CultureBritish Vogue Latest Cover Objectifies Black People

British Vogue Latest Cover Objectifies Black People


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Is fashion genuinely embracing what it means to be global? The latest revelation of British Vogue’s Feb ’22 cover has gathered much traction online. While many people celebrate black women of different African backgrounds finally dominating the spotlight in an industry that has lacked diversity for many years, others call the latest cover the ‘objectification of black women and black fetish.

British Vogue’s “Fashion Now” cover features nine women – Adut, Anok, Nyagua, Janet, Maty, Amar, Majesty, Akon, and Abeny – of African descent with darkened skin tones, adorned in all black Balenciaga outfits and Europeans styled wigs. The Feb issue accompanies a story by contributing editor Funmi Fetto, exploring a new generation of African models and fashion embracing ‘what it is to be truly global.’

In a predominantly whitewashed industry, the elevation of Africa- black women- sounds good on paper. Black models have rarely appeared on any mainstream fashion publication covers like Vogue. Under Alexandra Shulman’s 25 years directing the British Vogue magazine, only two black models, Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn, were given solo covers. However, when Edward Enninful took the magazine’s helm as the first black man to hold the position of Editor-in-Chief in 2017, many people expected that he would revolutionise the magazine and make it more diverse and inclusive.

According to Enninful, the feature of Africans in the fashion industry isn’t simply about ‘symbolism, nor even beauty standards. It is about the elevation of a continent. It is about economics, access, culture, perspective, difference and wonder.’

In the issue’s story, Funmi Fetto said: “For an industry long criticised for its lack of diversity, as well as for perpetuating beauty standards seen through a Eurocentric lens, this change is momentous.”

Although Ennfiul and Fetto claim that this cover is revolutionary, not everyone shares their sentiments.

One person tweeted, “The images are very disappointing to me. The models are not well lit and they are styled in such a way that their features begin to merge with their clothing and get lost in the shadows. They are therefore unrecognisable. What a wasted opportunity.

Another person tweeted, “It’s bloody awful The styling and aesthetic is entirely wrong. We, as usual, have been erased. This isn’t #BlackGirlMagic, it’s Black Girl Tragic. Sack the damn stylist and photographers. In fact, sack the entire team. Smdh.

The representation of black bodies in mainstream fashion should be seen as a positive change. Casting black models is not always bad; society should applaud when done correctly. However, the exploitation of people of African descent has a long-standing history. Black people have stressed the importance of their representation and self-representation, which doesn’t exclude representation in fashion brands such as Vogue. Numerous brands use blackness as an accessory that can be put on and off – to be exploited as a marketing tool to seem more inclusive and diverse.

An example of black exploitation is an all-black casting that exotifies black people for shock value. The images of black people in these brands are not graceful, nor do they show their humanity. Instead, as with this cover, black people are seen as immovable, lifeless objects without emotion.

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