Fashion really is not for African women and VOGUE’s Black Allure proves it

I hate to be a spoilsport, but I don’t see anything fabulous about Vogue’s Black Allure shoot.

In the unlikely case that you have missed it, as marketing gimmicks like this are hard to miss, here’s the link to the photos and the video.

Unlike most of the criticism the editorial has received, my issue with it is not so much that it’s segregational to have an occasional Asian or black issue of a magazine that 99% of the time seem to forget that we exist, although that criticism also seems valid. But I can understand, that with the 2008 black issue selling so well that VOGUE went to reprint for the first time ever, they would want a repeat. Vogue’s editor, Franca Sozzani, may argue against the gimmicky nature of this issue and try to convince us that this was a politically conscious decision. Spare us Sozzani, you are a business, not a charity. That’s why I forgive you, you’re thinking about your sales. Be honest and spare us the rest.

My criticism is actually towards black and ‘minority’ women: Those who once took solace in that, although greatly excluded from the western high-market fashion industry, at least we weren’t being sold that particular look of starvation, submission and exploitation as something fashionable. Lo and behold, we get a VOGUE editorial that manages to incorporate all three and we seem to be doing cartwheels over the fact that we too can play, we too can have images of subordinated brown women shoved in our faces. Yay!

I was unable to find a single black fashion blog, and many blogged about this (as VOGUE no doubt pre-calculated), that had anything negative to say about either the exploiting or segregational nature of the Black Allure spread despite that the video looks like it could be an ad for a brothel.

I blogged about the fashion industry not being for African women before, and these trends give me a new reason to say so. There is nothing empowering about all these black models with cigarettes in their hands, acting out lesbian fantasies for the male gaze in these photos from ARISE, VOGUE and Interview magazines for example.

It’s not all gloom however, there are also many brands, (like those in my online shop ), and these and these and these that are much better.

What do you think, can ‘ethnic’ groups participate in high fashion on their own terms, or do we have to accept that its their way or the highway and be happy to be part of the industry?

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  • Ondo Lady

    I agree with you totally. I was not at all interested in the all Black Allure issue as I was not too fussed about the all Black Italian Vogue one. I did have a desire to purchase an issue of Black Vogue just for the novelty factor but was not really bothered when there were no more copies to be seen. For a start I do not read Italian and I see no purpose in buying a magazine just to look at the pictures. The images in Black Allure look really cold and bleek and not at all inspiring like the shoots in Essence and Pride. I think I will just stick to them.

    • MsAfropolitan

      I feel like popping out to buy the latest Pride!

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  • fabladyH

    that’s it they use d ‘black’ thing for sale, for business. Nothing more. I for one really hate, how blacks r portrayed in most of this spread. There is nothing BEAUTIFUL about it. by beautiful i don’t mean a pretty face.

  • beeladonna


    When I noticed the blogs i read mostly the African Fashion ones I was like eeeerrrrrr okay!!!
    The only thing I loved about the Arise one was the colour palette.

    The Allure I was actually irritated by … all I saw was foolishness and even more foolishness with those promoting it! ….

    What I loved about Vogues recent “Gangs of New York” Editorial was that it was able to show a version of the New York Black Woman that was culturally mixed, cool and there was a togetherness as well as individuality (if that makes sense at all)

    This Allure one was utterly disappointing it just didnt visually communicate anything interesting to me but foolishness. LOL

    I dont like where all these black editorials are headed though tisk tisk I am personally tired of seeing nakedness and the likes of it in fashion … I mean where are the clothes??

    And the lesbianism projection are utterly repelling it keeps the adverts for the clothes in my opinion!

    • beeladonna

      It Kills* the advert for clothes … was what I meant to say.

  • Jendella

    I guess the problem is not with the use of black women per se, but generally with the fashion industry. That is not going to change until the authors (photographers, creative directors, stylists etc) change.

    In this case I guess we are happy to be “validated” as such, by being including in the fashion industry game…if black women want to be invcuded they will have play by the rules…

    Which begs the question, is it better to be left out for the sake of principle and risk there being no black representation at all, or play along with all that entails…

    I dunno, I’m not arguing in any which way, just a pretty simplified train of thought…

    • MsAfropolitan

      You know, that’s a question that I was toying as I wrote this, and to be honest I don’t know… I dislike the way high fashion portrays women of all ethnicities, so definitely directed at that market segment as a whole, but I sort of feel like black women who don’t have this long successful history of high fashion modelling, and many who used to condemn it, should be at the forefront of voicing our concerns.

      Thanks for sharing your train of thought :)

  • Mojo

    I had not heard about this until I just read your blog (excellent as usual). I looked at the pictures and they looked so unoriginal. Just the usual faux ethnic stuff and some nods to The Colour Purple. The fashion world seems to think that black and mixed race women only come in these two shades. They don’t seem to think that fashion as a business needs to be completely inclusive all the time. Simply trying to placate a section of the market with lazy and contrived images and clothes will not do.

  • Gifty

    great blog. Sadly black women are portrayed as sexual objects again, but this time with a lesbian twist which came out more to me than what they were wearing (or lack of it).

    I think we have had this type of discussion so many times within the black community that it is time for us to support and develop our own high fashion editorials that incorporate our multifaceted beauty.

    I do not expect Vogue or the like, to cater for us, I expect the fashion/english language graduates to use their creative initiative and develop something for us by us. Once we take our rightful place in the fashion world our real voices will be heard, our real faces will be seen and our identity will be respected.

  • trey

    So far the rhetoric here just seems to be preaching to the choir.. Preaching to the already converted. Its always ok to have an opinion, but personally I think that the validity of ones opinion is always held in higher esteem when they actually propose a counter solution to the gripe at hand.

    So I ask.. What would you rather see? How would you position it.. If you were asked to edit a BLACK WOMANS fashion magazine what would you put in it? What would your demographic be?

    • beeladonna

      Beeladonna likes this comment!!!!!!!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Good point although I’d dispute that I’m preaching to the converted judging by the warm reviews I saw online. As I mentioned, I could not find even one critique about this issue, but hopefully I just didn’t search long enough.

      As we speak this post has been viewed almost 500 times so maybe one of those viewers is now more critical of vogue’s editorial, or possibly, more critical of people like me who opposes all these things lol. Not everyone feels the same way, what I hope to do is get people to feel something in either direction.

      Hmm solutions, as @musings of ondo lady pointed out, essence, pride and also new african woman are examples of more ethically led magazines for black women

      I don’t have the skill-set or desire to edit a fashion magazine so I would humbly decline such an offer! I think solutions should be left to those with the right expertise.
      My area is to write, and hopefully inspire photographers, stylists etc to see things in a different light

      Is that a cop out? SHould I give more solutions? Maybe I’ll do a post on the fashion brands and mags that I like, some examples were given at the end

      Thanks for comment.

      • beeladonna

        lol nicely answered. I am really enjoying this site!! xoxoxox

  • Tattypotamus

    I agree with the poster who attributed the problem not to the black issue but the fashion industry in general. Sure the pictures in the black issue are surreal and bizarre but then, all high end fashion is portrayed the same way. whether ‘black’ ‘White’ or ‘Asian’ models are used the focus is the clothes which are enhanced by the use of the tableaux, stimulating the imagination and fantasy.

    The article laments how the issue does not empower black women. Again, that is a facet of the industry- the fashion industry is as empowering as ‘gentleman’s’ entertainment industry- the comparison may seem stark but the arguments are the same. To cut it short, women, black or otherwise shouldn’t be looking to it to uplift the perception or actual status of women. At least no more than any other industry.

    I agree that The objectification of blackness is the opposite of what the fashion industry does 98% of the time. An article in the guardian last year highlighted how ‘nude’ coloured clothing was a misnomer for the majority of the population, making the point that haute couture is essentially Eurocentric. Their treatment of other ethnicities & skin tones is as a curiosity, playing on the inherent juxtapositions & social conventions.

    Take all with a pinch of salt as I am a man with little interest in fashion. Which may make me more objective though, but no personal stake

    • MsAfropolitan

      You seem to know your stuff though! Thanks for commenting, and so eloquently at that

      I wasn’t debating the ins and outs of the fashion industry per se. Most of us know it’s not about empowering women regardless of race. My issue was and is with black women embracing this as a positive direction.

  • Ciaa

    Nice post!! As a fashion blogger I did not post the pics for the black allure because I could not open one African fashion blog without seeing it. So I was like don’t need to post on my side. Now that I read this article and seeing the pictures together as one it does open my eyes and got me thinking. Most of the time on my blog I don t like to criticize because my goal is to Promote African designers and models so I keep my opinion to myself . My guess is that all the other blog perhaps feel the same way I do. This really hit home for me , do we as African ,or black blogger should always say its beautiful just

  • Ciaa

    Oups!!! Posted before I finished my sentence. Do we as black bloggers should say that these editorials are fabulous only because they are using black models? Or should we pay more attention ?

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks Ciaa, I really appreciate hearing your point of view as a black fashion blogger and that the post made you reflect over these issues. I understand how tricky it is to be ‘conscious’ in the competitive fashion industry, it’s tough to decide where to draw the line

  • Roschelle

    Forgive me… for some this might appear to be a step in the right direction as far as the barriers women of color have faced in the modeling industry.

    But in my opinion it’s even worse. SEPARATION does not beget REPRESENTATION of anything. The women were waif-like (which i guess is the going thing…God help ’em).

    But there was something… um… like Minna put it …kind of back alley brothel-ish going on.

    i hated it!!!

  • Gosia

    Minna, do you know why is it italian vogue doing the black issues? i just got a latest issue of british vogue and tried to look at it after reading this post.. lets see … spotted two black models(one is quite famous girl from London, Jourdan Dunn) – thats it, the rest is as usual.
    There is another thing about vogue – i believe they try to be different from the other magazines, as being more artistic and also to include interesting writing (even have a competition for young authors) – one of these pieces this month is a lenghty article about whether to wax or not to wax? I was just trying to find it but its lost somewhere between the adds. Not sure what interesting or inspiring is about that?
    Guess all i wanted to say apart from the fact that i wasted my money is please keep on giving some ‘food for thought’.

  • George Dickson

    What ive seen from these few pictures on the vogue website it looks like they’ve literally taken black women and put them into the poses of that of white women. These guys just dont understand the aesthetics of black women in any other context but to their own. The leopard print picture is interesting but a very fake scenario. the b & w pictures are interesting but the poses. cant believe they even used women with weave.

    Truth is, we really shouldnt expect much from the vogue the fact is the system cannot change from within. When african photographers can take pictures mainstream without using the “other” mans spectacles then it will change.

    I agree with you ms afropolitan but i think there is still space for fashion modelling within the community.

    P.S. has anyone seen the “new look” advertisements recently. they actually used an african girl in all her natural form. interesting….

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the heads up on the new look ads, gonna keep an eye out, sounds great!

  • MBA

    In the grand scheme of things the average black person who we must remember resides in Africa will probably not see this and probably not care.

    What worries me is how we of the black diaspora are entangled in this craziness where we are being forced to belong. I do not see myself as a minority as an African and do not feel tied to having to conform to Western values (which I appreciate those who are Western and black may not have the luxury to do). I look at those photos, understand that those models are in that business and just like their white, Asian and other racial and ethnic counterparts, they have to conform to a certain look and aesthetic both physically and photographically. However, what worries me is that these images feed on those who do not have a strong, defined identity and see this as a triumph and that somehow this has advanced black people in the world and for those who feel that we need to be included that they have done something good and they can go to sleep at night knowing that they helped in the fight.

    Why does everything have to be politicised? Why cant things just be what they are? Did this have to be labelled the black issue? These pictures aren’t any more special than the average fashion shoot. Why should black models be treated any differently? Honestly the black identity is too politicised in the media. Every little thing that happens has to mean something and quite frankly its exhausting especially when you couple it with womanhood. And marketing feeds on it. If we want to just be human we can’t allow ourselves to be sucked in all the time! But then again not giving things attention can perpetuate nonsense…It’s a tough call so the question is how to find the balance?

  • chomy

    i myself have gotten tired of going on and on about this.this is hardly shocking and expected at this point which for me is the worst part. tokenism has never not looked good .
    it’s the proverbial ‘throw them a bone’ thing
    the way i see it, nothing in Fashion will change until the people who are in positions to change it actually see why it needs to be done.
    Fashion thrives on the maintenance of the status quo, it is motivated by the moves of those who quite frankly aren’t trying to change opinions, they just want to change the labels on your back.
    as long as the identity crisis of fashion persists amongst the top ranks , those who don’t fit the status quo will just get a bone every now and again, as if to say ‘seeeee, we know you are there too’ these editorials come every now and then when they feel a little pressure, they could be beneficial if the intent was actually sincere. why is there a black issue? why can’t these models just be included in ‘regular editorials’ , dedicating an entire magazine to them isn’t going to change things, it is condescending and disrespectful and irresponsible but that isn’t new

    the irony is that black women accept the little that is thrown their way so if they are taking it , it must be all good, the fact that black women go bankrupt trying to keep up with the shit ordained by the fashion gods , trying to put more money into the pockets of fashion shows just how much we have gotten used to getting none and accepted that. i refuse to be part of that. how many of you are in front row? so why show up if you won’t get the same respect so you can sit by the side lines ? i mean why pretend to give a shit, if they don’t give a shit about you. no one wants to say anything bad about the fashion world lest the fashion gate keepers decide to lock the door permanently.

    there is a little change happening, but it hasn’t come fast enough or changed enough to cause a dent where it counts.
    there won’t be a huge revolution within fashion until the people who are pushed to the margins decide to fight back.
    i am not optimistic that that’s gonna happen,esp when the support is lacking and the gate keepers are content with the way things are. Fashion doesn’t respect Africa unless they are doing a ‘tribal issue’ init. Africa is not cool , until the western world remixes it and presents it as new. every now and then, we are HIP init, well until the season ends and we get relegated to the back of the line until whenever they decide to show us off.

    we might get inclusion, we might get acceptance and all the editorials in the world, but until the Fashion World actually gives Respect, we will be having this conversation against next year and the one after that..until black women who are in Fashion actually claim that Respect, Fashion will continue to be a spectator sport, we may get an opportunity to play every now and then, but that’s all it will be
    Imagine if we just stopped showing up to the game outright? would everyone even notice we were OUT? i doubt it.

  • theusskimberly

    I completetly disagree with you on all fronts

    I think its an awesome spread

    If I read italian I would have it

    I’ve been a vogue subscriber for years and sometimes yes their issues have few women of color which is very noticeable to me but not terribly dissapointing

    I still think they should have a vogue africa
    It would be so awesome

    Check out these links below about africans in the fashion world

    And if you have cable check out the africa channel they show fashion competitions and major runway shows in african countries all the time

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate your viewpoint, but I personally cannot deal with that publication. Maybe a vogue africa would be different. The title of this post was tongue-in-cheek, and I agree that the sites you link to are awesome/. My beef is with the established high end publications that try to market to us Africans with gimmick black issues and then at the same time reinforce racial stereotypes

  • Sargewp

    For all you women who don’t see it.


    There are three areas in which black women need to be depicting in order to bring balance.

    High Fashion, Romantic Roles, and Sexual Objectification.

    Hip hop does nothing but sexually objectify black women but take out rap videos – and black women as anything to be desired on television are INVISIBLE.

    Look at how white women and other races of women are depicted in western society. Soft, feminine, and dainty. The author who wrote this – I can tell – is the type of black women who rejects all forms of femininity, will try to dictate to black men what they should be attracted to – come off as a MANLY EMPOWERED BLACK WOMAN – then can’t understand why the brotha is looking at the white girl or Latina chick in the heels, makeup, lip-gloss, stockings, and form fitting black dress.

    Black women think that being REVERED as MOTHERS OF THE EARTH is what they want! WRONG!!!!!!!

    YEA – A brotha may RESPECT YOU! – problem is! He doesn’t want to sleep with you. He can’t even draw that image in his mind because there’s nothing SEXUAL ABOUT IT. Why – DO BLACK WOMEN insist! on being ASEXUAL – then turn around and cry about how they’re not being viewed and desired in the same light as other races of women that they cry black men are all over.


    There’s your answer.

    Then when you are shown in the same like – WE GET ARTICLE LIKE THIS.


    It should be point black obvious why MANY black women end up at the back of the black man’s “I WANT TO GET WITH YOU” list.

    • chris brown

      Sargewp what is the point, these black women today are so far gone its not even funny, they are so far DISCONNECTED from black men, that also is not even funny. Many black women are in their own world man, talk about cloud nine, to them they on cloud #27. Hey its only in AMERICA let me mind you that black women can talk and act like this, other parts of the world they cannot because this system in this country allows them to act the A%$% that many of them happen to be. Sad but true. Many of the young black boys of this new generation are not even interested in many of the young black girls because many young black girls have taken on the twisted mentality of many of these women we read, hear and see everyday. But hey, black women are moving mountains and are on top of the world and they can do it with out black men cause because the white man is the one giving her everything, to this day i have not see, or felt anything of real substance from any black woman in this 2011. Other than house wives and black girls rock. Lets face it, these women do not care about the black community, there is no black community because these women have shown and proven to us that everything is about them and only them and we as black men have no say in anything. Sure, right, ok, man when i say mental slavery is a hell of a thing i am not lieing.

      • Questionmark

        SWP and Chris Brown??? You two imbeciles are parked on the wrong site.

        • MsAfropolitan

          Thanks for that Questionmark!

      • Elizabeth

        Young man, you are confused! The first recognized African American woman on the fashion cover of Vogue magazine was Beverly Johnson. That did not happen until 1975. Iman, model from Somalia, was discovered first in Britain and France, and then to America. Liya Kebede, model from Ethiopia, was discovered by the French, and then to America. Naomi Campbell hailed from Britain and was systematically rejected by many Americans. In my opinion, the models named are internationally recognized and amongst the best. Even they have been discriminated against and the July issue of Italian Vogue was marketed by the photographer Steve, because he noticed that these great beauties were scarcely being seen on the catwalks and very few younger models of brown to black complexion were being recruited.

        In America women of African descent have been on the forefront of the battle against racism and discrimination just as men of African descent. It is only in recent decades that the divide has come about with celebrating diversity and hearing. . .my “mama’s” white or by “daddy’s” white somehow makes you better or prettier. Kind of disgusting!

        It appears that white women, asian women and hispanic women can be sexy in the office, in the library, in the classroom, committing adultery in the kitchen and eveerywhere else, on the toilet, next to the pool, in church, in the locker room, in the brothel, striping naked, having sex everywhere naked for money or not. . . BUT NOT THAT WOMAN OF AFRICAN DESCENT.

        I thiink you “brothers” got chains on your brains!

  • Mayasi


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  • Shan

    It’s very simple… IF WE WANT TO SEE A CHANGE, WE NEED TO JOIN FORCES FOR A COMMON CAUSE AND BOYCOTT their FASHION INDUSTRY. Im talking about a drastic boycott so when they see their profits significantly dropping they’ll make the necessary changes. Do not buy their magazines with only BLONDES on the cover. DONT buy their overpriced name brands. Don’t go to their events. According to “34% are likely to keep up with changes in trends and fashions compared to 25% of Whites” AND “37% of African Americans like to buy brands that let others know they have “made it” versus 14% of whites.”


    Time to Demand OUR OWN

  • Betty Okpo

    I like vogue black , because the vogue uk ,rarely has black women interview or in the fashion spread, but l don’t like the way black girls got to have tribal print e.g dutch wax or a snake next to her ,with weird bright pink makeup to feature in the magazine, black women need to come together and create a high fashion magazine for black women ,as white folk are never going to represent us.great blog hun