Friday, February 29, 2008

Ports 1961 S/S 2008

I'm posting these images from the Ports 1961 by Tia Cibani campaign for two reasons, first because I'm lusting over many of the extremely elegant and wearable pieces in this collection and second to illustrate that it is indeed possible to photograph a beautiful black model like Joan Smalls in an African locale (Tanzania in these photos) without the use of colonial imagery, spears, masks or headdresses. I mean, she doesn't even have shiny skin! Who would have thought that was even possible?
Source(s):,, TFS

Thursday, February 28, 2008

US Vogue - March 2008 - Liya Kebede

Photographer: Norman Jean Roy
Image Source: TFS/Luxx

Magazine Jones

My husband and I are not particularly religious people but we do
observe the Lent...sorta. I mean, we don't do it in the tradition sense, with the fasting and prayer, but we do try to give up one or more of our vices for a month and focus on more "enriching" activities. In the past the we've given up (or tried really hard to give up) drinking wine, eating red meat and eating out. Not exactly worthy of a twelve step program but you get the drift.

Anyway, I was thinking about this when I came across a phenomenal post by Afrobella this morning called Black Woman, Know That You Are Beautiful. This quote in particular really got me thinking:

I say, don’t waste your time buying Vogue or any of the so-called fashion bibles that hardly ever use models of color in their spreads. Support the publications that do...

Now, I've mentioned in the past that I am a magazine junkie. In addition to my subscriptions, I buy at least three more magazines each week. I can't even add up the ones that I thumb through at the checkout stand. It's become a serious habit. After running after my toddler all day there is nothing I enjoy more than brewing a cup of tea and sitting back with the colorful mental bubblegum of a fashion magazine. This of course, is not complication free. Finding a magazine that at least throws a token to the non-White consumers is a rare feat, especially now that Black History Month is over.

I've thought about giving up the glossy crack before and have even let a few subscriptions lapse but I often wonder if I'm disciplined enough to go cold turkey. What would I do with my hands? Would my wrist and flipping finger get flabby? Would by skin wrinkle without articles about the new "it" cream? Would I start wearing sweat pants to the market? Most importantly, what would I complain about?

As we move into Spring, I find myself thinking more about the choices I make with money and the things I support inadvertently by saying one thing and buying another. Does all this mean that I'll give up buying fashion magazines? Probably not but I know that looking at them with an even more critical eye and saving my dollars for issues that speak to my own interests and looking to new media sources to fill the void let by these old guard publications.

This all brings me to the March issue of US Vogue. There's nothing spectacular about the image of Drew Barrymore on the cover but there is something to be said for the contents. In addition to a spread of Liya Kebede shot by Norman Jean Roy (images to be posted soon,) there is also a brief article on the marriage of Studio Museum of Harlem curator Thelma Golden and designer Duro Olowu, a piece by Andre Leon Talley comparing Michelle Obama to Camelot era Jackie O., a profile on my new favorite Keisha Whitaker and Zoe Kravitz, and a lengthy article on CNN newswoman Gwen Ifills. For whatever reason, none of these features was deemed worthy enough to be mentioned on the cover but the issue itself is worth look at for those near a newsstand with idle hands.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Girlcrush: Keisha Whitaker

In my opinion Keisha Whitaker was by far the best dressed woman at this year's Oscars. She looked flawless in the J'Aton Couture gown. I wasn't a huge fan of the canary yellow dress she wore last year to the event but this more than makes up for it. The off white gown makes her skin radiate. Nearly every photo I've seen of her over that past year has been picture perfect and she is slowly eclipsing Thandie Newton as my favorite red carpet star.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ajuma The Conquered

Last season Vivienne Westwood raised a few eyebrows when she publicly lambasted fashion editors, calling them racist for refusing to use black models on their pages. Westwood even went as far as to call for an affirmative action of sorts, to force editors to use a certain percentage of black models. Later, she also spoke of her upcoming ads which would feature the beautiful Kenyan model Ajuma Nasenyana, no stranger to Westwood's runway, as the face of the Spring campaign.

I was impressed with Westwood's willingness to speak so openly about what we've all been decrying for years and looked forward to seeing the new ads with Ajuma (who I think is one of the most stunning models to emerge in the last few years.) In my view, the grande dame could have just as easily said nothing, accepted the status quo, and had another cup of tea.

Well, low and behold, the ads have finally made their way into fashion magazines and sadly, I am not impressed. Westwood's ads are usually on the fringe but seeing Ajuma posing with a spear and gun in a series of ads that also includes African masks, animal corpses and even bananas is crossed the line from provocative to stereotypical and wholly unnecessary.

Is it a political message? I don't know. Shot by Juergen Teller, they are certainly eye-catching. Nasenyana's dark shiny skin absorbs ever bit of the stark white background. In one, Ajuma wears a yellow and green dress reminiscent of the plumage of an exotic bird while holding a machine gun. In spite of the dress, Ajuma, with her closely cropped hair and somewhat androgynous appearance, could easily be mistaken for a young boy, or more aptly, a child soldier, much like the ones who are all too often shown on the evening news or in documentaries on Africa's war torn regions. Is this 'empowerment' or is Westwood alluding to the 'force' she wants used to put models like Ajuma on the pages of Vogue and Elle?

Another image show Ajuma standing behind an armchair, casually holding the hand of a casually seated white male model who is also holding a gun while yet another has her alone, holding a spear.

Maybe it's just my own irritation at this subject but I can't help but wonder what the reaction would be if say Gisele or Kate Moss were photographed in this 'safari chic' manner nearly every time they appeared in an ad or editorial. Or better yet, as cavewomen? Wouldn't it be promptly dismissed as tiresome or unoriginal? I have honestly seen Ajuma, and other black models, used in this exploitative manner dozens and dozens of times.

Where fashion used to be a fun past-time for me, it has now become repetitive and tiresome.

I've posted before about the refusal of some fashion photographers to view black female models as anything but an exotic other, to be dressed up in feathers or pelts to exploit their racial origins. To see this trend continued into yet another decade is troubling. Haven't we made any progress?

As for Dame Westwood, to her I would say that although I appreciate her support of the struggle, maybe next time she should just send a check.

Photo source: BerlinRocks!/TFS

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Model Katoucha Reported Missing

French police and authorities are still searching for a former Guinean model who disappeared between late Friday night and early Saturday from her home on the river.
Former couture muse of Yves Saint Laurent, Katoucha, 47, was reported missing Monday after her relatives hadn't heard or seen from her.

The mother-of-three was last dropped off Friday night near a houseboat docked next to hers on a central stretch of the River Seine in Paris near the picturesque Alexandre III bridge.
The French media reported that Katoucha, who is near-sighted and cannot swim, was drunk and not wearing her contact lenses on the night of her disappearance. Her handbag containing her cell phone, credit card and glasses was found the next morning by her landlord's son near the entrance to the boat.

Divers searched for the model's body on Wednesday as authorities are not ruling out a fatal accident or suicide.

Katoucha, nicknamed the "black princess," prowled the runways of the world's greatest designers.
In 1994, the model left the catwalk for good and made headlines the years following when she launched a foundation against the practise of female circumcision.

She recently published a book, "In My Flesh", sharing the gruesome experience of her circumcision in Guinea when she was nine years old.

Horrible news. My prayers are with her family.


Her body was found Thursday near the Garigliano bridge in Paris,the autopsy showed no signs of foul play, "pointing to the possibility that the 47-year-old may have fallen accidentally into the river," according to one article.

A former friend and fashion director said of her that [Katoucha was] "one those girls who used her fame to spotlight the misfortunes of others...She always seemed so gracious and very lovely. She was sunny and she was bright, and I liked her a lot."

Rest in peace.


NY Mag: All I Want is a Foundation That Matches

...the lack of cosmetics—particularly the basics, like foundation and concealer—for my skin tone has always bothered me. When I ask companies about extending their lines for women of color, I’m usually told some version of “we’re working on it,” or shown one or two dark shades. Counterside makeovers can be humiliating; I end up in whiteface or am told point-blank they don’t have my color.

When it comes to makeup I am obsessed with three things, my own personal Holy Grail of products. For me, it all comes down to the blackest mascara, the perfect shade of red lipstick, and foundation that matches my skin. The most time consuming of these quests has been the foundation aspect. At last count I had at least ten bottles of the stuff taking up space in various makeup bags, purses, drawers and of course the bathroom cabinet which barely has room for the other essentials, like toothpaste.

I was delighted to see this article on TFS this morning, Finally, someone (a beauty editor no less) telling how it really goes down at those chic cosmetics counters. Even though Black women have magazines like Essence that will tell readers about what's new on the market, the realities of the magazine business and its relationship with advertisers means that no one is going to write a critical article about how these promises in a bottle really look on a range of brown skin.

Without identifying myself as an editor. I spent a few days in the stores, scanning the offerings and telling the counter people that I was looking for a foundation, some concealer, and a few new spring colors. I also asked for makeovers.

Makeovers? Never again. There is something about a black woman will clear skin that makes the makeup counter ladies go insane, especially at Nordstrom where if one isn't careful she'll get blasted against her will with a makeup gun and believe me, it is always set to 'whore' or 'Kabuki'.

I decide to try a smaller, boutique line. At Macy’s, I check the Too Faced counter, where the gentleman tells me I am absolutely Caribbean Cocoa. That is the darkest shade they have—but it’s sold out, so he makes an aggressive case for a bronzer-only look. I leave looking like a disco ball.

... I call the companies to see what’s being done. Some are on the defensive.

Years ago I was intrigued by the pretty packaging of a smaller makeup line that had three of four compacts of makeup, each designed for different moods or looks. The spokemodel they used was former Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur, a redhead with very fair skin. For whatever reason I decided to email the company and ask if they had considered expanding the range to include makeup that would make "moods" for women without alabaster skin. The response was a curt, "our makeup is for everyone!" even though the color scheme spoke otherwise. Oh well...

So my personal makeup search continues. I've had luck in the past with MAC and a few shades of Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation and a handful of drugstore brands including Revlon's new Custom Color Foundation liquid, but something tells me, this will be a life long pursuit. It's just nice get a little validation in print so I can take heart knowing that I'm not alone in the struggle.

Everyone was lovely, everyone tried, everyone has good intentions. YSL, Chanel, and Nars are launching darker shades later this year. Bobbi Brown can’t put a timetable on their latest. Still. Makeup shopping is supposed to be fun, but getting rejected time after time made this the most emotionally draining story I’ve ever done.

Amen sister.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Trio of Articles from The Independent on Discrimination Against Non-White Models

Up and coming model Jourdan Dunn has been called the "New Naomi"

'Fashion is racist: insider lifts lid on 'ethnic exclusion'

..."Sadly we are in the business where you stock your shelves with what sells," she said.

"According to the magazines, black models don't sell," White continued. "People don't tend to talk about it, but black models have to be so beautiful and perfect because we can't have a lot of diversity with black models; it's harder work for the agency because there's not so much on offer. White models can have more diversity."

Ms White pointed the finger at those organising model castings, adding: "We have had casting briefs which say 'no ethnics'. But we are better in London than Paris and Milan; there if you offer a black girl they will drop the book like it's hot; it's such hard work for the bookers."

'Why should catwalks be so white?'

"London is not a white city, so why should our catwalks be so white?" said the teenager. "I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there is just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don't get picked. I hope it's because the designer just did not think they were good enough as a model, but I don't know."

'Models often too afraid to launch a claim'

An industry so skewed towards non-ethnic minority workers is highly vulnerable to race discrimination claims. It may only take one high-profile case to trigger a torrent of race claims. The employment tribunals will then be able to set new parameters and fairer rules of employment.

The question is who will be brave enough to go first.

Thanks to Scriptgirl for the articles!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sean Combs - NY Fashion Week

Sean Combs Fall 2008 show was apparently well received at New York Fashion Week. Interestingly, Combs only used Black male models for the show. I wonder if the runway show for his womens line will follow that example. Something tells me that he'll go back to "embracing diversity" for that one and the show will be full of the same types that one would find in his music videos.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thandie Newton in "Cheap Date Magazine"

In my opinion Thandie Newton is hands down the best dressed woman in Hollywood. Whether she's wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt or a ten thousand dollar gown, she always looks flawless. I spotted this spread from Cheap Date over at The Fashion Spot (thank you Scriptgirl) and had to share it. Not only are the clothes highly covetable but the pictures are fun, something one doesn't usually seen in the pages of fashion magazines these days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Essence Magazine Hollywood Issue

Well it may be full of the same old faces but I applaud Essence for doing their own gatefold cover Hollywood Issue. I have a love/hate relationship with the magazine which in my view has been recycling content for the last 15 years. At the end of the day however, it really is the only magazine of its type on the newsstand that caters to Black women so I still end up buying it month after month.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rashida Jones and Partner Launch LaLoo Clothing Line

I just love Rashida Jones. This line consists of simple casuals made of organic cotton. Nothing to get too excited about but it looks very mom friendly and could probably be dressed up pretty easily with the right accessories.
Source: kochie322/TFS

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Jovovich Hawk for Target

I wasn't wild about the line that Erin Fetherston produced for Target. I thought it was too cutesy and horribly made. However, I am looking forward to seeing the Jovovich Hawk line when it arrives in stores. Most of this stuff looks a tad young for me but there are definitely a few pieces (like the chevron striped top and skirt) that I'm hoping are worth the purchase price.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vanity Fair "Hollywood Issue" Part II

I stand corrected. It seems that Thandie Newton is the only woman of African descent to ever make the cover of VF's Hollywood Issue in 1999. Also, in addition to Chris Rock's appearance on the cover in 2007, Djimon Hounsou managed to elbow his way onto it in 1998. I would love it if Essence magazine would spend a few bucks to hire a real photographer to do their own Hollywood Issue.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

Why I Don't Blame Naomi for Throwing a Cell Phone Every Now and Then

via The London News

Black models have little hope of making it big, the founders of one of the world's biggest model agencies said today.

Carole White, who founded Premier Model Management, said even Naomi Campbell, who she represented for 17 years, failed to make as much money as her white contemporaries who include Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer.

Her words echo the feelings of the supermodel who recently said she gets a "raw deal" in England.

White said: “A black girl has to be perfect to get work. The bookers are told “don’t send any ethnic girls”.

“I showed a picture of a new black girl to an agent in Milan and he actually recoiled. He said: “We don’t have black girls in Milan. It’s impossible”.”

She added: “Black girls never make money. Even Naomi Campbell didn’t make money like the white girls did’ she was always offered less.”

Six months ago Campbell launched her own campaign to find new black talent. She had planned to launch a model scouts agency in Kenya.

"Black models are being sidelined, even myself, I get a raw deal from my own country in England.”

"It’s a pity people don’t appreciate black beauty," she said.

WSJ: "Crossing Fashion's Thin White Line"

Fashion Week is up and running again and after all the criticism last Fall about the lack of models of color on the runway there does seem to be some improvement this go round with the leggy likes of Jourdan Dunn, Mimi Roche, and Yordanos on the catwalk doing what models do best walk.

Did the world stop spinning? Did buyers stop buying? I don't think so. Nordstrom and Neiman's will still buy the clothes that they think will sell regardless of who is wearing them on the runway. Is anyone asking for quotas? No. Many just want models of color to be sent on the same go-sees that unknown European models are sent to everyday.

The Wall Street Journal shed some more light on the issue recently:

Just who is responsible for diversity on the runway depends on whom you ask. Casting directors say they work for the designers, so if the designers decide ethnic models don't fit their aesthetic, they don't hire them. Designers gripe that they would use more minority models, but the agencies don't send any "good" ones. And the modeling agencies say they aren't scouting and developing many minority models because the market hasn't been demanding their services.

A designer's goal with an expensive fashion show is to keep attention on his or her clothes, not the models. That's why, many designers privately explain, they don't like to hire distinctive-looking models, either ethnically or otherwise. But the public concern has put so much pressure on the industry that some say they have to change.

"The tricky thing about this business is that [designers and casting directors] can always say it's a matter of personal and aesthetic freedom," says Roman Young, an agent at Elite Model Management. "You wonder, 'Are they racist or are they just dumb?'" Mr. Young says he hasn't been aggressively scouting models of color because, until now, designers haven't demanded them. Very young, newly scouted models are highly in demand every season since the market likes fresh, unknown faces.

...As for whether the industry will ever change, Ms. Venditti says it's all about whether racial diversity becomes the latest fashion trend. "In general, [the industry] is a bunch of followers," she says. But "the conversation has started."

Vanity Fair "Hollywood Issue" 3/2008

This is a truly magical time of year. With the Writer's Strike nearing and end (fingers crossed,) it seems that The Academy Awards have been handed a stay of execution which means there will be much ink and space given to pretty skinny people in expensive clothes. Really, The Oscars are like The Superbowl for me and even though I haven't seen any of the nominees, I have definite opinions about who deserves to win.
Another thing that lands with a loud plop at the newsstand this month is Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood Issue. A barrage of the same old faces shot by the same old photographer, it hasn't been interesting for years yet I still have to see it for myself. I can't help it.
Part of the fun is trying to guess who will land in the "black" spot of the cover each year. For the uninitiated, the "black spot" is the space grudging given to a black actor of actress on one of the non-cover fold out spaces. Chris Rock appeared on the cover of the Hollywood issue once but I can't recall another person of African descent making the fold.
This year's winner is the lovely Zoe Saldana and what a striking image she cuts. Dead center on the fully folded out cover wearing a old school glamazon Dior bathing suit. All the reclining actresses around her stading figure seem to fade into the background. The contrast between her skin and the bathing suit really draws one's eye to her figure and she almost appears to be on display for the bored vacant eyes around her. Interesting choice to say the least.
So yes, I will trudge down to the bookstore and flip through this issue from cover to cover but is it really worth buying? Who knows. My guess is that there will also be a pic of Will Smith or Don Cheadle and maybe a Ruby Dee to round things out but I don't think I'll be leaving the store with this one tucked under my arm.