White Model in Black Face (or Black Body), a New Fashion Statement?

In the March edition of Numéro, a prominent international fashion magazine, white 16-year-old model, Ondria Hardin, poses in full-on, full-bodied bronzed hue. The editorial spread was called, of all things, “African Queen.” Now, I have heard of fashion icons and imagery being a bit “avant-garde” but my goodness this is some mess.

The young lady in the pictures is actually signed to Ford Models, which is probably the most well-known modeling agency in the world. They own the faces of men and women who have graced the covers of many a top magazine and strutted on a catwalk at the top fashion shows. So, why exactly couldn’t they figure out how to cast a black model (or maybe an African one) in this spread? On their New York models homepage you can find at least four beautiful women who fit the bill.

But instead they offer this?

Credit: Ford Models Blog Credit:










On the left above, you see Ondria Hardin, the normal white girl version. On the right, Hardin meets black face…and black body…and black everything else. The uber-sexualized rendition of an “African Queen” is what, to me, is the most offensive aspect of this spread. There are many more images. And, while some of them are tastefully done, the majority of them are photographic hyperbole of the African female image.

The black female body is often associated with over-sexualized imagery and a mysterious wantonness. So, not only are these pictures rude because of the person in them, they exaggerate REAL black women’s features thereby glamorizing stereotypes and negative generalizations about the entire group.

Would this have been offensive had it been a black woman in the photos? Probably not. But the mere fact that the photos almost seems satirical or parodied and ALSO use a white female figure is just beyond me.

Jezebel noted that, at this year’s NYC fashion show, 82 percent of the models were white. And, with this type of blatant overlooking/disregard, it is no wonder why black models would not necessarily feel valued amongst their peers. I mean, if you don’t even have a chance at the photo shoot entitled “African Queen” then you might certainly feel doomed to failure.

Let’s think about it. What happened that day? Did they have a black model scheduled and she got sick? Or, maybe Ondria was just playing around with a photographer friend, the pictures were leaked, and now here we are? I would like to believe that the most obvious answer isn’t the right answer. You know, the we-picked-a-white-girl-because-we-thought-it-would-be cool-to-paint-her-black-and-then-call-her-an-African-queen answer.

Someone at this magazine is in severe need of an intervention. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to devalue black models and black women in general with this mockery. Hopefully, someone figures that out and quickly.

Feature image credit

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