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.