On the left is an image from Vogue’s Haute Mess editorial. On the right is the photo that inspired it.
By LJ Knight of YeahSheSaidIt.com
Sistas, have you ever been in a department store, or maybe even at your place of work and have someone Caucasian approach you and compliment you on your hair, or even your unique clothes? It starts with maybe a few short glances and then it progresses into full blown lengthy stares every time you pass by them or enter a room. It is as if they are dying to approach you and discuss whatever it is about you that they admire but have no idea how to do so without seeming…. Racist. I mean you can literally feel their eyes follow you from one part of the room to the next as if they are burning on the inside with curiosity.
Stop and reflect on that moment that almost every Black woman has experienced at least once in her lifetime, and consider the most recent online Vogue Magazine spread titled “Haute Mess”. Being an obvious play on the slang term “hot mess”; Vogue’s Haute Mess featured White women stylized with colorful hair, colorful long acrylic finger nails, hairstyles that were decked out with weave galore, hair buns with the Oreo slogan spray painted in it. There were also big hoop earrings, two finger rings and over done make up that looked more campy than chic. My favorite was the Colt 45 can that one model was holding. I don’t know about you but that made the bigot cake a tad bit sweeter for me.
My problem with images like these has and always will be the same. The wise old debate as to are they laughing with us or at us? In other words, is this coming from a place of great affection for a certain culture and their specific fashion? Or is this Vogue’s magazine way of mocking Black women? Maybe it is a little bit of both as they also recently did a shoot for Vogue Italia where they had sistas with natural hair. Which is a step forward but they still seem to lack consistency in how they portray people of color overall.
Let’s start with Vogue’s past. Vogue magazine does not have a lengthy reputation with seeing women of color as objects of beauty. In fact, it was only in the recent years that they began to diversify the ethnicity and look of their models to keep up with the ever changing times. Let’s face it, before that Vogue magazine couldn’t care less about what was going on in a Black women’s world. They damn sure were not concerned with whatever fashion Black women were rocking. To put it in slang terms‐ Vogue magazine was not checking for the sistas. So what has changed?
Well to put it plainly‐ A lot. Apparently anything urbanesque is cool and if you are Black then you automatically earn ten “swag” points from the start. While this may appear to be a step in the right direction to some it still leaves me with some concerns. Namely the one I mentioned earlier is on the top of the list. Are they truly adoring our sense of fashion and edgy style or are they mocking us and this is their way of displaying how foolish we appear to them without directly saying it to our face.
While one can never truly know the inner workings of high powered fashion magazines and the going ons behind closed doors, we can surely guess. You see, this is not Vogue’s first run in with walking a hair fine line between offering accolades and paying tribute to Black women and being offensive and degrading towards Black women and viewing us as caricatures.The very last noteworthy offense was the Black face spread they did which did not sit well with readers who all wondered the same thing. Why the Black face? What was the point in conjunction with the theme behind the fashion and the clothes themselves? The clothes were not from an African motif. The models were not women of color. So, why paint their faces Black other than to incite controversy and whispers at the expense of playing around in the dirty backyard of America’s history with black face and what it TRULY meant for America not so many years ago.
This is where Vogue loses my co‐sign. They are trying to desperately as of late to put out the image that they want to touch a wider audience and that they want to embrace the likes of women of every culture, background, and ethnicity. Yet they continue to do so insultingly. You want to have models with Black faces then hire some damn models that actually have Black faces. You want to celebrate the history of urban fashion from the 80’s, 90’s and so on then use minority women to highlight this time in fashion. Lakeshia and Mashonda were the ones rocking that breed of fashion at the time and not Susie or Laura. Even if they attempted to do so, we taught them how to make it look fresh. That is a fact and not an opinion dears.
While I’m on the subject allow me to vent a pinch. Why is it that whenever someone White partakes in something that was traditionally an African American feature or experience, it suddenly becomes sexy, hot, unique, attractive, and any other word that is an synonym for being a “positive” response? It upsets me to no end when I see this happen repeatedly in media, movies, TV, music, and now fashion. I have no problem with anyone giving props to Black women for being beautiful, unique, and trendsetters (We are amazing) and wanting to emulate us but give credit where it is due first before you either take bits and pieces of whatever appealing factors they find in our culture or attempt to mimic it but do so with a sly snicker or grin on their face while making the recreation itself clown‐ like. As if to say, you see‐ this is how foolish you look to us. Be clear and concise in your stance Vogue. Because right now you imitate Black women while also dissing us. Which is it Vogue?
Below are images from the Haute Mess editorial juxtaposed with real images of black women. The full Vogue spread is here. Ladies, what are your thoughts on this?
Deemed “the voice of the urban sophisticate woman”, LJ Knight’s style of unabashed, in your face tough love resonates with the everywoman like few else can because she doesn’t talk down from a holier than thou soapbox–she’s lived through the very same experiences her exponentially growing audience has. You can find more of LJ Knight’s in your face opinions at YeahSheSaidIt.com.