Like most of America, I was glued to the TV watching election results last Tuesday. I hooted, hollered and even wobbled through the celebration of Barack Obama being elected for a second term. I wasn’t alone in feeling elated or at least inspired by Tuesday’s events.

Karl Lagerfeld was so moved by the election he sketched an image of Barack Obama, using a palette of colors from Shu Uemura makeup. Commissioned by a German newspaper, the designer sketched re-elected President Obama as a chef. Barack is imagined carrying a plate with a cake (which resembles The White House) in front an American flag on the morning after the election. The image features the German inscription “Der Größte Chef der Welt,” which means the biggest boss in the world.

It amazed me how many press outlets saw this as inspirational. Reports believed the image showed Lagerfeld’s pride in the reelection and in America. I, however, feel differently.

The sketch brought to mind of a scene in Spike Lee’s “X” where Malcolm X reenacts a moment from popular minstrel shows; he plays a waiter who takes on a  ‘..yassa boss, whatever you want boss…’ dynamic when serving white patrons. ‘Say boss, how dem cakes?’

Many will find that parallel extreme, but let me ask you this: why if Karl imagines Barack Obama as “the biggest boss” is he depicted serving cake to the world? Why is his indisputably powerful position being associated with waiting on people?

Pictures are meant to be interpreted in different ways, and everyone is entitled to their unique understanding of Karl’s sketch. While there are plenty of people that love the image, I have to pass on seeing my President reduced to handing out cake.

-Robyn Webb

  • Diana

    This is reaching. I guess I’m a little amused by the connection between this picture and a minstrel show. You conveniently forget that our relationship with food and the people who make it varies among cultures. Obama wasn’t depicted as a shoe shiner or a server but a chef which in many areas is a highly respected profession. Chefs don’t directly serve the food they create it. Food created by top chefs are seen as art or masterpieces. I’m guessing this is the message Lagerfeld was trying to convey.

  • Blackmon

    It is weird that the first Black President is seen as a Chef. (Would George W. Bush be depicted like this?)

    But I do think it’s political leaders job to serve the people. Let’s see what he cooks up in the next four years.

  • Anthony

    I think we have to cut the artist some slack because he is not American and is not coming from our cultural perspective. The carriage of Obama in the picture strikes me as very proud and dignified.

  • myblackfriendsays

    I think this is a stretch, but I respect your right to that particular interpretation. I am no expert on minstrel shows, so maybe that could explain my alternative view.

    I see him as a chef because he is creating “a more perfect union.” This has been a common theme in both of his election bids, trying to get the U.S. closer to living up to its great potential.

  • B

    I don’t know what you are talking about.

  • Yvette

    Ha! Yeah, me either.

  • Jaslene

    Yeah he’s a chef which in the culinary world is highly respected.

  • Homegirl Quel

    Consider the respectable style of the image and the artist. Maybe it’s a a play on the metaphor of America as The Melting Pot and Obama as the Head Chef, mixing it up making sure the flavor is evenly distributed…equal, if you will. Highlighting the White House as something accessible to all. Hence Obama serving it up on a platter. You know the French do love their fine cuisine. It’s not a far stretch. Clutch can probably calm down about this one.

  • Wake Up

    cut the shit. This is called rewriting history. The ancient images have been destroyed at the noses and the once kings were redrawn in the images of apes, then slaves, then servants. This is not a chef in this picture…this is servant. Don’t let your lieing eyes fool you.

  • Lady Ngo

    Well…part of any leader’s job is to serve the people so…

  • Pingback: Is Karl Lagerfeld's Obama Illustration Offensive?

  • Kristin

    honestly i just don’t see it that way. i find nothing wrong with the picture

  • Londoner

    He’s wearing a chef’s hat….

  • Apple

    No he would be shown as has a demonic puppeteer with strings holding up the world as he walks us into poverty and war

  • Apple

    I love Karl Lagerfeld ! If you didn’t know who he is , he’s over Chanel and Louis Vuitton!

  • Diana

    Perhaps you ought to learn culinary history…

  • Diana

    I also forgot to add a few key points.

    1. This picture was done out of admiration.
    2. Lagerfeld is not American and alot of the cultural translations are lost. I’m still astounded that people assume that our references are cross cultural and that somehow everyone “should” know every obscure Black American film reference. Had Lagerfeld depicted Obama with giant red lips, coal black skin and bugged eye then I would be in agreement with the author. The painting of Obama is clearly done by somone who admires him and is creating a visual metaphor that he finds both personally and culturally inspiring. He is holding the whitehouse which is symbolic of America. To have a hold on something is to have some sort of control which would indeed make him “the biggest boss.”

  • binks

    Yeah me either. I don’t see minstrel show…shrugs I guess all the black chefs better watch out…smg

  • BriA

    Marc Jacobs is over LV

  • Charlotte Hicks Todd

    When I first saw the cartoon, I did not consider it an illustration, I immediately thought of the early 19th century ads of Rastus, the spokesperson for “Cream Of Wheat Cereal”. Rastus, the chef that cooked the cereal for the white family, was never depicted in an overtly racist manner. But I still would NEVER compare the P.O.T.U.S. to a chef no matter how skilled a cook he may be.

  • apple

    thumbs down really?

  • Nikster

    Neither do I. This article is a leap in logic. Chefs are highly respected individuals and are seen as the person in charge in a restaurant. They are leaders and viewed with considerable regard. The analogy seems consistent. I don’t find this offensive in the slightest.

    I feel like people need to stop interrogating everything anyone does that involves a Black person looking to be offended. Seriously, get over it. This is why some people think that we are always complaining because something can’t just be…it has to have some racist undertone or overtone. This doesn’t. I didn’t get that from the image and even with your interpretation I still don’t see it. Just stop.

  • Misty

    Yes, I think the writer is stretching a bit too but we do all have the right to our own opinions. Some Clutch articles are so guilty of using imagined racism as a crutch. Change the site name to “Crutch” maybe?

  • Amber

    Um hes not a waiter in the picture. He’s the Head Chef, hence the hat. Thats what makes him the boss…

  • Amber

    I just realized someone already said this so yea…co-sign

  • Pseudonym


    Sometimes that happens. People give thumbs down to the most random things. I just laugh.

  • Shelly

    It reminds me of Americans expecting him to fullfill all of our needs, whether that be the healthcare we want, or more jobs, etc. So, his job is to basically “serve” the American people. Even if his job entails of other things, it seems like he has a lot of pressure to bring certain wants and needs to the table of the American people. That’s how I see it, and I don’t feel that it’s racist.

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