Hallowood2013 Disco Africa party & blackface in the fashion industry

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