Hallowood2013 Disco Africa party & blackface in the fashion industry

Posted on: Oct 27, 2013


photos from Internet & Instagram 

I am not going to sugar coat my feelings on this subject, and for those of you who are used to the regular oh-look-at-what-I-am-wearing-today photos can choose to either participate in this discussion or not. This is just my opinion and I am writing about this after some shocking photos that came up on my instagram feed this morning of a party hosted by Giampaolo Sgura.

My Sunday ritual involves having a cup of coffee, while scrolling through Instragram to see what my friends and people in the fashion industry, who I follow, have been up to. As I came across a Russian photographer's feed, there it was - an individual (turns out is Allesandro Dell'Acqua) dressed in BLACKFACE  ! As I looked at the hastags and the people tagged in the photos, I realised one of the trio was Stefano Gabbana (he needs no introduction). As you can see in the instagram photos below, he was merely dressed in a leopard-print suit. My further investigation of the hashtag #discoafrica and going on to links related to the party, led me to more individuals who painted themselves black to look "African" in the quest to complete their tribal look. 




So, um, ok did these grown men miss the whole discussion on how offensive black face is? I know some of you are saying, but Natasha, this is more an American thing. But readers, there are these wonderful mediums called TV, books and the internet that have made is possible for even Bjork in her Icelandic hide-out to know that blackface is not fucking ok ! OK? And this is not the first time people in the fashion industry have been accused of doing black face. Did they not learn from their previous editorials, using white models to role-play black women by spraying them a darker shade? Remember the 'African Queen" editorial ? Oh yeah that's right, myself and other black models were on vacation that day, so we just weren't available for the shoot. 

Things like this really PISS me off because as a black person and a black model, I struggle to find work and be valued in an industry that only cares about the color of my skin when they want to chuck a bright-neon bathing suit on me because, as the saying goes, "it goes well with your skin tone". Just imagine the amount of times agencies have told me they can't sign me because they already have a black girl that looks like me (yes, this has been said a few times) or that the clients they work with don't hire black models. And then you see this: 



I left comments on Dell'Acqua and Gabbana's instagram, along with trying to tell other people (mostly Italians and non-Americans) why this is offensive. One grown woman (our conversation was in Spanish) went on to tell me that Dell'Acqua did not mean to offend. I told her that Dell'Acqua is a grown-ass man who KNOWS that blackface is offensive, so he clearly knew what he did was offensive. So much so, that the people involved took down all photos related to the party where black face was shown. Well, except the Russian photographer, who is basking in the attention that this photo will bring her. She clearly has no intention of taking the photo down until Instagram or the big names invovled tell her so, because her caption showed she found no offense in the image. Here are some of the, ahem, 'costumes' in question. I am sure some of you are familiar with the faces, well not so much the charcoal black ones. Haven't seen those since 1848 ! 


Now hear this. There were plenty of people who wore African-print fabric and were dressed in beautiful clothes , WITHOUT THE NEED TO PAINT THEIR FACES BLACK OR BROWN ! If I want to go as Marylin Monroe for a party, I would wear a blonde wig and a white dress. I don't need to paint myself white, thank you very much. There is no harm is celebrating people who are not of your race or ethnic background, but that does not mean there are no boundaries. Oh hey, how about I dress as an emaciated Jew from Auschwitz with the star of David next year, hmm ? Holla ! .... caust perhaps should be the title of my photo ? Or maybe concentration-camp-chic ? That has a nice ring to it. I swear I don't mean to offend anyone, it's JUST a costume. And when Jewish people say I am offending them, I will just tell them to calm down and be grateful I am 'celebrating' their culture. 

At this point I could rant for eternity but I won't and I can't belive my Sunday started off with this nonsense on Instagram. People took photos down, but it does not change the fact that they were put up there in the first place, with no thought whatsoever. Nice try. What goes on the internet, stays on the internet. Didn't the world wide web teach you that already ? 

Thoughts, fashionistas ? 

My instagram : @natashandlovu 

bisous,
Natasha 

53 comments:

  1. This is absolutely choking ! I completely agree with you
    xoxo
    http://camilleslifestylediary.blogspot.fr/

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  2. I find this disgusting and I'm glad you made a point of sharing this especially as they attempted to 'hide' the evidence!

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    1. Yep, I screen grabbed as much as I could. You know they will get some PR person to calm the situation. Or Dell-Acqua will cast a black model for his next shoot, like that shit is supposed to make it ok. Ugh. Ugh and a million times UGH !! *shakes fist into the air*

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  3. That's so outrageous! How anyone thinks this is acceptable is beyond me. Good on you for posting this!

    http://talisatalksbeauty.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/birchbox-october-2013.html

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  4. this is just appalling, when was painting your face black ever cool or right, it's a dam shame that in 2013, people are doing this stupidity. thanks for standing up to these morons..

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  5. God this makes me feel sick and I'm so sorry that you have to go through all of this crazy modelling business. I had an idea this kind of thing happened, but it's horrible to see it in black and white (pardon the pun), and it must be so frustrating. I wonder who doesn't hire black models (or maybe I can work it out). So much I want to say but fear it will bring me off topic, maybe you can post more about this?

    I was just thinking about how I went as Lady Gaga to a Halloween party a few years ago and just wore a blonde wig, no pale make up needed. I just think that culturally themed parties are treading a fine line. I get that people like dressing up and transforming themselves but by attempting to change their skin colour (beyond a fake tan) it makes darker races seem like a joke, like playthings. I don't think they truly get this.

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    1. Well said on that second paragraph. It goes to show the type of people at this party who are also industry professional (stylists, MUAs, booking agents) who make castings decisions about models on a daily basis, as well as decided themes for photoshoots. So long as they get media attention, that's all they want. A fake PR is already made to send off to the offended, and at the end of the day, they go on with their lives, making money off of the people they offend.

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  6. I have no words, as I already gave an earful on your instagram post.
    But if you have the time, please read these two articles...

    1. http://thoughtcatalog.com/madison-moore/2012/10/sorry-white-people-blackface-is-still-not-ok/

    2. http://thoughtcatalog.com/madison-moore/2013/04/can-we-please-stop-putting-models-in-blackface/

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    1. Thanks for the link. I will have a look.

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  8. Did I miss something? I must have put my alarm last night for 1857. This is just sad, and the repetitiveness of the topic is even more disturbing. You don't have to be in the fashion industry to know that this has already caused waves in the past and is offensive. I live under law textbooks and I know that. But sadly, even when you hear the likes of Naomi and Tyra, two of the worlds biggest supermodels, talking about the challenges they faced being a black model, you think well that was then, this is now. Too bad then you hear Chanel Iman in 2013 still singing the same tune.

    It will talk a lot more attention for anyone to feel they have to change. Designers, editors, they all have to take a stand. Taking down a pic is temporary, because in 3 months some other genius will have some other genius party "Amistad" themed with everyone singing give us free. So good for you Natasha for not just double tapping on your screen and liking the pic. Instead, you chose a forum to express your frustrations, and that is how change comes about. By not turning a blind eye.

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  9. its really sad that society is still lingering in the past. i don't understand as to why they think this is acceptable, and they are grown ass men also......it's truly sad!!

    itsjustshalay.bloogspot.com

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  10. I'm so glad you called them out on it! I wish more people would speak out about it.

    You know...it's always bothered me when people dress us as another ethnicity and color their skin to go with their costume. I've seen people do it here in the Bay Area. It's the most ignorant thing ever. My earliest memory of it was when I was in the 6th grade. This girl in my class wrote an essay on Rosa Parks. So for her presentation she dressed up like her, which was fine. But then the idiot girl painted her face BROWN! I was shocked because I was the only one who was offended in the entire class. Not even the teacher said anything!

    You should google "Hipster Racism" by Jennifer Fabulous. She is one of my favorite bloggers and she wrote a post on the ignorance of using ethnic attire as "props" or "accessories" in fashion.

    Moreover, it boggles me that there are still people out there that use black models as a token on their shows. I was well aware of it before because I've read about it in the past. It's so sick. It should never be about color...ever. It's 2013 and how is this still an issue? You know society is twisted when someone like Janice Dickinson was called "too ethnic" at one point. Um...hello? Sounds like some things will never change.

    I have so much respect for you for writing this <3

    xo Azu

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    1. Here's the link to the post I was talking about:

      http://jenniferfabulous.blogspot.com/2013/05/hipster-racism.html

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  11. Good job Natasha! This really pisses me off too and I'm glad you stood up for all of us!

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  12. THANK YOU! So completely over this racist basic-ness. Because not only is this kind of thing designed to uphold white supremacy (i.e. why use models of color when the white ones can don black/yellow/brown face), it's been done to death.

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  13. You've expressed my sentiments to the T!

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  14. I'm so glad you wrote about this, especially being that you are in the fashion industry. I couldn't agree with you more. It was simply disrespectful. I, too, woke up to something similar on my Instagram. Two guys dressed up for Halloween, one, painted his face black, wore a grey hoodie with "blood" on it, the other, wore a shirt that said "Neighborhood Watchman" mocking the Treyvon Martin case. Extremely disrespectful. Smh

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    1. I saw that. Now THAT was just down-right disrespectful. Those people cannot pretend to not know how offensive the Trayvon Martin case was. Idiots and quite frankly racists. And when they get caught, they will want to say they have a "black friend".

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  15. Sigh. Stop ascribing American values to the rest of the world. Yes, we non-Americans have heard of your hang ups, but that does not mean we agree with them. These are people dressing up for an African-themed party. And what is in Africa? As you can see in the photos, big game hunters, zebras, and, surprise, Africans. For as insensitive as you think they are being, they are not, though you are actually being completely insensitive to that! Double sigh.

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    1. Oh really Anon ? So Africa is just filled with wild animals and savages in black face? Wow, you really must be proud of your limited knowledge. Please tell us how Jews should not be insulted about the Holocaust or how Native Americans should "chill" about their head-dresses ? *sigh* white priveledge

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  16. Wow! I feel so bad that black models has to face that. I seriously believe in diversity, and I also believe that black girls are pretty and this type of SHIT makes me mad. Hopefully this will change. And we need to take action!

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  17. This is really bad, especially the blackface :-(
    I also don`t understand why they didn`t ask real black models for this campaign. Very sad.

    But I think it would be ok if I would look like Beyonce for Halloween to bronze my skin a little?
    Or is that also not done? I don`t know how black people would feel about that, because I am not black,
    That`s why i'm asking.
    Ofcourse dressing like black face, muslim terrost, jew with a star would be very bad and unfortunately it happens.
    I saw muslim terrorist outfits on the internet today, since I am a muslim I know that doesn't feel nice.

    XO

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    1. No, you as a non black person don't need to 'bronze' your skin to look like Beyonce. Just find an outfit that people would recognize to be Beyonce and that is it. Bronzing your skin to resemble hers would be considered blackface. Altering your natural skin tone to resemble that of a black person is blackface.

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    2. Just wear a costume that people recognize as Beyonce, maybe even carry a mic that shows you are a singer to emphasize the point. That's all people need to do. Wear a wig if it is necessary to help make the point.

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    3. Thanks for answering my questions girls.
      I really didn`t know about that.
      I find it sad that beyonce doesn`t seem to be proud of her skincolor, because it looks like she's
      getting more white every new picture or video.

      XO

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  18. Totally disgusting and racist!

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  19. Kudos for you for calling these people out. It seems like white people can't get enough of the blackface this week.

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    1. Instagram is bring out people's true colors. Some people take sheer delight in ruffling feathers.

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  20. I am disgusted, horrified, and stunned right now. These costumes are downright racist. Absolutely NO question about it. Even if those people apologize later and claim "they had no idea if was going to offend people" it wouldn't make a difference because they would be lying. There is no way that you can put that makeup on your face (I'm sure it took a long time) and then look in the mirror, and think you're doing something harmless. No effing way!!

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  21. I am absolutely disgusted by this... I'm so upset that people still do this kind of thing. I went to the Uni of Nottingham and a similar thing happened, there was a party where everyone painted themselves with this blackface and the black students raised this as an issue to the University... But nothing was done. One of the lecturers once held up a sign saying bring back slavery... We again, brought this to the University and requested that this lecturer be removed and nothing was done. It seems like this kind of racism is not being taken seriously. It's funny... I was watching a few videos on Youtube where Iman and Naomi Campbell commented about the racism in the industry with models and it really broke my heart. I am appalled that those high up in the industry are able to do this kind of thing and get away with it. It saddens me, but this is why we must push for change. We must support one another so we can all get far in our respective fields and change these problems. We need to avoid competition, work together and change this industry, if not for ourselves, then for the next generation of fashion lovers.

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    1. I can't believe a university would let people get away with such nonsense. If only someone had filmed it and then they would have no choice but to address the issue.

      And I agree with you on the last part about working together. It is so important for us to stand as a unit and not tolerate this nonsense. I will be looking at these people in a very different light from now on.

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  22. Natasha - on point! The blackface issue (I'm an American in Spain) has had me bubblin up for a few months now and about to explode these past 2 weeks! These fashion folk know better - they just don't care. Unfortunately so many (lots on this side of the pond) legitimately don't understand WHY this is offensive. As harsh as it sounds, the holocaust example is the only one that MIGHT begin to help them to get it...but still, for reasons beyond my comprehension, many people just feel that "the whole black american racism thing" just isn't valid or think that going "white-face" is the same - they don't seem to get that blackface is the foundations of racism in our culture - the inspiration of Jim Crow Laws that have established the standards for our values of race - the self hate toward our OWN race...and on the most rediculously obvious level - institutional racism - which our country has never been without, but only recently Florida and Don Yelton have strut it so proudly strut and re-revealed what so many have forgotten and naivly thought extinct. Well, at least people are speaking up - in the Netherlands - many are fighting to keep "blacking up" alive - complicated.....https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201640589588863&set=p.10201640589588863&type=1&theater

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    1. I can only imagine your experience in Spain, as I have only been there once and I live in London where people have been taught to be more politically correct. This would not have gone down at a British Vogue party or amongst big name in British fashion. I have heard about the Netherlands thing, and remember reading about how it relates to Santa's helper who slides down the chimney, that's why he is charcoal black. But I wonder if that was completely unrelated to black face in America - as in did 2 seperate cultures invent a similar concept without influencing one another. Well, the Netherlands is another story but I think it's fair to say that in 2013 Europe cannot feign ignorance.

      I grew up in Zimbabwe and South Africa and learned about other cultures, yet how come in this day and age, some poeple say they have no clue that black face is offensive ? Lies, all lies.

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  23. thanks for bringing this up, hun. it's so shameful how ignorant people can still be in 2013, and i can't believe the whole "we already have a black model who looks like you" comment still runs so rampant in the fashion industry. if these people actually took the time to get educated they would see how diversity exists among black women just as clearly as is exists in other races! lack of education about african heritage frustrates me to no end as well... shame.

    xo, coco | millennielle.com

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  24. Thanks for sharing, this is a good eye-opener! smh. Our culture is too rich to have ignorant people try and mimic not only the culture (which is misunderstood) but our skin? only if they knew that actual melanin has much more benefit's. Their loss. A black model would look much more stunning in a photo as such-the blacker the berry!...

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  25. I don't know if this makes a difference, but Alessandro Dell'Acqua (and the guys dressed like him) are not dressed as 'generic' blackface. Rather, they are dressed as a vintage italian spot for some candies, Golia, which used a blackface type in its ad. (you can see the candy logo on the gloves in the bottom left pic). It's sort of dressing up as Aunt Jemina (is this how you spell it, I guess). I don't think this necessarily makes it ok, but I wonder if it was meant an ironic appropriation of the ad, or what. You can see the ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU_z6NbnKPM&noredirect=1

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    1. I have seen the ad and know what you are talking about. But remember, that was inspired by BLACKFACE and you just said yourself that it "used a blackface type". Also, dressing up as Aunt Jemima is making a mockery of the big, black fat woman who in cinema, her role was to take care of white children and cook and not expected to be intelligent. I am surpried that Italian ad was playing in the 80s. It should have been banned and there is no way on earth they would get away with playing that on national television without reprecussions. But thank you anyway for your point of view. At least you are not one of those people shouting "stop being so sensitive" or "get over it". There is powerful and painful history behind this and people need to understand it more, especially living in such a globalised world.

      Regards,
      Natasha

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  26. You go girl! Just found your blog :) So glad that you brought this up since the topic is so sensitive. It's quite hard to find people who put things like this right on the table. STAY GOLDEN! / Regards from Sweden :)

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  27. Good post! I truly hope that this scandal will bring more awareness to the issue of racism in the fashion industry!

    Kisses,

    Yooleah

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  28. I have no words... I'm glad someone spoke up to denounce this non-sense!

    www.thedeepbluecory.com

    Xoxo! Cory

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  29. Thanks for bringing this to everyones attention. That is so appalling that despite how much time has past the same ignorance lives on in peoples minds and even still being displayed in public with such bravado. The audacity they have to try to reason their racism is truly worrying. My lil sister showed me pictures of other ppl dressing up as Trayvon Martin and "ratchet black women" its like people don't care as long as they can have their "fun" Yes, this is what they class as entertainment for themselves, very very sad.

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  30. Loved this post! I wasn't really aware of this issue before you brought it up and now I've done some research. I feel bad for you that you hear those things in your model career, it doesn't really make sense cause surely they have many white girls that have similar looks too? Smh.

    www.kristianavasarina.com

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  31. This is absolutely disgraceful. I am strongly in support of Iman and Naomi and their diversity coalition. This kind of thing should not be happening right now... We shouldn't have to be in a position that we need to start campaigns like this to bring a stop to this nonsense, but clearly we are, so I strongly respect these women for standing up and making a stance and enticing others to do the same. We need an end to racism on the runway.

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  32. Natasha,
    You are absolutely right specially because you know what it's like to always see covers and ads withmainly white models and when black or brown women are shown it's mainly for selling make-up. It is without a doubt a very racist industry and hats off for being so brave and putting it out there. I myself decided not to buy anymore magazines that don't show non caucasian women, I've had it! There are some amazing looking women out there who don't have white skin just like you and who deserve more than anything to be heard and respected. Thanks for existing!

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  33. This is sickening.. the fact that you can openly mock another race with a smile on your face is beyond sad and disgusting.. And the pictures... I don't understand how one can hate another race so much they rather hire a white person and paint them black and put an afro on them than hire a black model with an afro.. It's not just models who are discriminated against but other areas of the fashion industry, how many influential black men an women do you see as editors and such and such. very few.. It's way bigger and goes way beyond discrimination against models.

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  34. This is sickening.. the fact that you can openly mock another race with a smile on your face is beyond sad and disgusting.. And the pictures... I don't understand how one can hate another race so much they rather hire a white person and paint them black and put an afro on them than hire a black model with an afro.. It's not just models who are discriminated against but other areas of the fashion industry, how many influential black men an women do you see as editors and such and such. very few.. It's way bigger and goes way beyond discrimination against models.

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