

    Also, in the pic of the girl wearing the blue hat, are those panties with the bouquet of flowers over her good china something a woman is supposed to wear in public? If so, why? And damn, that girl has some long, long legs. They’d still be long if she wore pants, however.

  • Anonny1

    While I’ve come to grips with The Race Issue (esp. outside the U.S.), I simply don’t like this campaign. The clothes are beautiful and the women are stunning but I don’t like the open-mouth, faux-surprise look on most of their faces. There’s something unsettling about it — like they’re trying too hard to make these women seem friendly and likable. ‘Look everyone! Black women are pretty AND approachable!” It just seems vapid (and insulting). I’m sure these models could do more if asked. I guess I expect more edge and imagination from Vogue Italia.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t objectively respond to the racial issues in the photos themselves, the concept & title prejudiced me to see them through such a negative filter & we often see what we’re looking for, don’t we.

  • Lala

    The ladies are gorgeous, but everyone else should be deeply embarrassed for producing one uninspired cliché after another.

  • http://profiles.google.com/etucker38 Erica Tucker

    The unfortunate thing is that the industry will never change. But the models look fantastic! I hope someone has an epiphany somewhere and hires them continuously.

    Love the new website. You two deserve it!

  • Judy

    I can read a bit of text, which says “Velvet-skinned sirens with sinuous bodies, they love bright colors. Sensual and gifted with a natural wild (savage) beauty, they are the dawn and future of humanity.” Fabulous objectification: all black women look alike and have the same feelings too. They are both more primitive and more futuristic than you and me.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, that’s just too much. Like I said earlier, love the Italians but they are really tone-deaf about this sort of thing. (And, yes, Italians, go ahead and slam the U.S. for always depicting Italians as Mafiosi – we deserve it.)

    • http://twitter.com/graceishuman Grace

      Oh. my. God. Depressing.

  • Klguminski

    T-Lo, could you please post the names of the models if they are available?

  • Anonymous

    The other thing that always really bothers me, above and beyond what you referenced, is the (common) obsession with black and white, and the consequent erasure of all other races. Where are the offensive issues titled “Yellow Fever!” “Desert Beauties!” “Maharani!”, etc.? Where are the East Asians, the Native Americans (under which heading I’m including everyone from Maya to Aleuts, for the record), the South Asians, the Arabs, the Hispanics? (Not getting hired by agencies, that’s where.)

    Not only does it suck that there’s one issue a year For Colored Girls, it also sucks that that issue is blindly devoted to only one group thereof. (I was pleased to see that the editorial seems to have avoided colorism pretty well–it’s not all super-light-skinned girls. Savor the positives, I guess.)

    I’m trying to decide if it would be awesome or Even Worse if there were like five issues a year, one each devoted to another ethnic group. The balance of color, so to speak, would certainly improve, but the offensiveness would mount like a tidal wave. Shudder.

    • Xiao Jen

      I agree about the tendency to devolve into a black vs. white mentality. People of Color typically is not used to mean Asians, Latinos or Native Americans though I had always thought it included all people of color. I am hesitant to comment on a blog as the issue of race and ethnicity is such a multi-layered one that trying to explain ones self in a few sentences is difficult and prone to misinterpretation. Ones background influences how media, the blogs about them and the comments regarding the blogs are perceived. I am a Caucasian-American (that sounds bizarre : ) mother who adopted three Asian children and as such am much more sensitive to Asian, Asian-American and adopted Asian-American issues and that isn’t even throwing in their specific country of birth!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UCLO5V2YD36T7QMPKOC7YXPOFU Erica

    My observation–as a white girl who grew up in an urban area, going to urban public schools, with people of all different shades of skin–is that the fashion industry is so bad at representing all of the different types of Americans because the U.S., or rather white America, is still largely so segregated. I mean, I notice when there are only white models in a runway show that TLo puts on this blog, just like I notice when I’m at a concert with only white people, etc. But, a lot of my white friends don’t notice this (I know this because we’ve talked about it) because this is the norm to them–they never lived by anyone of a different color and they never went to school with very many people of different ethnicities, and they aren’t raising their kids around too many people with different skin colors, either. So, is it any surprise that some person with white skin casting a runway show (or a shoot for a magazine) doesn’t say, hey, there are only white people here, and we need to represent everyone in this show or in this magazine? I don’t think it even crosses their minds–I’m reminded of Sex and the City and the simply incredible dearth of ethnic minorities in that show, supposedly set in NYC. If it’s any consolation, it simply cannot stay this way, what with the demographics of this country being what they are–note scottyf’s post about the increasing spending power of AA, and add Hispanics and Asians, etc. to the mix. It’s why my kids go to an urban, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse preschool and why they will go to an urban, ethnically diverse public school. Their skin may be lily white, but their world is not :)

    • scottyf

      When I get very frustrated with the world, and I begin to wonder why I still bother to care about issues such as this. When I sit, jaw dropped listening to comments by Donald Trump about our President. When I wonder if my passion for humanity will die with me and my generation–I get the unparalleled privilege of reading posts like yours, Marguerite’s and many others. And I realize that the world is in very good hands.

    • Anonymous

      I also grew up in the city, went to urban schools, pushed by my mother for that exact reason. I will tell you that it indeed made me more socially cognizant, more aware of when a person said somebody was being “oversensitive” meant that they were just ignorant on the impact of their words.
      I am glad they used a wide range of skin color for this editorial and not just the light-skinned beauts, but can’t they do this all-around? You hardly ever see a dark-skinned Asian model as well. Ah well, baby steps I guess. Everybody’s gorgeous here but I definitely get the minstrel vibe as well.

    • Anonymous

      For what it’s worth, I did not grow up in a particularly diverse area (suburban, not totally white, but largely segregated), and yet I managed to be aware that the world is full of all kinds of people, to notice that the newspaper identified people as black but never identified people as white, to notice that non-white people barely exist in “quintessential” NYC shows like SATC & Seinfeld (not to mention Woody Allen movies), etc. I’m not saying I’m special; the point is I’m far from being the only one, and it simply means it’s possible for people to open their eyes and be aware of the wider world. I think people have a responsibility to do so, and not being directly exposed to people of different races and religions isn’t really much of an excuse.

      • Scamp

        SATC has always made me deeply uncomfortable with the way it depicts people who aren’t white. It’s like taking a trip back in time. It’s difficult to understand how they got away with it, really.

        I wonder if the black models in this issue are hoping that they’ll get more work with Vogue out of this shoot.

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  • Sailor Venus

    Some of these models are so light skinned that they are “whiter” than white models.

    Just so you wait, in the next century Vogue Italia might do a “tribute to Yellow Beauties! “Tribute to Brown Beauties!”.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, we would all think or at least hope that editorials like this wouldn’t exsist anymore. If women of color were featured more all throughout fashion, they wouldn’t need these indeed slightly cringe-worthy spreads. It’s wishful thinking that fashion designers, photographers, editors, etc. all over the world would choose to feature/use models of different colors but that’s never happening. The same goes for all those plus sized editorials like this as well.

  • Spcl K

    Black, Brown, Tan, Cream, Ivory, is beautiful 366 days of the year! Having issues like theses only perpetuates the differences between us. Beautiful is beautiful! The exploitation and stereotyping of all women is heinous. I find the ladies in these photos wonderfully stunning, but the images are lacking and not creative. Let’s broaden the scope from afro’s, neon colored or burgundy make-up. We are so much more than your limited vision can even handle.

  • http://stitchingincircles.etsy.com Tina

    I am in total agreement with your analysis of the problem. But I do love this editorial. So much JOY and vibrancy… and I love the range of styles of clothing, make-up, hair, etc that they included.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8629953 Loren Eadie

    In case anyone was interested in some of the text alongside the editorial, the part which reads “Sirene dalla pelle vellutata e dalla silhouette sinuosa amano le tinte forti. Sensuali, dotate di una bellezza naturale e selvaggia, sono l’alba e il futuro dell’umanità” is roughly translated as “Sirens with velvet skin and supple silhouettes love bright colors. Sensual, blessed with a natural and wild (lit. savage) beauty, they are both the dawn and the future of humanity.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8629953 Loren Eadie

      And then in the smaller text it both gets somewhat better and somewhat worse, possibly just worse?
      “Sono divine creature che sorprendono, sollecitano alla danza con corpi tonici e flessuosi, dalle movenze agili, evocatrici delle melodie musicali…Variabile e mutevole per la quantità di etnie e di incroci che l’attraversano, la black beauty sfugge alle classificazioni…” — “They are divine creatures that surprise, that provoke dance with toned and lithe bodies, with agile movements, women that evoke musical melodies…Fluid and changeable thanks to the quantity of ethnicities and crossbreedings (for lack of a better translation) that run through her, the black beauty escapes classification…”

      • Anonymous

        Fluid and changeable thanks to the quantity of ethnicities and crossbreedings (for lack of a better translation) that run through her,

        Crossbreeding??!!That is truly heinous.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8629953 Loren Eadie

          It’s hard to translate and I doubt it was meant that insensitively. Incrocio means a cross, sometimes between races or simply blood types.

          • MilaXX

            I’m assuming they mean some are biracial.

        • Anonymous

          Incrocio just means a ‘cross’ with no negative connotations, for example it’s the word for a crossroads or intersection. So in this context would be referring to a mix or blend of ethnicities.

  • http://bfish.myopenid.com/ bfish

    Race issue aside (I believe everything worth saying has already been said here),

    Am I the only one who reads this editorial as the two women in the first picture getting married (white dresses) and then all the other pictures being of their awesome bachlorette party where it was mandatory to look fabulous?

  • http://bfish.myopenid.com/ bfish

    I wanted to say this about the book title. In French it was translated as “Black Prince” and in another language it was “Black Magic”. It might have been something completely different in Italian too.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trashilove { edi } ilovetrash

    why do they ever use white women?

  • ask

    I was curious so I went looking and cannot find the racial demographics of Italy. I saw that under ethnicity Italian is listed at 92.5% and North African as 1%,. They don’t appear to use the American term African American (African-Italian…African-Asian, African-Japanese?)

    Anyway I see the segregation and understand the issue (problem) that some would have with that – but shouldn’t we acknowledge that that would mean 8% of the issues concentration on one (of the minority races)? If Vogue Italia included only the same percentage of “Black Beauties”, as in their population in the “regular” issues, then people would have to complain about that, since it might work out to less work/coverage than a “devoted issue”?

    That said, I do like most of the clothes and most of the pictures look fun. (Don’t like the second last one.) So of those pics are the epitome of “Legs for DAYS”!

    • just kitten

      Why would an Italian POC call themselves African American?

      • ask

        You are kidding aren’t you?

        African-Italians, African-Japanese, African-Dutch, African-British, African-Iranian

        Chinese-Italian, Norwegian-Italian, Papau-New-Guinean-Italian …

        • Anonymous

          I think here we’re going past the thorny questions of how race is represented to the just as thorny ones of national and ethnic identities. As (mostly) a “nation of immigrants” as they used to say in grade school (spackling over all those inconvenient indigenous folk & those imported as human property) the U.S. makes different assumptions and has a different vocabulary than do a lot of other nations.

  • Anonymous

    It’s fetishizing, and a little weird.

  • Momzilla

    Could Vogue Italia start doing this issue every-other-year? It’s a depressing reminder that we all still have a long way to go.

  • Anonymous

    It made me think of this. Not necessarily a good thing.


  • http://polishgazing.blogspot.com/ Serena

    Black women are so gorgeous and wear clothing so well! It is shocking that there aren’t more just normally

  • Lisa

    I don’t see why they just *don’t* do special issues and just put black models in with caucasian models. And Latina models. And Asian models. Just toss ’em all in there together, and do it every single issue without making a big deal about it. Then they wouldn’t have to do special racial issues at all – every model of every color would just BE in the magazine, all the time.

    And yes, yes, I know – I know *exactly* how I sound:

    “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…”
    “She doesn’t even go here!”
    “Do you even go to this school?”
    “No… I just have a lot of feelings.”
    “Ok go home…”

  • aj

    I too am conflicted. Hopefully the pictures serve to remind the stylists, designers, photographers, editors etc that women of color can also sell clothes.

  • eek!

    there is some fucked up photoshopping going on here….

  • fashionablylate

    The first picture is sexy as hell, but the rest are mostly ridiculous & campy. I assume that Vogue Italia does this with good intentions, but the results leave much to be desired.

  • R Harris987

    I’d like to think the only time I hear the term “black beauty” is when we’re talking about a 4 legged animal

  • Candigirl1968

    Even if there is a problem with the cover (ie, moving magazines with a black woman on the color), this doesn’t explain the utter paucity of women of color on the inside a typical issue. I seriously doubt that a reader who picks up a Vogue with Jennifer Anniston on the cover is going to put it back on the newsstand because she finds ten black models on the inside interspersed throughout the editorials instead of the usual two or three.

    Whatever icky feelings there may be to an issue called “Tribute to Black Beauties,” the reality is that black women all over the US who don’t speak a lick of Italian will be running to Borders and Barnes and Noble to pick this issue up, because it is one of the few times outside of a publication like Essence that they get substantial representation.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kemi.kuranga Kemi Kuranga

    Aside of the completely cringeworthy concept and title of this pictorial — I must say that I for one am pleased that the women featured have natural hair, straight hair, short and long — indicative of the sisters that I know and love – myself included!

  • Pterodactyl

    I wish I had an afro. Too bad I am pasty, pasty white.

  • Party-Greek

    That’s great an all but why not just hire black and other non-white models for “regular” editorials instead of lumping them together in a pull out and forgetting they exist for the rest of the year?

  • slagheaps

    The status quo remains in place.”

    As it always effing does.

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  • don

    Pretty but the whole editorial suffers from Josephine Baker Syndrome. And I’m not now and never was a horse-crazy little girl but my immediate first thought reading the title was horses; the second was drugs (one variety of prescription speed used to be called black beauty). “Beautiful women of color” was a distant third.

  • Juhi

    It’s the ITALIAN edition! Here in Italy people don’t have qualms neither calling it as they see it, nor fearing social repercussion for revealing their prejudices and phobias publicly. Women are objectified by the media to an unbelievable point, and women remain silent. Most position wanted adds seeking secretaries list “maximum 35 years-old, must be beautiful” as one of the main requirements. And in this context you want to talk about race??

    As for women of color on the covers of US magazines, one yearly not being enough. I don’t get the discussion. African Americans constitute 14% of the US population (I have no idea of what % of Vogue purchasers fall in this race group). where is the problem? Are we supposed to shift the same question on Asians, Native Americans, and so on?

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