A Sea of White Faces

by Luso Mnthali

If we look at the sea of White faces on magazine stands worldwide, we realize that the struggle for Black women to be accepted as equals in the world of fashion and beauty continues. The gains that generations of women have made become almost symbolic, and not at all concrete, when we still must talk about such issues.

Every time a Black editor, writer, or stylist is hired by a magazine, no matter if it is a Black-centered or a mainstream magazine, it feels as though we might be on the right track.  We think we’re gaining momentum, but the sad truth is that is not the case.  Are Black women getting hired in the ever-so-competitive world of magazine publishing?  And by hired, we also mean getting a magazine cover.  It would seem that no, they are not.  And because there are so many things that rightly concern us so much more, we have not been making as big a deal out of this fact as we probably should.  Indeed, no other group of women are being told what to do, think, or say (and when), as much as Black women.  With the “whitewashing” of magazine covers, we are effectively being told to back down, shut up, and put up with whatever it is the ”powers that be” dish out.  Even Black women sometimes seem to give up and continue to buy magazines that for decades have not honored them.

By continuously putting the crossover cover stars (you know who they are) on major glossies, we are being told that the girls who do not visibly have White ancestry are not good enough.  That beauty is being White or light-skinned.  Even light-skinned is not enough.  When was the last time you saw an Asian woman, let alone a Black one, on the cover of a major magazine?  Is Rihanna seriously the only Black girl out there  Or Beyoncé?  These are the two women that South African magazines—who do not overtly cater to the Black women market—peddle to their readers, year in and year out.  Like a tired dishcloth wrung too many times.  In fact, when I was an intern at one of the most well-known magazines here (with an international name), I once suffered a mild shock to my entire system.  The editor at the time stated that “This is a White magazine.”  So that was the reason their hiring policy has always been non-inclusive, and the few Black faces were there for “color interests,” “Black economic empowerment,” or, more accurately, window-dressing.  If they had a full complement of staff, that they respected and took seriously, we would not need to call it that.  And we would not still be angry over their cover choices.

The magazine cover that infuriated me most this year was Elle South Africa’s cover with Alek Wek.  I should have been joyful, right?  She’s a dark, African girl on the cover of the world’s style bible, albeit with a South African touch.  But I was not.  One of the cover-lines was, in my opinion, an absurd placement next to an internationally renowned cover star.  A Black writer, one of the few that has written for this magazine in recent years, dared ask the question: “Do Black covers sell?”  Rising up from my spluttering indignation, I tripped over the elephant in the room.  I looked straight at what was then only a teaser on a media website, and asked Alek’s image out loud: “How could they do this to you?”  I was angry and mystified.  She is a fabulous African woman, and more representative of where we are than anyone they have put on their cover for a long time, yet they dare to ask this question.

I understand that it’s a question White editors around the world have asked themselves; but to see such an ignorant, flippantly arrogant and insensitive question in a land where most of who you see are Black faces?  But there they were, acting as if South Africa were somehow “Little Europe in Africa” and completely missing the point that some of the best-selling women’s magazines in the entire country are Black women’s magazines with Black women on the cover.  These magazines sell to their target demographic rapidly because they respect their readers.  Anyone can look at circulation figures for a given magazine and see this—as it is not kept secret.

The publishing industry’s business models need a total overhaul—a revamp.  I am not, obviously, a big business owner, and nor do I pretend to know everything that there is to know about publishing.  Yet the insights I have gained tell me this: Black women are still being highly disrespected in this country.  South African publishers are taking us for a ride when they think they can stock their magazines in our neighbourhoods and not feature, or cater to, us at all.  Sure they’ll throw in the one or two Black faces, but that’s it.  They might do a Black cover every now and then, but at their book and management meetings they will say, “See, the numbers are low, these covers don’t sell.”  They then decided to rehash a Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz cover.  I do not recall either of these women ever having stepped on South African soil.  Meanwhile, most circulation figures have been going down and magazines are in a precarious position.

At a time when magazines are folding left and right, and these publishers are still clinging to their old business models (and White and cappuccino-colored cover models), you would think that they might have learned a thing or two.  It’s a tricky business.  And, yes, you only remain on top by giving people what they want.  Yet ignoring a substantial number of women, and not tapping into their energies, and, at the bottom line—their financial power—is just plain stupid.  It shows the level of racism and lack of respect that White publishers have long held for Black women.  Looking through some online responses to the Alek Wek issue, I found some comments that mirrored my own thoughts.  One commentator wrote “I’m much more shocked to see that tagline on an African magazine than I would be on an American or European one.”

I refused to buy that magazine, even though I adore Alek and look at her 1997 Elle magazine cover as a collector’s item.  That was a turning point for me.  Up until that time it was rare to see any black faces on covers unless they were Essence, Ebony or Jet.  I thought things would change, but thirteen years later nothing has changed except the clothes Alek is wearing on another Elle cover.

As a Black woman standing on African soil, I felt insulted by the article.  I felt that it was yet another method by which White magazine publishers try to circumvent the truth, which is that Black covers have been selling extremely well in various markets, especially this one.  I, however, was not going to be coerced into picking up that magazine because it had the psychological effect of a slap on the face with a wet rag.

We have put up long enough with the racism that says “White will sell” and “White is beautiful” even in a majority Black country like South Africa.  I wondered what was going on in other African settings, so I asked a few of my friends to do some checking.

In Tanzania, Sandra reported, “There are hardly any White faces staring at you from the covers of our local glossies here in TZ.  However, about a good 99 percent of the cover models are very light in complexion.  Even the models used for the ads seem to be lighter skinned, which is apparently preferred.  And, of course, the longer horse tails you have, the better.”

Francis in Zambia found that most magazines on the rack in his hometown were foreign magazines that featured mainly White people.  An avid Arise magazine reader, he said, “The newsagents put out what sells here.  I believe it’s mainly because of the misconception that Black models and Black women in general are less versatile then their white counterparts.  However if you look at Tyra, Naomi, Alek, and Iman, they all come from different countries, their looks are all different, and they are all physically dissimilar.  They’re diverse.”

Dineo, a South African who lives in the most urban part of the country, which includes Johannesburg and Tshwane, says the situation is dire. “When it comes to faces of color, they are always on Drum, Bona, Soul, and Real . . . those kinds of magazines.  It’s very rare otherwise.  Beyoncé and Rihanna can only be shown so much.  What is also frustrating is that even when they appear on the likes of Cosmo or other glossies, where is the representation inside?”

Gugu from Soweto confirmed what has become very clear.  In the Black townships, the magazines at what are known as spaza shops are those with White covers.

Dineo, who lives in the high-income neighbourhood of Waterkloof Ridge, in Tshwane, says it’s the same. These are costly magazines with international names, yet they find space on many newsstands, even the predominantly Black areas.  That’s the cheek of it—especially considering how White editors simply do not wish to cater to the Black population, yet they will gladly take their money.  It is true that some Black women simply do not care.  They can afford the magazine, so why not buy it is what I’ve heard some say in discussions focusing on the non-inclusive nature of some magazines.

While it’s true that Cosmopolitan consistently puts more Black faces on their cover than any other international magazine, the representation only goes so far.  Black covers can only do so much if magazines are not hiring Black writers, stylists and editors.  There is only one Black editor that I know of, on any of the major international glossies.  The editor of O, The Oprah Magazine South Africa, is Black.  (In South Africa she is seen as colored or mixed-race).  In industry circles, using a colored model, who they often term “cappuccino,” is the most accepted rule of thumb to circumventing actually hiring a dark Black South African model.  In fact, it is hard for me to even come up with a Black South African model’s name.  Many of the girls they use on shoots are Brazilian, American, British, or Nigerian.  But even those Black girls do not make the covers of Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Women’s Health, FHM, Sports Illustrated, among other prints.  All the international glossies that compete with home-grown South African talent (like Destiny and True Love) for a place in Black women’s hearts and minds, rarely honor Black women by giving them covers, or positions with the publication.

At my local grocery store in Cape Town, I scanned the newsstands.  Everyone and their grannies frequent this store—all colors, all faiths.  Out of 27 glossy magazines in the English language, four had Black people on the cover.  One was Good Housekeeping with Michelle Obama.  Another, with Nelson Mandela as cover star on Destiny—the second offering from Khanyi Dhlomo’s publishing group, which is one of the few Black-owned publishers in the country.  It is significant that Destiny is the only magazine that I have seen that speaks to all kinds of women. Dhlomo has put people of almost every color group in the country on the cover, and within the magazine’s pages.

If the opportunities for young Black women are closed even before they’ve begun, this is indeed dire. For how long can we keep telling our sisters and daughters that, yes, they matter, and, yes, they are just as beautiful and vital as everyone else in the world, when we’re not fighting hard enough for them to have a place in the sun?  At the end of the day, a cover on its own simply does not matter.  What matters is the implied racism behind constantly being ignored—as if you do not exist.  Yes, there are a myriad number of issues that affect us globally as Black women.  But carving us out of substantial parts of the economy and the media—via rendering us invisible to the world at large—is making the statement that we do not matter.  Those who do not matter inevitably get left behind.  Yet here we are, and perhaps our best bet lies only with ourselves.

  • http://artofkawaii.tumblr.com artofkawaii

    The fakery and pretentiousness in South African fashion really boggles my mind in a time where exclusivity and inaccessibility in fashion are dying. Even Luxury brands are availing themselves in ways they never have before. The elite club of fashion’s chosen are over. Even Anna Wintour understands this. Publications can no longer wall themselves off. Welcome to the digital dojo! Sorry, but print is dying. How can one of the top publications in SA have no website or readily available contact details? It’s a recession, get it together! One shouldn’t have to spend two days online trying to find you, an email adress or someone affiliated with you… something and still come up with nothing. So what this article speaks about is very real. There is an arrogance and snottiness in South AFrican fashion that has no place in the business, especially in the digital era. Get with the times. It’s all well and good that the selling point of this magazine is that its small enough to fit into a lady’s purse but maybe its time to make it fit her smartfone, no? And maybe its time to include all women- black white, big small etc. Its really no longer enough to lead the pack by association. The media firewalls have come down. People consume information much more differently now- they are more descerning and assertive about what they want and they want it now. Information needs to flow quicker, be more current and you need to stay on top of it. South African publications and the beauty and fashion industry in general can no longer continue to treat Black women as second rate consumers- we are this economy. We are the buying power. Why do I walk into Clicks and there is a whole aisle of hair brushes and accessories for white women’s hair and I must go downtown, dodging puddles of piss to go to the china shops if I want a comb? Why is my hard-earned rand still second class? I also want to shop where there is air conditioning and the surroundings are lush and make me feel like a lady too. Why is my shopping experience different because I am not a white woman? I why do I still have to squeeze my assets into clothes that were not made with me in mind, but made to the prototype of (straight) white womens’ bodies… IN AFRICA? These are some of the things black women still struggle with in Africa and which they must step up and find solutions to. And sadly these things translate into our homes as men and children (and women themselves) are increasingly showing signs of being affected by the media image of white as beautiful, of whiteness as a representation of the extraordinary and normal all at the same time. Black people are increasingly crumbling under the pressure to “rise up” to whiteness and it is mostly black women and girls that have to bare the load of that societal demand- this in a supposedly free, multicultural and democratic South Africa.

  • Mz. Bronze

    If the opportunities for young Black women are closed even before they’ve begun, this is indeed dire. For how long can we keep telling our sisters and daughters that yes, they matter, and yes, they are just as beautiful and vital as everyone else in the world, but we’re not fighting hard enough for them to have a place in the sun? k


    Do you really feel that this is a valid question in 2010? I only found your post through the Dailybombfashion.com….. Who knows when I would have found this blog. I love it so far. So how can the opportunities be closed when you have a blog. I know your talking about mainstream media however, media does change. I belive the problem is that you (and please don’t be offended) do not realize that this site is important. This site, and others like it, is telling women that they are important. Blacks need to wean themselves from thinking, if mainstream media doesn’t recognize me–then I don’t exist. This is so not true. Maybe 100 years ago, but not today. The internet is the new media and from the looks of it, it is doing a wonderful job showing us black beauty. So I say to you–value this blog as a step in the right direction in boosting the morale and self esteem of little black girls and grown black women.

  • Kassie

    It’s nice to know my light skin isn’t black enough to be considered real black. I am, as are women who are as light or lighter than me, still a black woman. I agree that dark black women need to be represented more, they are beautiful and they are not a niche, but jeez, throw us “cappuccino coloured” women under the bus much? Maybe it would be beneficial to embrace all black models.

  • Lauren

    I don’t think the author is saying anything about lighted skinned women of color. She is just saying that that is the hue that you see on most covers. Please don’t make this a skin hue article – pitying sistas against each other – it’s much more than that.

  • Mia

    I agree. She is NOT saying that at all.

  • Mia

    This site is not a blog – it’s an online magazine. True new media has opened doors -but all doors should be MORE open.

  • Alexandra

    What you are saying was not in the article.

  • Alexandra

    I dont know what its like in South Africa. But all I’ll say is that all Black women across the world, especially choclate ladies, need to come to terms that our complexion is not gonna be seen the same. Different complexions, generate different responses. And thats the TRUTH.

    Dark skin has been associated with negativity for 350+ years and still is. How in the world can you erase that ? When Naomi Campbell first posed for Vogue, it was reported that it was one of the lowest selling issues. But Vogue Black sells very well. It’s commong sense.
    Stop analyzing, investigating, etc; why Black models cant appear on some things. Even in Black communities/cultures the same thing is done. Why is it any different?

    This article was interesting, but it wouldn’t hurt if someone wrote an article on how young black girls/women can avoid having low-self esteem because of this.

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    Thanks Alexandra. We will definitely take your suggestion into consideration for an upcoming issue! Thanks so much for your comment :)


  • Veronica

    Great article!

  • http://artofkawaii.tumblr.com artofkawaii

    。。。also to say black covers dont sell or to ask IF they sell (under the assumption and often purported idea that these magazines are white and for whites exclusively) nevermind the arrogant indigation characteristic of classic South African racism, is a tacit admission, albeit gross generalization by those who hide behind it, that whites are racist, that they don’t recognise any other group of people’s beauty, excellence and worth beyond their own and are happy and comfortable in that state and wish to be left alone to be close minded…. which is a lie for the most part. Hollywood says this when they cast white people for roles clearly meant for non-whites and it is all classed under the agrument that its all commerce. Its not commerce- this kind of thinking makes no eonomic sense. Its pure racism.

  • 99problems

    To the Entire Clutch Magazine Masthead:

    In regards to this issue: Enough complaining. We could have hundreds of articles on the same topic from ESSENCE to VOGUE to ELLE –and so on. Time to present our own solutions to these problems as our predecessor did Long before the Johnson and Graves Families.

    Present New Options –New Publications, More Positions for Writers.
    Respect New Contributing Writers with Exceptional Content.
    Encourage past Fashion Editors within the Diaspora to Build New Publications or Assist in Hiring emerging Black Editors.
    Share and Network New opportunities within the Community.
    Start after school programs and Mentor Young Writers in the Black Communities.


    We can’t complain about other demographics not giving us a helping hand or exhibiting prejudice when we won’t even help people within our own communities!

  • dalilou

    As a cappucino-colored girl myself, I didn’t feel thrown under the bus at all. The author said nothing derogatory about women with light skin, just that they are over-represented in the media and proclaimed as the only acceptable hue that there is. Please, my middle school students would have literally laughed out loud if they saw that Alek Wek with her dark skin and short hair. Black is still not beautiful in the year 2010. Regardless of our skin tone, black women need to fight for more inclusion of the full spectrum of black beauty inside and outside of our communities or we are doomed to repeat the same jealousy, infighting, and divisions.

  • dalilou

    Well, I agree with a lot of your points but I think that the job of Clutch and other publications, and for writers in general, is to point out the problems in our culture. We, as readers, need to decide what to do with that info- will we just feel depressed, will we continue to buy magazines that don’t respect us, will we try to make change, etc? It’s only negative if people just complain but it seems as though Clutch is trying to be part of the solution.

  • TMA

    @99Problems: I think the fact that Clutch, and now Coco + Creme, exist point to the fact that their founders are doing something proactive. They’re brought a very fresh face and voice to (young/young-ish) black women of the African diaspora. They discuss issues that are pertinent to this demographic. They run adverts (see the sidebar) promoting business (primarily) owned and operated by black women. They’ve created a platform for black authors to share their work.

    People can simultaneously be proactive and be consciously critical.

  • Beef Bacon

    Why does our dark skin have a negative connotation? WHY?

    This has always been my question.

    Do your research and you won’t even have to ask WHY? You will know why THEY don’t put your BEAUTIFUL BLACK SKIN on the cover of magazines. You WILL NOT CARE. Yet, you will know WHY. You will understand WHY and accept it, the bigger picture will be seen, and it will BE BEAUTIFUL!

  • http://www.beautyisdiverse.com Beauty Is Diverse

    I agree with 99problems. This article isn’t proving any point nor is it solving anything.

    Lot’s of black women do work in the fashion industry they just may not work in a magazine or company that is exclusives to blacks. Even a lot of black female bloggers including myself have worked in the industry and actually have an educational background in Fashion . I also don’t see why the industry must cater to black women at the top of their list,fashion isn’t about race, and it’s time for people to stop creating race wars, because people in the industry really could care less.

    What do black women think they are going to accomplish by always getting mad or complaining when things don’t go there way. How does that create a job, or provide someone an opportunity.

  • http://jesmoi.blogspot.com Jesmoi

    99problems, I totally agree. How many times do we need to read articles about this before we decide to have our own. While many people seem to critique Tyler Perry, my admiration of him comes from the fact that he did not wait for someone to create an opportunity for him in the entertainment industry. He created his own. When will women get together and say, it’s time for us to address this issue ourselves? We don’t need a “Vogue Africa” or a South African Elle to validate our beauty or worth. They never have in the first place! Realize the market for magazines marketed toward women of diverse backgrounds and CREATE IT YOURSELF!

    Now honestly, I have moved beyond the point where i want to read only “black magazines”. However, I see the need for these types of publications. I tried Jones Magazine- picked up their premier issue, but found it to be an extremely materialistic, and fluffy magazine. And I found typos. Probably won’t pick it up again. However, there is still a desire for me to see a magazine out there with women who like myself and other women of color on the cover.

    Let’s DO this people!

  • kaikou

    Is it bad to say I am somewhat over this? Like the article said, I would not place my life on seeing an asian woman cover. So… Idk. It just seems like a dead issue. White people own the media. I encourage anyone who has a problem with this to start there own avenue. Clutch Magazine is a good example, of what can come out of other venues. I can’t comment on SA because I have never been there. Let me just say all my white friends want to go to Africa …. South Africa! Lol! Wake up, shake up, and move on! Blacks who care about this invest in yourselves.

  • ShamWow

    That’s not what she’s saying, that is what you chose to get from this article.

    What she is saying is that the light-skinned black woman has been used to keep all black women at arm’s length in the fashion industry. They’ll find the lightest black woman, as close to white as possible, and put her on the cover to pacify black women in fashion. That’s not flattering to dark skinned or light skinned women.

  • ShamWow

    So you want us to sit back like happy niggas and be fine with it? Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

  • http://www.citizette.com Citizette.com

    One of the best articles I’ve read on Clutch to date. I thought it was brilliant how the author discussed an old topic from a fresh perspective. I was not aware of the Alek Wek Elle cover and I’m frankly disappointed but not surprised. The disparities between the way South Africa is viewed and the rest of the continent (with the exception of Egypt) is so sharp. While it’s easy to feel powerless here, perhaps if we withdraw our support from white institutions such as these magazines and focus our energy and resources into black only things, they will feel the weight of our power.

  • kaikou

    “Create yourself” so true! Over the problem, who is looking for solutions. It isn’t in calling yourself the N word, that’s for sure.

  • de

    Yes, please don’t be so vain. This article was not about light skinned verses whatever. We all are intelligent enough to know that light or dark it is still considered black. This article was simply talking about picking the lightest of the black to represent a race of women. This wasn’t about you or anyone who is light.

  • alrightnow

    i would like to see AA women on the covers period.. don’t care what color they are.. when i was a teen i use 2 buy Glamour, Shape, Prevention, and read Cosmopolitan and Elle.. I soon realized that no one in the magazine looked like me, the tips for hair and makeup didn’t cater to me either.. In my adult years i started reading Jet, Ebony, and Essence.. I know ppl believe Essence went 2 hell years ago but I read it anyway. It’s refreshing to see ppl that look like me..

    These mags that only cater to the white women need to smarten up and cater to both..

  • EmpressDivine

    Loved the article! Sad that we all don’t see why it’s important to call attention. Even if this sounds “tired” to some, it’s a completely different world for others and they won’t know unless someone points it out. I hope the people who knew this already are doing something about it and the people who didn’t know commit to supporting those who are.

  • Isis

    She was not saying that AT ALL Kassie

  • 99problems


    It’s not that the issue is tired, more than our unwillingness to provide additional avenues within our own communities is not as aggressive as it one was. Perhaps theirs a new generation of editors more concerned about their paychecks and being relevant and mainstream media that don’t understand why multitudes of Great things can be done when you create a subculture of publications within your own community; rather wait on the same establishments to pay recognition in 2010, after over 100 years of print and disregarding people of color in fashion and beauty. If we still can’t depend on them to integrate an array of faces and professionals, get progressive! The same is happening in movies and music. When will we understand that it will be far more gratifying and beneficial to our history to build our own studios and let the work speak for it self? –This can all be done while simultaneously working in the fashion industry as the minority.

    Be empowered by the challenge and the void! And utilize it to build your own empires, publish/distribute your own editorials. Need I list all the examples of businessmen and women in the African Diaspora that have done this in the global community?

    I appreciate the feedback from those who truly understand the root of what I’m saying. Clutch Magazine is a leader in the type of articles they author, but where we need to look into is the generation or group of people that are not paying it forward. Who in publications is not paying it forward; The same opportunities they were given/offered?

    SEARCH for the SOLUTION.

  • 99problems

    ————noted corrections: there’s* / once*

  • http://www.essenceofsilk.com KarenC

    We should learn to love ourselves more. Teach our sons & grandchildren to love us more & stand & support eachother in anyway possible. Once you have self love “Chad 85 ;>” Then nothing else really matters.

  • Anon

    I agree with 99problems. While there is something to be said for a publication like clutch drawing attention to instances in which black women are being underrepresented or discriminated against in the beauty and fashion industries (these stories must be told, really), it becomes overkill when that’s the only story being told. How about one or two stories about the problem and another about people making strides in spite of it? Without striking that balance the message becomes more about victimhood than empowerment and perseverance.

    I do read Vogue and Elle, but I don’t rely on them to foster my positive self-image about my African traits. I seek out other publications for those purposes. The blog bglhonline.com actually had a post on Friday (in response to your article about Essence’s white fashion director) asking women which media sources they looked to for beauty and fashion that catered to black women. I discovered several blogs and sites that I had not heard of before. The bglhonline.com post was a great way of putting an empowering spin on an instance of marginalization. I would really like to see clutch embrace that philosophy a bit more. Not just with respect to this issue, but with some others that I feel have begun to overemphasize black victimhood (particularly that of black women).

  • Melinda B.

    @99 Problems and @Anon,

    As a faithful daily reader at Clutch, I have to ask where your comments are coming from. Clutch is one of the most solution-oriented and progressive publications for young Black women out there. I have to question how long you two have been reading because if you were familiar at least on a small scale, you know that Clutch does series like I’m So Ambitious, and they interview coming and up young entrepreneurs who are doing things for social change and building wealth. There are more features and ongoing articles that I have seen over the years that inspires me as a young reader.

    I tune into Luso’s work because she is an international reporter and her stuff is always thorough and backed up with solid interviews. Clearly she’s bringing a perspective many of us don’t know about. Where else can you read about magazines in South Africa and their lack of diversity of Black and dark-skin women? I don’t know about you, but this shows us all that the problems we see with US Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harpers Bazaar and international problems and they affect Black women globally.

    I appreciate this perspective. Clutch is know for bringing a perspective rarely covered on other sites and this is why I read every day! Thank you Clutch!

  • Alexandra

    Ok, that’s nice to hear. I really enjoyed the article and how the author gave us a look at Black beauty in another culture. But it’s definitely the timing of the article that has led to some opposing opinions. It gave me an idea.

    @ ShamWow, so what are ‘you’ gonna do about it then? I never said be ‘happy’ about it; but why continuing analyzing it when you already know why it is so? be an ‘angry nigga’ all you want.

  • Brandie

    I don’t understand why we get our panties twisted up in a bunch over whether or not white pubilications will include out images in their media outlets. What we need to do is figure out why there are few successful black owned publications. Not even Essence Mag is black owned anymore. Clutch Magazine would look lovely in a tangible, glossy format. How about it?

  • http://www.thenaturalmane.wordpress.com The Natural Mane

    Hi I totally agree with you this sometimes has to do with demographics. I completely understand some magazine simply cater to a white demographic but in some cases mags can still use both….I think this was sposed to be the role black mags like Essence and Jet were sposed to play…if they meant to deal with black issues then the black kaleidescope should have been readily featured…(this explains one of the major concerns of such mags no longer being black owned…money talks an all that)…

    on another note…I’m not sure of the numbers but i am certain the black chunck of the census have enormous buyin power….how is it then that those mags dont see fit to even bother to cater to that category…

  • http://www.thenaturalmane.wordpress.com The Natural Mane

    agreed with the main poster here..
    now we need black business to come together with that in mind and create a powerhouse media outfit like has never been seen in the world!

    what truly frustrates me is that we have enough black people in the world to call it a bloody niche of all niches why arent we carefully harvesting that…stupse

  • http://iloveaccra.com Toke Olagbaju

    …I find it a tad annoying the amount of power the writer of this article gives to magazines that obviously couldn’t care less about her. I think it’s time the black community at large quit pointing fingers at what is not being done and start instead to do our own. If you’re not happy with the fact that you are not being given enough of a say and are being ‘told what to say’ in ‘white’ magazines maybe you should instead choose to focus on the magazines that do empower you. Put your money where your mouth is and pour your pennies into the purses of publications that care about you and cater to you. Support start-up black publications. Look for black publications that look like they could do with some help and support them and quit paying so much attention to what ‘white’ publications are getting up to.

    The ‘black’ community also needs to remember that if there were no ‘black’ there could be no ‘white’ and we need to ask ourselves who really makes these differentiations and what do they REALLY matter to us as people? Why the need to be accepted by other people? Isn’t it enough that we love and accept ourselves? Isn’t that what we should really be working on? Self acceptance? I don’t know about South Africa because I don’t live there but I have lived in a number of other African countries and I must say Africa and the black communities world wide have a serious issue when it comes to self love. We need to learn to love ourselves before we can expect anyone else to love us. Magazine publications such as Elle are the LEAST of our worries. You need to take a look at the world around you, open your eyes and expand your horizons and then really sit back and ask yourself if this is the way you would like the world to view the black race.

    If you want to be seen then make yourself seen, if you want to be heard then make yourself heard but please, for the love of God, stop complaining about things you seem not to be able to change because in all things and all situations the change begins on the inside of you.

  • Maripoya

    I think a false dichotomy is being created between critiquing and discussing a social issue and actively working to change a situation. Both activities are intertwined. If black women aren’t allowed to explore and discuss how social institutions portray them (is this really self-victimazation?), then you will never get zines like Clutch or any other tangible results.

    I appreciated gaining an African perspective on this issue, and look forward to continuing reading and hearing about it over, over, and over again. These types of articles provide seeds that are sown into a cultivated mind, the seeds that grow into organizations, businesses, and movements that black women will create in the future. The only route to any real social power is through knowledge. Any group who tries to take a shortcut, doesn’t gain very much in the long run.

  • Brandie

    Thank you! Thank you!

  • skyy

    i so agree.. stop complaining and take ACTION

  • Brandie

    How does one go about taking action? We have the talent but where does one find the recources to get things moving? I’d love to see an article on this subject.

  • IslandNubian

    Melinda –I don’t think anyone is questioning the work of Clutch Magazine. I definitely appreciate the great reads every week! I think it’s a bit shallow to knock a commenter for their readership; great for Clutch that they are maintaining dedicated subscribers and new readers because of their awesome work. From what I have seen, several readers agree that we’re looking to these magazines to provide content and covers we may never get. Would be awesome to see Clutch in print. I’d buy/subscribe in a heart beat!!

    Go Clutch!

  • kaikou

    Wonderful comments here. I want to present an example:

    The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which focuses on the rights of LGBTQ citizens, has been actively via their social media venues: Facebook and Twitter(and also email) seeking people to sign an open letter to Target and Best Buy to “Make it Right” in the money they pledge to a committee that supports an anti-gay candidate. Then have over 100K signatures! You can read all about it here:


    It would be foolish to think that the HRC or an gay rights campaign is that much different then a lot of what faces the greater minority communities.

    So ask to put your money and support for those who support you. Where is the letters, petitions, and other actions to Essence or other outlets? Let’s not forget that their are also bigger and more important issues facing the modern black woman. Sherrod anyone? Where is the support then?

    Let’s do this! Once in for all! I trust that anyone engaging on this platform is knowledgeable enough to ACT now!

  • kaikou

    Wow! There are a lot of typos in my last comment, but I hope you get the message. :D

  • http://twitter.com/AfROCKcentric AfROCKcentric

    Okay Toke. I hear you loud and clear. Firstly – let me say that when you live in a majority black country, yet mostly see white faces peering out at you from the covers and pages of glossies, it’s disconcerting to say the least. Especially having had first-hand experience with how they make their decisions.

    Secondly – where in this article did you get the idea that we as black women do not have self-love or self-acceptance? For me, the very act of writing this article was an emotional, love-filled act. If I did not love myself and other black women, I would not have written it. I would have just kept my little anger to myself and not have published. This article comes at some personal cost. I am a writer in South Africa. I have done the rounds of most of the women’s magazines here. I know the drill. Do you think this article will please them? No. I did it out of love for people like you. Therefore – I am not looking for their acceptance, or love. And if you do not see that, then the personal cost is that much greater.

    The fact that Elle has the words ‘South Africa’ stamped boldly on the cover says and means a lot. Perhaps not to you, but it means something to me. Put South Africa on it, then let’s SEE South Africa. Let’s be Proudly South African, as the famous logo says. And that is the beauty of freedom. I can point that out without having to think “Now what would Toke think about this?” Also – on the issue of giving this magazine power – every time a black woman purchases it but does not see herself in it, she gives it power. Did you read where I said I refused to buy it? And others like it, unless they honour me? At the end of the day these are beauty and fashion magazines, and the feminist in me says there is still a lot of objectifying of women in them. Yet they shape women’s lives to some extent, and that always interests me – no matter what colour that woman is.

    What you are saying is that I am not paying attention to what’s going on around me – right? Dead wrong. I would not be a writer, a published one at that, if I did not pay attention. I have been writing about many issues for years, so this one article, about one issue that I felt needed to be addressed is not representative of the entire scope of my interests. And for you to put it in such a way tells me there is something else going on here than the mere reading or writing of an article. I did not say that it’s only whites who tell us what to say, think or do. It’s also other black females. You are now telling me what to concentrate on when I am free. I have the agency to write what I like. And that’s the freedom that other black women have given me.

    Also – you said “Look for black publications that look like they could do with some help and support them and quit paying so much attention to what ‘white’ publications are getting up to.” What do you think this is? Who have I written for in this article? I wrote for YOU. I may never ever get the chance to write for Elle South Africa because of this article. Let alone any other international glossies here. I thought long and hard about it, and it’s a bridge I was willing to cross. How many other writers in this country are doing that? I am not sitting here and saying ‘woe is me’ – I am saying that this is the situation, now what am I going to about it. Read my last sentence. It seems you jumped into the fray with your own prejudices.

    If you understood anything about South Africa and its very recent history, you would be able to see why this is an issue that burns. I also stated that there are a myriad number of issues that affect us as black women, so magazine covers alone are not going to be the most burning of issues. Yet, I have time and agency to address that issue. I am a multi-faceted individual and can choose what to bring to the table. Just as any other black woman can. I hear what you and others are saying about creating our own. Did you not read the part about Destiny Magazine? Learn more about that publication and who is behind it. So, essentially, what is it that you are saying that is different to what I have said?

  • http://www.budgetchic.org Budget Chic

    This is also happening with fashion mag cherry-picking young, white blond-haired bloggers to feature and promote through the printed pages of their magazines. It seems like the white female fashion bloggers are getting more attention, more promotion, more opportunities, press and fashion week invites and product endorsements etc then the African American fashion bloggers with the same kind of content. The fashion mag industry just focuses on and picks the fashion bloggers they feel reflect or looks like their target audience (i.e non-black). Just like there is a slim opportunities for Black editors, writers, stylists and models in the fashion magazine industry, that works the same way for featuring or promoting fashion blogs authored by AA bloggers. They are shutting out and ignoring black fashion bloggers, Lucky Magazine is notorious for this. They have a guest blogger feature each month (on-line & in print) and not one AA blogger has been featured.

  • Pingback: Clutch Magazine Article: The Racism & Sexism Of The Fashion Industry Against Black Women Must Not Be Ignored. « GayBlackCanadianman

  • http://iloveaccra.com Toke Olagbaju

    Luso I think you are missing my point a bit. The point I am making is that by writing articles such as the one you have written yes you do make a bold statement but you also give a lot of power to things you say you are not satisfied with. If you are not happy with the way that ‘white’ magazines portray or deal with black women why make them feel so important by writing a whole article about them? You could instead have written an article about a number of black publications that portrayed black women in a positive light and had a paragraph or a few sentences about the lack of diversity in publications such as Elle. I think sometimes we as black people fail to realize that we are in fact not the issue here. The white race just seems not to be open to other ethnicities as a whole. I don’t remember the last time I saw a Japanese model on a mainstream fashion magazine or an Indian or Asian one for that matter, we are not the only race affected by this but I do feel that we would do better to focus on the positives as opposed to shedding even more light on the negatives. If you don’t like a thing don’t focus your energies on it because all that does is give it more power. As you rightly stated Luso complaining has gotten us nowhere thus far so why complain some more? I never said the article stated that black women did not love themselves I said and I quote “I have lived in a number of other African countries and I must say Africa and the black communities world wide have a serious issue when it comes to self love.” If we love ourselves then other peoples thoughts, ideas, perceptions, attentions and opinions of us should have little influence over us.

    All I’m saying is this: I don’t remember ever seeing an article in a white magazine complaining about how black magazines were not diverse or all inclusive. They are not interested in us because they are focusing on themselves which makes some of us feel powerless it seems to work for them so in the same sense maybe we should take a leaf out of their book.

    Why is it that we want white people to include us when we don’t feel we need to include them? The only difference between white publications and black publications is the fact that black people seem to focus their attention on white publications whereas white people don’t feel the need to do so with black publications. If we want to make a change as black people then we should do so but sometimes it pays to begin with ourselves because that is something we can change.

    I don’t know you Luso so I couldn’t be personally attacking your perspectives like you seem to think I was I was just drawing your attention to certain things. You are right, you are indeed saying the same thing I am but looking at the responses to your article you have caused a lot of black women to suddenly pay attention to the very thing you say you are unhappy with and choose not to be a part of. Think about it.

  • http://twitter.com/AfROCKcentric AfROCKcentric

    “you have caused a lot of black women to suddenly pay attention to the very thing you say you are unhappy with and choose not to be a part of. Think about it.”

    I think, Toke, your heart is in the right place. But – there are a number of contradictions. Firstly, those ‘white publications’ that you speak of – have ‘South Africa’ stamped on them BOLDLY. I said it before, if you dare to put those words on your cover – we want to see South Africa – in its fullness – on your cover and within your pages. What they do is put white people on their covers 99% of the time. And then go on to highlight foreigners. And you still do not think that this is an issue? In an African country? Okay. So be it.

    Do you honestly think that black women have not thought about and written about this very issue before I did? I honestly like to think of myself as a trendsetter, but on this one, I cannot take the credit. People have been discussing this issue before I came along. Especially in the US. The only thing that bothered me was that in South Africa it is not being fully addressed. And as a writer here I have a lot of stake in what happens in this industry. I believe you are in tourism? If there was something that directly affected you, and your ability to make a living in your chosen profession – wouldnt you speak about it?

    I am glad I have drawn attention to this issue, because people are continuing the conversation, and saying ok ok ok – enough of the complaining, the pointing fingers, or pointing out that there is a problem – let’s do something! Let’s put our money where our mouth is! I like that, I like it a whole lot. Believe me when I say I would love many black South African women to read this article – because it is their money that’s going into these publications. So if I highlight the fact that they do not represent, or honour them – perhaps their financial clout will do the talking. That for me is the main issue. And it seriously does not go deeper than that. If you want my money, pay me some respect. Full stop.

  • Cree


    I AGREE!!!

  • http://twitter.com/AfROCKcentric AfROCKcentric

    “You could instead have written an article about a number of black publications that portrayed black women in a positive light and had a paragraph or a few sentences about the lack of diversity in publications such as Elle.” Oh boy. Now you’re still telling me what to do. I focus my energies on things that I want to see change. If I had not written this article, a number of people would still not know that this is the case in South Africa – a majority black country (why this is still not getting through, I do not know)

    Re-read the article and look at all the magazines that were listed in it. All of them – I included many. I agree with you that we should concentrate on positive portrayals – but one thing you’re missing is that many of these are publications in South Africa – and therefore they should concentrate on South African women – in their entirety. What is wrong with asking this question – why are these publications not doing so? Yes they seem to cater for whites mostly, and that is a problem. If you do not see that, after the kind of history this country has had, and the struggles people here have gone through, then I can only shrug. I clearly did a bad job trying to conscientize people to the fact that we do not need to spend money where we are not wanted, nor respected.

    I subscribe to some of what you say, but I believe that you wanting me to have written a different article will get us nowhere. We are now talking, and you are concentrating on what positive actions we need to take. That is a good thing! Going back and forth over whether or not I should have written this article, or how I should have written it and what I should have included – will get us nowhere. It is not positive. However, I think some of what you and others have said is the truth. We must concentrate on ourselves – you are right about that. But concentrating on ourselves starts somewhere – and the conversation in South Africa has barely even begun! You do not live here, you cannot know what that is like. The kind of racism that black women face here affects everything – let me tell you that much.

    “I don’t remember ever seeing an article in a white magazine complaining about how black magazines were not diverse or all inclusive” Someone else already addressed this better than I can – white magazines, as you call them, have never needed to. Their careful exclusion of black women tells you everything you need to know. We do not need to rehash this – read the other comments and see what they say. Read the other articles in Clutch as well.

  • robbie

    I agree with Toke we as a race need to encourage, and think more positive about our selves I seem to remember a song by JB say it loud am black and proud.

  • http://iloveaccra.com Toke Olagbaju

    …My point exactly, we are excluded so I feel we should stop banging on closed doors by continuously discussing this issue and instead put our heads together and work on our own. Personally I don’t care who Elle chooses to put on or between their covers or what they choose to write about because in my opinion Elle is not a magazine that caters to me and thus I don’t waste my time with it. You have put a huge picture of an Elle cover in a black publication catering to black women. If you don’t want to put money in Elle’s pocket why are you publicizing them? That’s all I’m saying.

    Yes I am in tourism and because I am proud of the place that I choose to represent I try to ensure that I always portray it to the rest of the world in a manner that I feel is befitting. I live in a country where the majority of the indigenous people are only just beginning to open their eyes and see how blessed they truly are. I am proud and happy about that and would like to see more of it so I don’t ever spend time advertising or publicizing the things that are not being done right but instead highlight and celebrate the things that are being done right so everyone else can see them too.

    A good way to see change in the South African fashion magazine industry is to perhaps think about the laws that govern and protect black South Africans and perhaps try and do something to ensure that laws are put in place that require publishers to portray ALL South Africans. Look at writing to your law makers and asking them questions about the laws in place to ensure South Africans are ALL properly represented in the press and media.

    Don’t think that I don’t think it is a serious issue that blacks are poorly represented in the press and media but it is up to US as black people to ensure WE portray ourselves better. WE need to show that we are better than that so we don’t NEED that. We need to show the world that they cannot hold us back. We need to show them that regardless of the circumstances we WILL show and prove that we ARE capable of doing our own thing and that we are PROUD of who we are. Never allow another person to tell you who or what you are. Set your own trends, make your own rules, be your own mentor, don’t wait to be led but lead, don’t wait to be told, you do the telling. What I’m saying to you is that as a contributor to Clutch you have a responsibility to all the black women that read clutch magazine every monday to ensure that you are writing about things that will empower them to be leaders and movers and shakers and the ones that change things.

    The reason I was disappointed was because I didn’t feel after reading your article that you were empowering me in a very positive manner because you were taking me back to the very things I subscribed to magazines like Clutch to stay away from. The things that do not celebrate my pride and beauty as a black woman. Your article didn’t tell me or show me anything positive that I as a black woman in Africa could do to change the situation. I applaud you for bringing the issue up again and I’m sorry if you are unhappy with me pointing this out but I think that as a contributor you have a huge responsibility because you are in fact in a position to change things. The things you write are read by hundreds maybe even thousands of young black women so I feel you need to be not only showing us the things that need to be changed but also telling us how we can change them other than simply not spending our money on magazines like that. I don’t want to wallow I want to fly. We don’t want to hear about publications like Elle tell us about publications like Arise and Canoe and Pop’Africana; publications that are of relevance to us.

  • dalilou

    Here is my issue with being over this… more and more we are becoming a global world with a global economy. The author is not writing about magazines in Norway, she is writing about magazines on the continent of Africa, where black and brown women are in the clear majority. My mother is from Congo and women get most of their beauty standards from France and Belgium and, no surprise! Skin lightening and bleaching is the norm as well as other harmful beauty practices.

  • dalilou

    I sense a contradiction here… the magazine is not a WHITE magazine it is a South African one. The last time I checked South African women are a multitude of ethnicities, with Black African groups being the majority but let’s not forget also Coloured, Indian, Malay, and yes whites.

    Essence, an African-American magazine based in the US, not on the continent, came into existence to address the fact that African-American women are not included in “white” publications, except in token numbers. Essence also exists to address a myriad of issues and topics that specifically affect AA women. White women do not need to complain to be in Essence, they have at least ten magazines to choose from the last I checked.

  • dalilou

    “It is significant that Destiny is the only magazine that I have seen that speaks to all kinds of women. She has put people of almost every color group in the country on the cover and within the magazine’s pages.”

    Tuso clearly identifies a magazine that is trying to address the issue in HER country. Maybe in South Africa people don’t have access to the others that have been mentioned. I think the article was brave and it didn’t make me wallow. It made me think about the magazines I tend to buy and why do I keep supporting them when they do nothing but insult women who look like me as well as other women of different races.

    Should there be a write-up of other black publications that may be struggling because they don’t get the limelight? I think that’s a great suggestion but I don’t think it’s fair to bash this article because of it. To the poster who suggested turning Clutch into a glossy- it’s not as easy as it sounds. Magazines as a whole are a struggling breed. They cost a lot to produce and distribute, plus you need a lot of advertisers. Plenty of well-established “white” mags I used to read like Mademoiselle are long gone. It’s hard to get wide distribution without a big publisher behind you. It’s not as easy as snapping your fingers and creating “your own.”

    Plus, living in a multi-racial country like the United States, I’m still not letting “white” mags off the hook. The “minority” and “biracial” populations are growing and it’s foolish of them not to get with the program.

  • http://twitter.com/EVELYN_WANJA evelyn

    i think i would be a happier person if i didn’t know any of this (race stuff?) going into my “ventures” (work, school, etc).

    I would rather think i’m beautiful/worthy/equal and to my surprise be faced with opposition (in which case, i would tell myself “WTF do they know anyway?!?!”) than to go INTO something knowing people just…don’t like the color of my skin, whether they “know” it or not.

    Call it naivety, i don’t mind. There’s a sort of bliss in being “ignorant” in that way, i must admit.

    is that just me? If i ever have a child, i’m telling them they’re the shit (in more grown up words, lol) instead of telling them “now you know some people out there won’t like you…”


    I JUST WANNA BE A KID AGAIN (i’m only 20 but still)! i would say “thanks” for this article because it made me think, i guess, but…maybe i didn’t want to think about this anymore? idk

  • http://twitter.com/EVELYN_WANJA evelyn

    and i feel the comments about positions! i’m working on media, web, journalism, all that jazz. HIRE ME! lol

    and i just thought of another thing: sometimes we get annoyed at the lack of diversity, but…where we live isn’t diverse either. ya know? Sometimes i actually think it’s reflective of the population –majority white. idk just a thought.

  • D-ski

    Judas Priest….enough is enough already! Don’t like what you see with Elle magazine(which by the way has always done black girls dirty) create, create, CREATE the reality that you want to see! Damn! Why are you waiting for a Eurocentric magazine(don’t care what you say, South Africa is still Eurocentric with their perception) to do right by you? CREATE, CREATE and CREATE your own reality. By the way do you see any Asian chicas lamenting over not seeing themselves on the cover of anything?

  • AC

    If Black women cannot not get work in the current publications in mainstream publishing, why are we STILL not pushing to develop our own publications? Why do we as black people continue to expend soooo much energy tryin to force our way into and onto the mainstream instead of puttin that same energy and resources into our own ventures?

  • D-Ski

    @AC- I am so with you on that! We need to not only create but SUPPORT the magazines that support us! Look how we didn’t support Honey, how we don’t support Heart and Soul, but whine about Elle magazine in colonialized ass South Africa? As Bill Cosby would say….come on people!!

  • Lizz

    colonised ass South Africa wow! thats inspirational,I dnt think we can manage a powerful plublication as a black nation if we are failing to understand each other ……….I think i’m the only one who understand the writer bcoz i’m South African…………..I love fashion magazines with all my being especially in print form,I was one of those poeple who would purchase all publications from Marie clare,Elle,Cosmo,Glamour and a number of black publications such as True love and Drum…….I’ts been 3years since I last purchased any publication that doesn’t showcase my beauty in my own country.Condonaste has a nerve to promote white stardadards of beauty in an African country … …….I don’t understand why I should be abused in my own neighbourhood mall by these magazines,white poeple are a minority but you would swear that its the other way around.These white washed magazine are visualy terrorising our senses and it feels like somekind of a staged subliminal message.Yes,we have gained freedom and we our slowly coming into our being we do have publications that appreciates our being and we still need more but the suprimist will never be happy with this,thats why there is this huge mass promotion of white standard of beauty…….its not about the magazine but self e-steem,magazine are just a catalyist of slavery, if you look at the bigger picture,that is why Vogue Africa will never exist and we don’t need it really(not trying to mock Mario’s dream)………..a frusted black woman now thats what keeps them going.

  • Lizz

    I realy love this online mag but your Out Of Africa features are realy annoying,we dnt wake up every day to strife or bizzare activities……it feels like somekind of mini cnn black magazine.Please explore your stories,its always gotta be a bizzare story about some weird tiny village that poeple in Africa have never even heard of……..we have middle class and smart poeple,is that threating too?

  • http://www.since84.wordpress.com Talia

    First, I’d like to request a quick booty bump for having read every single comment (with the exception of a few monotonous reponses)?…*bang*

    Secondly, I’d like to applaud the author for giving us a South African perspective on the marginalization of Black Women in print. Luso, the beauty of Black is reflected in your writing. Fist-bump to you.

    And now for my opinion…

    It wasn’t until I visited Accra, Ghana in 2007 that I realized the ideological differences between Black Americans and Africans pertaining to identity. It is because of my trip to Africa, and seeing black women mirroring European standards of beauty that I understand Luso’s concern.

    Robbie, yes James Brown’s “I’m black and I’m proud” was the soundtrack to the Black Power movement. But let’s remember, the Black Power movement was an American movement that did gain notoriety in as many places as we’d like to think.
    As a result, there are some countries that are still struggling to re-define themselves according to their own standards.

    As for solutions. Let’s focus less on the author and more on our personal use of financial power.

    *bang bang*

  • http://www.since84.wordpress.com Talia

    *did not gain as much notoriety.

  • http://twitter.com/AfROCKcentric AfROCKcentric

    Talia! What an awesome compliment! Thank you…I’m reading you too. Quick booty bump, and a kolako mwana (low five/hand clap)

  • http://facebook.com/sandra.o.e.garcia Orquidea

    unfortunately is the same everywhere… the lighter skin always is ahead…

  • http://facebook.com/sandra.o.e.garcia Orquidea

    Unfortunately is always the same everywhere; the lighter skin tends to have the preference in mag covers…

  • http://bit.ly/v8izE7 granola bar

    Great blog!

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