Why are magazines still using blackface?

Countless editorials have come under fire for reenacting the racist and archaic practice yet magazines continue to implement it.

The latest offender is Vogue Netherlands Magazine for its “Heritage Heroes,” editorial in the May 2013 issue. The shoot pays homage to Marc Jacob’s designs for Louis Vuitton with each look capturing the inspiration behind one of his collections.

To tribute his Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 collections, inspired by Josephine Baker and Grace Jones respectively, white model Querelle Jansen is featured in blackface with wigs to resemble textured hair. Was this the best way to channel these African-American legends?

According to Fashionista, “a caption from the editorial translates to “This collection is inspired by the style of the Parisian showgirl Josephine Baker, mixed with tribal influences.”

Sure it would’ve been easier to hire a black model for those shots, but why go through the trouble when you can dress a white model as a caricature of two African-American cultural icons? Insert sarcasm.

It’s hard to tell whether Vogue Netherlands ‘s blackface shoot was motivated by a need for attention or plain old ignorance. Blackface is almost commonplace in Dutch culture as they are known for their highly-offensive “Black Pete” tradition which continues to this day.

What will it take for publications to stop using blackface altogether? What are your thoughts, Clutchettes and Gents?


  • Tony Triumph

    We should realize that at this point we are giving them everything they need to keep this movement going, PRESS! I work in fashion and I’ll tell you first hand, people in power get a chuckle out of doing things for the gag effects. To be relevant in fashion is to be controversial, not clean. Can we please just ignore them, like they obviously do via the casting selection of beautiful black models?

  • Catpopstar

    Yeah, I have little respect for this industry and have no intention of paying attention.

  • Keshia

    As I said in previous post nothing white people do or say surprises me anymore. I really do believe many of them have a secret obsession with black people and our distinct look…it sounds crazy but I really do believe it.

  • Bronze

    Someone on this post said that we should white face. Instead of complaining…Vibe Vixen or some urban mag should do a spread where we do white face. Alek Wek as Queen Elizabeth in White Face. Tyra as Alice in Wonderland in White Face. Alek Wek again as Snow White in White Face. Ohhh now this will start riots in the streets, Alek Wek as Cinderella, Repunzel and Malibu Barbie.

    I don’t know why black magazine editors can’t get creative with their response. Not rocket science.

  • Anonin

    I agree they are obsessed. Why care about someone who isn’t in your circle? Your vision of beauty? Wishy washy hypocrites

    They can keep doing these lame last minute ideas claiming homage were not Impressed. Let them laugh at their own inside jokes.

  • Bronze

    LMBAO!!!!!! *tears* For 0 fucks….

    I learn something new everyday here.

  • ChaCha1

    I simply don’t give them my money. And these are the types of magazines that some black people want to be included in.

  • Be Real

    That actually sounds very cool. I’d imagine they wouldnt be offended at all.

  • Be Real

    I have a serious question. Is all black face, “Black face?” Im thinking of the “African Queen” spread that was covered not too long ago at this site. I actually liked the pictures. She wasnt in black face or textured wigs but was extremely tanned.

  • confessionsofacurvygirl

    That’s the dumbest things I have ever heard. White face if you want to but it won’t affect White people one way or the other.

  • J. Nicole

    “White face” is pretty much what some of these celebrities do when they appear on mainstream mags, since they’re generally lightened.

    I’m not concerned with going tit for tat with these folks. I pretty much abandom them all together.

  • Keshia

    My issue with that was you have a white woman as an African Queen…I mean really?? And she was in brown face, and for all the people who want to claim well there are “white” Africans fine, but why not keep her as her natural skintone. Charlize Theron is from South Africa and she is not bronze or brown skin. If they wanted and African Queen go find a real one, not some knock off white girl you cover in brown makeup.

  • Marisa

    What I found odd is how this here fashion industry does its best not to include many black models, because out of there own mouths our shapes are too big and the industry doesn’t believe were marketable. Then turn right around and stay projecting black faces and hair on their white models. This is why I laugh at all these twitter/instagram chicks that flash their high fashion high price tag purses and shoes, rather they bought it or if the chicks of baller/entertainer dudes bought it for them. Or they saw Beyoncé, RiRi, Halle, Gaga, Naomi and the rest rocking it, like hello yall breaking your backs to have gear from designers that don’t think yall are deserving to model these same items you so heavily covet. Also I live in NYC and you can get many of these designer duds marked WAY low at sample sales, consignment and thrift shops.

  • No_chaser

    Some of these Dutch are a bunch of sickos, really. Isn’t it in the Netherlands where they have that blackface santa elf? There seems to be an unhealthy obsession with Black people.

  • BeanBean

    Not surprised at all. If I gasped every time a white person did something stupid, I would die of suffocation. I don’t buy their crap anyway. They won’t stop being stupid because it’s some sort of fun activity for them, oh well.

  • T

    At the risk of offending, isn’t a White face Cinderella just a fairly average look for some Black women (Blond hair, colored contacts) with white-colored makeup?

    The problem is that to do something akin to Whiteface, it’s tinged with hints of assimilation. When they (Whites) do it, it’s more for shock value. “Look how avant garde we are!!!”

  • binks

    Right! I don’t see A) how does this channel Josephine Baker or Grace Jones? And B) I think these publications long ago gotten the memo that black face isn’t okay but simply don’t care so they can’t fringe ignorance here with a half assed apology letter. It is high time to stop giving these publications press and money and start calling this industry out as a whole.

  • Tonton Michel

    Color me shocked.

  • Lynne

    Nope. You’re not crazy. Whites see blacks as some”thing” totally different and foreign from what is normal (white). That may sound like a blanket statement, but I’m not a politician, so whatever.

    The thing to remember about this particular story is that the fashion industry operates within a bubble. Fashionistas only care about the external, and thrive on the vapid and ephemeral. They are self-aggrandizing and don’t give a *bleep* about how their actions affect others. (See above about “blanket statement.”)

    The fashionista set is a meaningless tribe. Feel good about yourself in the real world, and let that stupid little fashion tribe go.

  • Lauren

    When I read that this was featured in Vogue Netherlands, red flags and alarm bells immediately went of fin my head. think that what people are missing here is the ENTIRE context of this issue:

    As the author noted briefly, in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas has a servant named “Zwarte Piet,” or BLACK PETER. During the holidays, Dutch people will celebrate by dressing up as Black Peter; they don BLACKFACE AND AFRO WIGS and throw candy at children.

    Yes, the fashion industry has a problem, but the Netherlands has a MUCH bigger issue with blackface; it’s as much a part of their culture as minstrel shows were here in the early 20th century.

    For those of you who think we should just dismiss the issue as “fashion people doing offensive things in the name of fashion,” you’re wrong, and this is a MUCH bigger issue than you think.

    Do NOT dismiss this.

  • Lynne

    I just don’t think there’s anything anyone can really do. Can we vote these editors out? Hop a plane, fly to their offices, and flip over their expensive cars in our outrage?

    I know the complicated history of racial imagery in European and American art and media. Yes, this disgusting imagery is a problem in the Netherlands. I’ve read comments elsewhere from Dutch people who are white, and they find the imagery godawful, too.

    But I really can’t see anything being done about it. The reason: Blackface, for all the controversy, is NOT considered a hot-button issue. Fashion people will just continue to have a collective orgasm over their own revolutionary images, or what the rest of us call “crap.”

    Maybe if enough white millennials get involved on their tumblr pages, we’ll see a change. Until then …

  • Hello

    They are obsessed with us. They want to be like us so bad that it hurts them.

  • CupcakesBeybeee

    What do you expect? This is from the same country/industry that allowed Rihanna to be called a “‘Ultimate Niggabitch” on a magazine.

  • IJusWannaSay…

    What do you expect from those who feel like their right to freedom of expression is being stomped on? They don’t feel like walking around on eggshells when it comes to black people’s feelings.


    They’ve been voicing their disdain for quite some time and what you’re witnessing is the defiance through their images.

    As long as I’m not spending my dollars on that sheit…

  • Niesha Gourdine

    i feel sorry for their race… us blacks got our problems too, but they on another level..

  • Ash

    As a Josephine Baker fan, not only is the blackface unnecessary (and offensive) but the clothes, hair, and makeup aren’t anything like Josephine Baker would wear. Fail on so many levels.

  • Whatever

    At the end of the day they’re getting what they want. Controversy and attention. Clearly not enough people care otherwise this kind of thing wouldn’t be taking place. And Zoe Saldana wouldn’t be wearing black face to portray Nina Simone (actually she wouldn’t be portraying her at all). Sad but that’s the world we live in.

  • Lauren

    The sad thing is that Lynne is right; as long as white people of a certain age remain wholly unconcerned with these types of occurrences, nothing will change.

    Still, that’s why we shouldn’t just ignore things like this when they happen, regardless of where they are taking place. Instead of keeping them within the community,” these stories need to spread to white people, and we’re the ones who have to do it. Time has shown that unless they’re made to feel uncomfortable by it being in their faces, they are usually able to completely ignore issues of race.

    That’s why I don’t keep outrages like this to myself, I tell all of my friends, regardless of their races. The Black ones have, like many of us, sadly come to expect this kind of garbage, and while indignant, have pretty much become numb to the perpetuation of these types of images. My white friends, however, are always ASTONISHED, which makes me think that as long as the Black community remains insular, we’ll never be able to get the kind of changes we want.

    This is on a local, state, and global scale.

    So yeah, if you’ve got a white friend with a tumbler–let her know whenever something incredibly racist happens, so she can blog about it like it’s brand new, and maybe our issues can get the attention they deserve, even if they need a third party conduit. If that’s how the game is set up, why not play it?

  • Lynne

    You’re so right. To them, nothing is more important than their freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Nothing.

    Hell, it’s their freedom, or bust. You can look at the gun debate and see that.


    Fact white people have Neanderthal DNA. Fact history shows and the present shows white people are volatile. The truth from non white people makes white people and brainwashed non white people say anything revealing the truth of white people is racism. Fact I need you to moderate the bs you take in everyday and wake up.

  • wake up

    While white people are ignoring you, creating businesses, communities and resources for their own people and building their wealth.

    Youre worried about black face. True.
    Wake up black people

  • Apple

    And the sky is blue. Screw them next

  • Lillian Mae

    The way I feel about Asian owned beauty supply stores is the same way I feel about high fashion bags; you don’t support my community or my people, why would I financially support you?

  • noirluv45

    I have a question. Why are people comfortable poking fun, slandering, and demeaning black people? Why is it that we are the only group that I’ve notice where people spend as much time thinking about us, imitating us, and putting us down in some form or fashion. Why, I ask?

    There are certain communities they wouldn’t DARE do that to, yet it’s always open season on us, and then many of us dismiss it. Hey, maybe that’s the reason. *shrugging shoulders.*

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