Expect Jezebel to go crazy with Chanel Model Ondria Hardin playing an African Queen in Numéro’s March issue. Given my own position that Jezebel is politically correct to a fault when the topic is multi-cultural fashion exploration, I stay out of this argument. Last week they went over-the-top crazy over the Sports Illustrated issue touching down in multiple countries and using ‘exotic people’ as ‘props’. The comments over at the New York Times were truly enlightening.
When I ask myself if I would ever use a Caucasian woman in black makeup to sell GlamTribale jewelry, the answer is clearly ‘no’. Even though I do believe strongly that we are all African queens because humanity began in the Omo Valley, I don’t need to wear black skin to celebrate my heritage. I am Caucasian for official purposes and also wear the privileges and stereotypes associated with that skin color. I simply can’t go into the mindset of an African woman — or an African American woman — because of my inexperience.
It would be interesting for a top model to ‘go African Queen’ for an entire year of her life as an unknown and write a book about the experience in and out of the fashion industry. Jezebel did do us a service, tracking for the fifth year in a row, the skin color of models in New York Fashion Week.
Personally, I put my own position as Victoria’s Secret Fashion Director on the line, threatening to resign if we didn’t put Naomi Campbell in ads and our fashion show. At the time our customer base was 25% African American and our public face was very white. VS never looked back after that first decision to commit to women of color — although even today, the model base doesn’t accurately reflect the customer base proportionally. ~ Anne
Kate Mossman styles Ondria in these high-impact images lensed by Sebastian Kim for Numero #141.