Número magazine recently apologized for its editorial called “African Queen” that stirred up a lot of controversy over its “blackface” photos.
The article features model Ondria Hardin, 16, shown with a deep bronze color and looks appropriate for the editorial—that is, until you realize that Ondria Hardin is, in fact, a very pale and very white model.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t painting a white model to appear black a whole lot like using blackface? And didn’t blackface become socially unacceptable several decades ago? Apparently not in the fashion industry—about 82 percent of the models in NYC’s recent fashion week were white. It’s doubtful that this is because of a lack of interest from a diverse set of women.
Perhaps most offensive is the fact that the modeling agency that represents Ms. Hardin also has several women of color in it—though they are few compared to the number of white models—which makes it even more inappropriate that a white model was selected over colored women to pose as an “African Queen.”
Granted, there are white women living in Africa—and it wouldn’t have been offensive had Ms. Hardin been presented as one of those women. But instead, she was painted deep bronze, making us all remember the days when movies snubbed racial minorities by hiring white actors and painting them dark. Back to the days when comedy shows involved two white men painted black, creating and encouraging nasty stereotypes.
Clearly the industry has an issue with diversity if it prefers hiring white women to portray black women rather than hiring black women to begin with. These women deserve equal recognition and consideration as do white models. They should not be denied any opportunities based on skin color, whether it’s posing as an African queen or any other shoot.