Bellas! My Second Vogue Black Post is Up

And this time I wrote all about body scrubs for gorgeous skin.

Black-skin_784x0 (1)

I gave a long overdue shout out to one of my besties in the beauty blogosphere, Julia of All About the Pretty. I’ll tell ya, I touched her arm when we were at Fashion Week in September…her skin is like silk and velvet and all things soft and sumptuous because of the body scrub she’s been doing for years now.

Some of the hubbub and criticism of Vogue Italia’s new additions have died down, since Vogue Italia’s editor in chief wrote her rebuttal (in which she quoted ME! In Rachel Zoe’s words, I die!) And also, the announcement that the legendary Bethann Hardison is now the editor-at-large of Vogue Black quieted some naysayers.

Some of the hubbub has died down, but not all. And my attitude towards it can best be described as resigned bemusement.

I realized something recently — almost every website I write for has a variation of the word black in the title. Black Voices, Black Atlas, Afrobella, and now Vogue Black. It’s not that I’m exclusive about what I write about, I’m just passionate about celebrating our unique beauty.

Most of the time, when I read criticism of the sites I write for, it’s from white supremacists who are mad that black people have their own channel on the teevee and are living in the White House and going on fancy vacations and whatnot. To paraphrase. So I was kinda surprised that this time, the shrill voiced outrage was coming from women of color — about the fact that Vogue made a site dedicated to black beauty. I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be clueless.

To me it’s like – hey! Vogue’s catching up to what I’ve been doing since 2006! But to others it’s like how DARE Vogue create a channel just for us! Why separate us into another channel? The 1950′s are over! Thanks for setting us back * insert number of years*, Vogue! SMH! And if you admit to liking it even a little bit, people accuse you of having a “separate but equal mindset.”

I’ve seen articles online where it’s that serious. And I just don’t feel that way.

I don’t see Vogue Black as some kind of intended honor bestowed unto our people by the high priestesses of fashion. Please. I don’t see it as an attempt to neatly corral our beauty thereby throwing us a wacktastic bone while keeping regular Vogue the same as it ever was. I see it as a new initiative that’s beginning to find its look and find its voice, that is celebrating a range of black beauty and focusing on our celebrities and cultural icons. Big stories from Vogue Black also appear on the front page of Vogue Italia, and I hope to see more integration of articles from Vogue Black, Vogue Talents and Vogue Curvy on the main Vogue Italia website. The future is still wide open and bright, as far as I see it.

We’re at a fascinating crossroads in the black fashion world. On one hand, Vogue — the quote-unquote “world’s most influential fashion magazine” — is giving black beauty its own spotlight for the first time in the brand’s 118 year history. On the other hand, we’re seeing sad times as we face the apparent demise of the historied and celebrated Ebony Fashion Fair, which has brought high fashion to black women for half a century.

I guess it’s obvious, I’m biased because I’m contributing towards Vogue Black. But I gotta tell y’all, I am optimistic. I believe that this another step towards some long overdue changes. But enough about what I think… I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Vogue Black is here. What would you like it to be? What kinds of articles and photographic inspiration would you want to see? Do you have any constructive criticism to share?

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Comments

  1. Maybe because I’ve been feeling a little beat up lately (see below), I find I don’t have any particular critiques…I’m just happy that Vogue Black exists. And I’m not surprised that it’s Vogue Italia behind it…I’m still kicking myself for not buying that groundbreaking Black Beauty issue when I had the chance! I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SOOOO happy that you got this gig!

    Sorta OT: I don’t know if you’ve seen this article, but this went a long way towards making me feel better on a day when I wasn’t feeling so good. Would love to hear your comments on it:

    http://www.essence.com/relationships/hot_topics_5/commentary_single_black_ladies.php

  2. I am sad to see that Europe is more open minded about the beauty of black women than the US. In any case and I still happy to see that there is a site that exists to celebrate the beauty of black women.

    Thank you again for your contribution to the site.

  3. I’m one of the women who thinks it’s just backwards to have separate but equal magazine. It really doesn’t matter anyway. I can’t afford anything in that magazine anyway. Besides it doesn’t enhance my life one way or the other.

  4. the opening lines to the body scrub piece was simply FIERCE!! I literally read it over…and over…and OVER while at work today. Beautiful ain’t even the word….thank you;-)

  5. I don’t feel that strongly about it, I’m happy to look at Vogue Black for a while and I bought the “Black” issue of Italian Vogue, but I well understand the criticisms. Think what your reaction might be if there were a “Vogue Asian,” marketed to Asian-Americans. You’d think Asians were being treated as if they don’t fall under the rubric of “regular,” “normal” beauty, requiring their own channel.

    Diversity in ONE culture is what this country is supposed to stand for. Being put in a side pocket of the mainstream (excuse the mixed visual image) isn’t the same thing.

    By the way, I’m the one who wrote earlier about her discomfort with the way Yves St. Laurent discussed black models — as if they weren’t quite human — definitely, he didn’t see them the same way as white models. I was dismayed that so many people didn’t seem to understand that.

    At the same time, I understand that fashion is still very European-centric and that people of color are going to take work where they can find it.

    But the critics make a very good point.

  6. “So I was kinda surprised that this time, the shrill voiced outrage was coming from women of color ….”

    Obviously, I didn’t read the reactions, but characterizing criticism from women as “shrill” is a classic sexist putdown.

  7. I am still baffled at the negative comments. Some have even commented and mentioned that separate is not equal. What is NOTEWORTHY is that a major publishing company has created this – NOT just a black owned and operated one. I WANT to open magazines, and watch runway shows that include a diverse look. Unfortunately that is not happening!!!!! So my hat is off to Vogue “Black”.

    Grazie Mille -

  8. Van wrote:

    “What is NOTEWORTHY is that a major publishing company has created this – NOT just a black owned and operated one. I WANT to open magazines, and watch runway shows that include a diverse look. Unfortunately that is not happening!!!!! So my hat is off to Vogue “Black”.”

    I believe the critics are concerned precisely because a major, mainstream company is behind this. Ebony and Essence, before it was acquired by Time Warner had specific constituencies and were founded in eras when blacks often couldn’t find positive depictions of themselves elsewhere.

    But this is 2010, and it smacks of a company trying to capture a revenue stream without making a real effort. Most people know that fashion magazines feature fancy, incredibly expensive clothes that are actually branding efforts. Most women readers can’t buy a $2,000 dress, but they can buy an $80 bottle of perfume, or a $30 lipstick.

    It’s well-established that black women make up a big part of the market that buys the licensed products. So there really is no excuse for not incorporating their interests directly into the magazine. By the way, I feel the same way about “Vogue Curves.” Guess what, a lot of regular-sized and plump women buy the same branded products and most women do not resemble Vogue models.

    As I said above it’s not something I feel passionately about, but I certainly understand the criticisms.

    As you said, unfortunately, the kinds of change some people would like to see is not happening. The issue is whether the creation of this kind of separate forum will hasten or delay change.

  9. And let’s not forget that blacks, especially black women, are consistently treated as different, “Other,” in this culture.

    To the critics, this channel simply reinforces that.

    What’s baffling about that objection?

  10. Little Miss V says:

    I understand where Bella is coming from and naturally as a writer for Vogue she would defend them. I am kind of torn on this issue: firstly, its great that Vogue are finally giving Curvy women and Black women a platform. However, the fact that when we open a Vogue magazine there are virtually no women of colour, and no plus sized women featured, exemplifies how under-represented these groups are.

    In order to take a proper stand against discrimination, Vogue should simply have incorporated Curvy/ Black women in they’re magazines. It’s sad that the fashion/ publishing industry still sends out the message that black isn’t good enough, curvy/ plus sized isn’t good enough and women who are not tall, thin and white are just not good enough.

  11. E-Fresh says:

    There’s nothing wrong with Vogue Black. It is more targeted which is nice for the consumer, but it is also really good for Vogue(a business) because it will allow for more targeted advertising. The money factor is a component.

    The internet is all about getting exactly what you want on demand. The flip result is if you’re a business that sells let’s say Black hair care products, would you rather market on some general website or Afrobella and Vogue Black.

    It’s a win-win.

  12. Reader, I LOVE having readers like you! This is what makes the Afrobella community so brilliant and also this is why I take my time and craft a blog post rather than just slap up a half-baked opinion. This post took me half a week to write, just for this reason.

    I’m gonna take issue with comment #6, where you referred to “shrill voiced outrage” as a classic sexist put down. However if you’ll notice the first part of that sentence…

    “So I was kinda surprised that this time, the shrill voiced outrage…”

    This time.

    The previous shrill voiced outrage I’m referring to, came from white supremacists sites. Maybe the word “voiced” is what made you assume I was making a “classic sexist putdown” ?

    My voice certainly isn’t shrill — right now I’m sick so if anything, I sound like Lindsay Lohan. Neither are the voices of many of the bloggers I’ve actually talked to. So please don’t think I was literally putting down the speaking voices of women. I was using the definition of “shrill” as “being sharply insistent on being heard” — as defined here. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/shrill

    Also, another point.

    –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogue_(magazine)

    there is already a Vogue China and a Vogue Japan and a Vogue India, and a Vogue Brazil… which feature white models and white designers, but also feature models and celebrate designers of those aforementioned ethnicities. What they DON’T have, is a Vogue Africa, and I think that’s because Africa is a vast continent and perhaps the question was, well which country do we start a Vogue Africa in? Of course I don’t know because I am not a Vogue staff member and involved in the decision making. But I imagine that may have presented a question yet to be answered.

    I’m thinking their end decision was to do Vogue Black to speak to the world of black beauty and black experience. Vogue Black isn’t necessarily intended to specifically speak to African Americans alone, which is why Vogue Black uses writers based in the USA, like myself, as well as writers in Africa, and in Europe who are of African descent — please see the piece by amazing Somalian writer Cristina Ali Farah.

    http://www.vogue.it/en/vogue-black/black-beauty/2010/03/incense

    Does that mean this is an online publication without flaws? No. But I see it as an effort to pay respect to the fact that black beauty can’t be limited to one country, we are truly worldwide.

    Thanks for commenting!

  13. hi bella
    my thinking is along in line with your way of thinking on this topic. i do not see the harm in vogue doing this. who knows, maybe other publications will follow suit. i do think that black people as a race really have to stop seeing some sort of overt/underhanded reasoning on some things. when we are critical of every little thing, we get labeled as angry and hard to please, which then makes us angry and critical so the circle just continues. i say on this particular matter for those who read and enjoy vogue, continue to do so . . . now you have one more feature to read and enjoy. for those who find this difficult to stomach, stop reading vogue.

  14. I guess the big picture people are missing is that this is VOGUE ITALIA and not VOGUE USA which hardly ever features any women of color either in advertisements and on the cover on a regular basis. We have to remember who their target demographic is and with American Vogue and other American fashion magazines it’s not us and that’s why I read blogs.

    Most American magazines are celebrity based and I just don’t follow the lives of celebrities because they really don’t interest me. I want to see women who are non-celebrities who have an enviable personal style.

    And if VOGUE Italia is going to write about celebrities, please let’s not base the decision on popularity alone, remember those who are flying below the radar who are often ignored and receive no fanfare or adoration… just hateful criticism from the masses.

    I have to commend Franca Sozzani for having the vision to create such an outlet. I’ve been reading it everyday since it’s inception.

  15. Stephanie says:

    “Does that mean this is an online publication without flaws? No. But I see it as an effort to pay respect to the fact that black beauty can’t be limited to one country, we are truly worldwide.”

    AMEN!!!! nuff said.

  16. I look at Black Vogue as another way for BW to be celebrated and acknowledged for the beautiful women we are. I know that everyone is not going except Black Vogue and there will always be people who are not satisfied, with that said those who are excited continue to be excited about Black Vogue and those who are upset hopefully they will get over it. Black Vogue can also be an outlet for Black models who can’t get a job because noone knows who they are!

  17. Quayshah says:

    i just wanna say that i am glad that we are being recognized for our beauty BUT that it has to be marginalized and set aside is…i cannot even describe it…okay…here it is…segregated. i am not feeling that, however, when WE as a people don’t do for ourselves…and dont SUPPORT one another…what can we expect? truly? i’m just saying

  18. Why are Black women who are critical of Vogue Black described as ‘shrill?’ I approach Vogue with skepticism and I think it is our prerogative to be incisive.

  19. designdiva says:

    I have to agree with Quayshah on this topic.

    I’ve looked at both Vogue black and V-curvy and I’m still waiting to be “wowed”. Just a collection of short vague articles.

    Non white magazines such as Vogue are not going to cover our beauty needs and issues as thoroughly as a black beauty magazine. IMO, this is just a ploy to generate more money because it is a known fact that blacks are major consumers. What we need to be doing is giving Ebony and Essence more of our support.

  20. I appreciate this blogsite very much. It has introduced me all sorts of awesome things including Vogue Black. (Btw the Barbie fashio show on the site is AMAZING). I don’t worry about the naysayers. Sometimes, when a good thing happens people just cant help but complain anyway. Yada Yada Yada, who cares? As a plus size woman who has a newfound love of style, I sincerly appreciate Vogue’s new baby: Vouge Curvy! I am HAPPY that it is seperate and that I finally have a wonderful new destination that is all things curvalicious :)

  21. Afrobella wrote:

    “So I was kinda surprised that [THIS TIME], the shrill voiced outrage…”

    (Emphasis added).

    Thank you for the clarification. I’m glad you can take civil, hopefully intelligent-sounding critiques from readers. :-) (Some bloggers can’t — Don’t get me started…)

    And as I said, I’m not really in the critics’ camp. I was trying to expand on what I thought the objectors had taken issue with. I believe I understand, and I think both sides are interesting; how to cope in the real world always is.

    As for the value of Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy,* I don’t really know the answer. I like to read blogs for discussions like this.

    I haven’t bought or even American Vogue for years because it was so ridiculous, the current trends in plastic surgery bothered me more than anything else, but I did shell out good money for the “Black” Italian Vogue issue, so if gimmick it was, it worked on this one.

    Good luck with the Vogue work. It’s money and exposure. Money and exposure, good (I’m not an idiot.)

    *Vogue Curvy can use some serious copy editing. There was a sentence so mangled that I had to read it three times before I realized it wasn’t me. And in what universe is Meryl Streep curvy? It turned out to be a tease.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    I’m a bit disappointed that you feel “clueless” about the debate. The issue is simple: in a white supremacist society, notions of beauty are defined as white, thin, and blonde. So creating two separate sites to cater to groups that don’t fit this standard is like saying: “Everyone knows what real beauty looks like, but since you’re also potential customers we’ll throw you a pretty, little bone. Just don’t expect us to acknowledge you in our major magazine.”

    Black women have historically struggled for representation but we’ve also been the first ones to say that we want to viewed as “equally” human, “equally” beautiful. The images in Vogue Black ARE pretty and that’s great but I can count on one finger how many black women are in the general magazine and then there are no curvy women at all.

    It’s more of the same … throw us something to distract us. Give us pretty pictures in a separate magazine but don’t change or challenge dominant ideas about beauty, whiteness, and thinness.

    Our willingness to accept this without saying anything is what’s MOST problematic. For all of your comments about being “clueless” you Afrobella do recognize this which is why you, yourself “hope to see more integration …” You’re saying exactly what the nay-sayers are saying. Give us Vogue Black to recognize our unique beauty AND incorporate us into the mainstream beauty magazines.

    The other alternative that no one has suggested is to just to call Vogue Italia what it is “Vogue White” and stop the pretense that it represents “general beauty”.

  23. Reader – it took me a while to get here! But nah, I really do enjoy the debate, as long as it remains intelligent and respectful. I am not the angry get-all-in-the-comments blogger who will block a reader for their opinion. In fact, I’ve only ever blocked one person and that was because she came sideways at MY DAD! in the comments. And that turned out to be my limit of tolerance LOL

    and maybe this attitude has trickled over to Vogue Black. Honestly I think it’d be ridiculous for me to be angry about its existence, seeing as I do write for Black Voices, Black Atlas, and Afrobella which is also dedicated to pretty much exclusively celebrating our beauty.

    Elizabeth, I understand your argument but I want to make one point – Vogue Black is NOT a magazine! I haven’t heard word of this coming to print. It’s an online channel on Vogue.it – comparable to how Black Voices is an online channel on AOL.com. And as of now, links to Vogue Black articles also appear prominently on Vogue.it. So I think they do plan to bring all of their inspirations together in the online form. Will this make it into print? Well that remains to be seen…

    Oh! And reader – I’m not writing for Vogue Curvy (yet!) but I agree, and part of the issue is the language barrier. The Italian editors will probably read this post and these comments, so I think they’re learning our opinions and criticisms from all of this!

  24. Elizabeth:

    Excellent points. But I thought that black women were more than “potential consumers,” I thought they were MAJOR consumers, spending much more money on average than white women on cosmetics and clothing (and of course I’m aware of some reasons why this might be so, i.e., the need to make oneself “acceptable” in a still very white-dominated beauty aesthetic).

    The argument used to be that few women of color models were used in runway shows because black women don’t buy couture. But only something like 30 women in the world can afford couture. As I noted earlier, it’s well established that many couture and high end fashion shows function essentially to create buzz for the brand, so that consumers believe they have a connection to, say, Chanel, when they buy things produced by manufacturers who have paid for a license to use the name.

    If that’s really the way it works, then black women are entitled to expect more representation in the editorial component of the main magazine and in the advertisements.

    I read Afrobella all the time and I think it has good tips. But I also read Sociological Images http://contexts.org/socimages/ a blog that several times a week explores how black women and other groups still considered “Other” are represented in this society.

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks Afrobella for your comment to my comment. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and even when I disagree with your opinions and those of your readers, I enjoy that the conversation remains engaging :)

    “Reader” thanks for sending the Sociological Images link, as a sociologist this is exactly where I’m coming from …

  26. Elizabeth:

    Although sociologists often convey a grim message, I appreciate what they do. It’s been tremendously helpful for me to understand that scholars have actually studied and articulated names for phenomena like white privilege, and social constructs of gender and race and beauty.

    These problems are real and pervasive; acknowledging their existence is the first step.

    Afrobella:

    I know you don’t write for Vogue Curves, but as you mentioned it, I was commenting on the poor quality of the writing of the item I read.

    Re “shrill,” you can’t rely just on the dictionary definition. “Shrill” is a word that in America is undeniably associated with women as a pejorative. The word is almost never applied to men.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Reader: I like how you think … we should be friends :)

  28. An interesting debate though I don’t really know what to think of it… here in France things are so different but I do understand both points of view :S

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