Italian Vogue Says Kiss Its (Big, Black, Ghetto) Behind

March 9th, 2012

(Photo: VOGUE Italy)

A few years ago, Vogue Italia released the Black Issue and the world, or at least the Black folks of the world who had spent years arguing how wrong it is that fashion mags ignore Black models, cheered. Then Vogue Italia waited nearly four years (48 months of covers) to put another Black face on its cover. And the world, or at least those same Black folks, thought, “What’s up with that Vogue Italia?” But then Vogue Italia put the Black folks in their place with its latest cover featuring Joan Smalls, done up in garish colors and wacky makeup as a preview to the 32-page spread inside called “Haute Mess.” And the world, and especially the Black folks, thought, “If this is how you’re going to handle Black people, go to hell Vogue Italia!”

Here’s the Haute Mess, Italian-style: A 32-page spread shot by celebrated fashion photographer Steven Meisel (who you want to think would know better) exploring the not-so-subtle ways that these Italians regard Black culture. There’s a fake baby bump affixed to a model’s belly, as she sits eating fast food with a paper crown on the table (because, you know, Black women love nothing more than having babies than cheap fast food); there’s a model in a skimpy bathing suit, fake peeing as she squats over a urinal; there’s scantily clad butts being presented to the camera in a “kiss me” kind of position; there’s long nails, gold teeth, hair tracks drying in the public bathroom, a rainbow of hair colors styled into gravity-defying styles, baby strollers, jewelry that Sex and the City once called ghetto gold and a plethora of junk foods—you know, all the things that Black people know, love and indulge in…immortalized in the pages of a fashion magazine…so the rest of the world can point fingers and go,”Tee hee. Oh, Black people, don’t you know better!?”

Yes, we do. But Vogue Italia clearly doesn’t, as it went to town with such an over-the-top, racist, based in stereotypes layout that it had the nerve to shoot, edit and then send to the printer.

Back in grade school, kids in the schoolyard learned one vital lesson: If you can’t say anything good, keep my name out of your mouth. So, Vogue Italia, if you can’t show us in anyway that is even remotely true-to-life, keep us out of the pages of your magazine.

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Viola Davis Gives A Middle Finger to Social Norms

February 27th, 2012

(Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

A few obvious observations about this year’s Oscars telecast:

1. Sacha Baron Cohen will do anything for press.

2. J Lo’s nipple may or may not have peeked out as she presented an award, but her dress was definitely saying “Take that, Marc!!!”

3. Esperanza Spalding is one of the most slept-on musical talents out today and after her perfect rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” the world has no excuse not to fall in love with her.

4. Octavia Spencer sure was shocked and happy.

5. “The Artist” was the Adele of the ceremony—win, win, win, win, win.

6. Billy Crystal should say “no” the next time they offer him a hosting gig, just like he should say “no” the next time there’s an offer to give him a facelift or botox.

And, finally, number seven…

Viola Davis, damn! Time has already been spent on her sexy ta-tas (her word) that she has pushed up and brought out at various award ceremonies and luncheons. And time has also been spent discussing her natural hair. She even told InStyle magazine,”My husband wanted me to take the wig off. He said ‘If you wear it for your career, that’s fine, but in your life, wear your hair. Step into who you are!” And step she did, looking ravishingly beautiful and comfortable as she did it. So while Davis may have lost out on the Oscar for Best Actress, in a town of insecurity and conformity, she was the clear winner of the night.

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Nicki Minaj Does Blueface

February 24th, 2012

(Photo: Courtesy Vogue Magazine)

A couple of weeks ago when Nicki Minaj told NY Magazine that fashion was a big yawn (actually, she said “I’m not impressed to be in that world…I think sometimes the fashion world isn’t even about clothes anymore; it’s about this “in” crowd, and I’m not into that”), she made a point to give a shout out to Anna Wintour whose photographed portrait she framed. Accolades for Wintour are nothing new, so it just seemed like for once in her un-conventional career, Minaj was following a trend. In actuality, seems she may have been giving a thank you to Wintour for featuring her in a new fashion spread in the March issue of Vogue. Though she says the shoot is about “showing her true colors,” Minaj is less Cyndi Lauper and more Avatar here, as her body gets dipped in blue paint.

Though the shoot was photographed by Steven Klein, the confessions came from Nicki herself. For instance, the woman who wore a Versace nun-inspired getup (and a Pope-posing “priest”) to the Grammys admitted that she used to spend $50,000 a month on shoes and bags. “Giuseppe, Versace, YSL and Fendi shoes…I bought tons of Vuitton bags,” she says. But Nicki, as the French designers you’re making richer would ask: Pourquoi!? Her reply: “When you’re a young girl from Queens, you’re going to stock up on those bags.” (Zut alors.)

It’s not the first time a celeb has admitted in the pages of Vogue that they are fashion obsessed. But it is one of the only times that we have seen such a confession coming from someone with Cookie Monster blue skin, My Little Pony pink hair and, more notably, breasts and thighs that look womanly, not super skinny boylike. Normally when Vogue deals with the non-sized 2s, they get draped in caftans and other skin-covering outfits. Minaj is allowed to look as sexy and sensual and on display as a blue-skinned Black woman can–and the result is way more refreshing than that Grammy performance she just subjected us to.

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Viola Davis is OK with You Looking at Her “Ta-Tas”

February 21st, 2012

(Photo: Goodloe/PictureGroup)

Hollywood doesn’t have a lot of categories for the on-screen image of Black actresses—no matter whether the role is sister, best friend, confidante or housekeeper, the image is usually de-sexed Mammy or oversexed va-va-voom lady. Recently, things have gotten a little better, with Black women allowed to look more normal on screen, less like they’re about to join a convent or a whorehouse. But poor Viola Davis may get a lot of well-deserved accolades for her roles, but she often gets the sad sack of the wardrobe and wig department. Which explains why heads keep turning (and blogs keep being written) every time we see a sexier, more modern side of The Help star. First, there was her LA Times Magazine photo shoot, where the world gasped appreciatively at her natural hair and high fashion styling.

Now there is her red carpet look from last week’s NAACP Image Awards. The nominee, and eventual NAACP Image award winner, pulled out all the stops in an orange Herve L. Leroux gown. You may have missed that the dress had a halter cut or that she accessorized it with a Judith Lieber clutch, since the main stars were her breasts, out for the night to enjoy the Hollywood pageantry. “I picked [the dress] because of the color. I didn’t realize my ta-tas would be so prevalent,” the 46-year-old Oscar nominee told Us Weekly. “I just pushed them up. I felt as long as they weren’t hanging down to my knees I’m doing pretty good.”

Simple requirements, stunning look, a win-win for Davis. But how will she top that at the Oscars (maybe with a nod to Prince in cheek-less chaps)?

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Lil Wayne’s Love of the Other F-Word

February 15th, 2012

(Photo: CBS)

Actually, Lil Wayne loves both F-words. The one that gets little kids mouths washed out with soap and the other one, Fashion. Like the French and the runway models, Weezy likes to get expressive with his style. Consider the Grammys: Drake put on a tux, LL donned a tux and a bevy of black hats, Adele wore not one but two black dresses, Katy Perry put  a smurf on her head, Rihanna wore a couple of rolls of tape to keep her boobies in place while Gaga wore a lace gag. But Wayne pshawed such desperate ploys at dress up and he showed up at the show in a yellow t-shirt. Such comfort! Such ease! But lest you think he forgot this was music’s biggest night, Wayne showed that he cares by proving that the devil is in the details. Forget tuxedo fittings, he showed his flair with his accessorizing. A wee red skateboard was Wayne’s date of the night. When it was time for a standing ovation, Wayne stood tall and proud with what looks to be a  miniature toy but was in fact a tricked out iPhone case.

Used to be a time that a man who paid such attention to the covering for his phone would be called a nerd. Used to be a time when clutching your phone as your musical peers performed and won awards would be considered rude. And used to be a time that if a grown man adored a tiny skateboard he couldn’t expect to be considered a great musical mind.  But let Lil’ Wayne be a lesson to us all, because such times are over and his little red skateboard isn’t going anywhere.

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The Adulation and the Disappointment: A Seesaw Week for Beyoncé

February 9th, 2012

(Photo: Courtesy

This week Beyoncé put Baby Blue Ivy down for a long nap, put on a fancy red dress and bejeweled heels, stepped outside of her Tribeca residence and went and gave the world what it has been waiting for since she announced she was pregnant: a peek at how a Beyoncé Knowles Carter looks one month after giving birth.The furor that erupted after seeing that she looks draw-droppingly unbelievable (when, of course, everyone likes to imply that brand new moms should look dumpy, pudgy and worn out) was such big news that you would have thought she did something more than sit at her husband’s club and attend a party. You would have thought she gave birth in that dress, then smoothed her hair and continued with the night like nothing major had happened.

But for all the fawning and praise, Beyoncé didn’t make everyone’s Best Of list this week. When reported on a new L’Oreal ad with the star, it drew attention to a problem many had noticed. In the ad, which is for foundation, Beyonce says, “There’s a story behind my skin. It’s a mosaic of all the faces before it. My only make-up? True Match.” OK, fine…until we find out that this story behind her skin is that she is  “African-American, Native American” and “French.” OK…sure…technically. Like almost all African-Americans, it is a safe guess that she is not 100% anything. Actually, like all Americans or people from places whose histories were transformed by the transatlantic slave trade, that is a safe bet. Yet, somehow, in a similar ad for Jennifer Lopez, she is “100% Puerto Rican,” as though white colonists and Africans forced into slavery had nothing to do with that island’s history.

This is not the first time Beyoncé’s skin has come under question. During the promotional ads and packaging for her last album, 4, she looked more like Columbian Shakira than African-American Beyonce. Magazine covers and beauty advertisements are no stranger to lightening her skin, and chances are it will happen again, no matter how many bloggers, consumers and other outraged people complain. Because as we know, whether she’s having a baby or attending a party, there is nothing Beyoncé can do that the world doesn’t feel entitled to talk about, dissect, applaud or lambast.

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French Elle Slammed for Being Racist

February 2nd, 2012

(Photo: Courtesy Elle Magazine)

The French have a charming/irksome habit (depending on your view of the French) in taking English words and chi-chi’ing them up. Le Big Mac. Super cool, but pronounced “zooo-pair kewl.” If this latest news got it’s own supercool francophiled lingo, it would be le screw up. It takes a certain je ne said quoi (see, we do it too!) to set out to write a fashion story praising the First Lady and wind up with an open letter being published in a national newspaper that is telling you to get a clue and stop being ignorant.

Here’s what led to the brouhaha: On January 13, French Elle published a story which said that this is a new fashion day for Black people, whose wardrobes had normally veered towards “thug,” thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama. It continues by saying that “chic has at last become a plausible option for a community that previously knew only streetwear.” At last. Now, as you take off your hoodie, gold fronts and size xxxxxxl jeans that you wear to the office everyday, rest assured that said editors were called out for such foolishness in a letter writen two weeks later and printed in Le Monde.

A group that included prominent Black French cultural folk such as supermodel Noémie Lenoir and the Cahiers du Cinéma critic Vincent Malausa wrote an open letter that not only condemned the original article, but French Elle’s overall coverage of Black women. Says the letter, titled “A quand une femme noire en couverture de “Elle” (translation: when will a black woman be on the cover of Elle?) “Elle magazine informs us that in fashion, in 2012, “the ‘black-geoisie’ has finally integrated white codes” of dress.”

The letter goes on to insist that the editors of the magazine “venutre out of the glass-enclosed headquarters” and see how the black people of France dress and engage in life.

American media watchdog website Jezebel, in response to the letter, investigated how many Black women are indeed on the cover of the weekly mag. “Out of the magazine’s 52 2011 issues, I could find only two covers that featured women who aren’t white,” says Jezebel writer Jenna Sauers. “One was the winner of a modeling contest, and the other was the French actress Leïla Behkti, who is of Algerian descent.”

Le sigh. More than the season for cobalt or skirts of a certain length, it seems to be the season of European editors going out of their way to be racist (smile, Dutch magazine Jackie). Fashion has always been a world of elitism, ostracism and haughtiness. So to be surprised at these latest shenanigans would be to forget decades of heinous offenses done in the name of haute couture. Yet just because it’s a longstanding tradition doesn’t make it one that needs to be continued unchecked. To usurp another Frenchism, vive la revolution!

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Vanity Fair Pulled Another “Funny”

January 31st, 2012

(Photo: Courtesy Vanity Fair Magazine)

This almost doesn’t seem worth the effort it will take to write or read this post. After all, nothing new has happened: Vanity Fair has released their annual Hollywood issue, with its three-fold cover showing starlets slinking around in various positions. And, like nearly every year, they have decided not to put a woman of color on the part of the picture that is on the front of the mag. To see that Black people exist (barely) in Hollywood, you’ll need to turn the page, unfold the pic and feast your eyes on Pariah’s Adepero Oduye and a more-light-skinned-than-usual Paula Patton, sporting a Princess Leia-inspired hairdo.

But before you do that, take a gander at the cover again. Who, you may be wondering, are those women deemed worthy enough of the most coveted spots? There is Mara Rooney, who did a deservedly critically-lauded job as Lisbeth Salander in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a film that was crushed at the box office by Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (starring, of course, Paula Patton). There’s also Jennifer Lawrence, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain. While Chastain was in The Help, last year’s most controversial hit, and Rooney was in one of the most hyped releases of 2011, there doesn’t seem to be any simple reason for why a brown or Black lady couldn’t put on her silky dress and smile from the front of the issue. Lest we use the r-word to explain Vanity Fair’s decision, in which case the reason for the cover’s whiteout becomes crystal clear.

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Let’s Blame Prince for This New Evelyn Lozada Shoot

January 25th, 2012

(Photo: Maxim)

For anyone who came of age around the time of Purple Rain, you’ve been dealt a disservice. Children of the early 70s, regardless of the fact that Apollonia and co pranced around frigid Minneapolis in lace corsets and panties, covered only by stockings and perhaps a cape, does not mean that this is standard dress for anyone who is not a Can Can Girl. It is only in the world of Prince where beats are funky, men prefer ruffles and the ladies love lingerie.

Seems the editors of this month’s GQ and were raised on a healthy appetite of Prince’s panties-as-outerwear fantasies. How else to explain GQ putting an uncomfortable-looking Michelle Williams in bra and underwear on the cover of the February issue next to the question “Who knew she had this body?” Their sexism would have been more excusable had she not seemed so sad and out of sorts, like a girl whose security blanket was snatched away. Clothes, please, her face seems to say.

Evelyn Lozado, another barely dressed pinup celeb (or perhaps “celeb” is more accurate in her case), has no such look for Bring it on, her face seems to say in shot after shot of her in the kind of get-up that would leave Prince doing a high kick. Silk, satin, lace, garters, bandeaus and f*ck-me pumps compete for attention with her abs that are as chiseled as a Ken dolls. But her belly isn’t her favorite body part. Says Lozado in the Q&A, she loves her breasts best. Why? “They’re pretty.”

Let’s end with a warning to all the impressionable tweens and teens who stumble upon Lozado’s photo shoot: though there may be a suggestive smile on her face and a come hither look in her eyes, this is not how women dress in real life! Never let anyone with a camera (or anyone named Prince who is outfitted like a Harlequin doll or frilly pirate) convince you that the short track to stardom means showing your La Perlas to the public. Remember, pants are everyone’s best friend.

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The Problem With Naming a Golden-Butted Fly After Beyoncé

January 22nd, 2012

(Photos: Jemal Countess/Getty Images; (AP Photo/Bryan Lessard, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization)

At times the worlds of science and race have collided in ways that are glaringly racist and wrong. Take, for instance, the Tuskegee Experiments, when Black men with syphillis were left untreated so that the medical establishment could note the disease’s progression. Or also take the forced sterilizations on Black, Native American and Puerto Rican women, a policy cheered on by the federal government as a way to limit births by poorer women or color.

These times left no one with a conscious unsure that something foul was afoot.

Fortunately, this is not what is happening here.  No one’s life or fertility is at stake in the case of the golden-assed fly. The biggest victim seems to be basic good sense. Seems there’s a researcher, Bryan Lessard. Lessard is a 24-year-old who works at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Lessard knows what he likes—he likes Beyoncé. So much that he wanted to put her name “in the nature history books forever” by naming a newly discovered horsefly Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae. Lessard claims this insect is beautiful, like the pop diva, but that’s not the only thing they seem to have in common. Lessard says they are both “pretty bootylicious.” Not just that, but the ass of the insect is golden, like a fetishized light up toy, a horsefly version of one of those Glo Worms that small children use as nightlights.

To recap: there is a horsefly with a big, golden butt (it’s known by the locals as the “gold bum fly”) that was captured in 1981, the year that Beyonce was born, and it is now named after the reigning queen of pop/mama of Baby Blue Ivy.

A few problems with this is that once again, a Black woman is being known in the history books forever because of her ass. And once again, her ass is in some way so spectacular that science is thinking about it. What’s not so spectacular is that Lessard hasn’t heard back from Beyoncé with her feelings about her namesake.

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