PHOTOS: Is This Numero Magazine Spread Racist?
The fashion industry has a long and somewhat sordid history with blackface. Last year, Lara Stone‘s spread in Paris Vogue caused no small amount of controversy, while earlier this year, Karl Lagerfeld released a collection of images which included Claudia Schiffer with darkened skin and wearing an afro wig. The issue with blackface isn’t necessarily the intent, but the unfortunate comparison such shoots draw with minstrel shows in the 19th century.
And in an industry where only 8.6 percent of the models used in New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week were black, the use of a white model to depict a black woman is especially fraught.
Numero’s issue #117 features an editorial starring fair-skinned and typically tow-headed model Constance Jablonski — except, in this case, she’s wearing afro wigs that vary in shades from chocolate brown to blonde and her skin has been decidedly bronzed, if not entirely darkened. The most eye-catching accessory in the shoot might be her co-star: a young, diaper-swaddled black child.
The spread has a late ’60s, early ’70s vibe, with no shortage of nods to hippie culture and style. We’re no experts, and we can’t decide if we’d categorize this spread as an example of blackface. Jablonski’s skintone and hair vary several different shades throughout the editorial, but one thing is for sure: if they wanted, at any point, to use a black model, then Numero should have hired one.