Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mariah Carey - Allure 4/2008

Because I am a beauty product junkie, I have a subscription to Allure. Let's just get that out of the way. Month after month, I am treated to the same boring excessively airbrushed covers. This month's issue features Mariah Carey wearing someone else's nose and an accompanying article that was as full of air as marshmallow fluff.*

If you are just emerging from a coma and find this issue next to the call button you will learn that Mariah a)is mixed race, b) was married unhappily to the head of her old record label, c) suffered a very public meltdown, d) and is very chaste in spite of her tramp on acid presence.

I wonder if an actual person wrote this dreck or if it was just spit out of some random rainbow word generator. I also wonder if the editor of Allure secretly hates Mariah because the accompanying red carpet pictures of the singer taken over the years are truly hideous.

Source: designer<3er/lsa>
The rest of the issue, on the other hand is surprisingly okay. It contains, not one but two multi-page spreads featuring black models, Ubah and Chanel Iman. Actually there are three if you count the photo of model Israela in a makeup editorial. There's also a brief piece on Rashida Jones and her mother Peggy Lipton that really has nothing to do with the beauty treatment article that follows it.

You know what bugs me about sample inserts? Unless it is lotion or perfume, the insert is completely useless. I have only ever seen one shade of foundation on those sample cards and it is always in "ivory." That shade doesn't even match most of the white women I know. Of course, this hardly matters because I can never resist trying the sample anyway which winds up making me look like I have some kind of skin pigment disorder.

The rest of the magazine is typical Allure: anti-aging articles, the "body makeover" section, a rundown of skin treatments like serums, overpriced creams and micro-dermabrasion (this one used an black woman as the tester.)

All in all, I'd say the April issue is one of the better ones to come out in recent months and worth a look the next time you're in line at the grocer.

*Does anyone else remember that stuff? I don't even want to think about what it was made of. When I was a kid I remember spreading it and peanut butter on sandwiches. If I caught my husband feeding that crap to my kid I might just strangle him.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Summer's Bare Necessities

This is truly a unique editorial and is one of my all time favorites. It features Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Beverly Peele and was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for American Vogue, May 1992.
Source: scanned by hfgl

Old Navy - Nina Keita

Someone mentioned these Old Navy ads in the comments yesterday.

Coincidentally, I'd noticed the ad a few days ago. First because the dark skinned model in the ads, Nina Keita, has been featured in quite a few Old Navy ads recently and second, because her "love interest" in the ad is white.

I guess I'm so accustomed to seeing these types of ads go in a different direction that changing it up a bit immediately transforms me into a deer-in-the-headlights.

Ordinarily, this type of commercial would usually show the group of young white women (with their one black friend) flirting with a groups of white guys (and their one black friend) at a mall or amusement park. The end of the ad would show everyone matched up by race having a great time sharing fountain drinks.

I always thought that this set up put way too much pressure of the black friends. What if they didn't like each other? What if one of them way gay? Clearly, these were the only two black people in town. How was it that they were only just now meeting one another? Good Lord, what if they were related? Would their white friends care? Did anyone even bother to ask them how they felt about not being given a choice?

I've read many a designer complain that if they use a black or other non-white model in an ad or on the runway, then the consumer will pay more attention to the model than the product.

I think this is only partially true. I always pause at a ad with a person of color partly because of the rarity of black models in national campaigns but when I do I always note who is producing the ad. I can't watch Nina Keita stroll around town in that Old Navy green tube dress without wondering how it would look on my body. On the flip side, models like Jessica Stam, Kate Moss and Gisele appear in so many similar advertisements that I'd be hard pressed to tell any of the campaigns apart.

How exactly does that work in the designer's favor?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Launch of Safi Fragrance by Nyakio Grieco in Los Angeles

I love the range of body products put out by Nyakio Grieco. Now, she's added a perfume to the collection called Safi. I have yet to come across a description of the scent so I'll have to wait and see if it becomes available locally. It should be available soon online at Apothia.

Liya Kebede - "Togo Land"

From New York Times Magazine Style Issue. Photographed by Fabien Baron
photo source: imgmodels.com

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In other Blogs...

A post called "Darker Skinned Glamour Girls" on Racialicious caught my eye this morning. In it Latoya Peterson wrote about something she noticed while paging through an issue of the UK beauty magazine "Pride." She writes:

Hmm, I thought to myself, they have a lot of dark skinned women in this magazine. Wonder why?

Then I wondered to myself why I thought it would be strange to have dark skinned women in a magazine that caters to black women. That should have been a no-brainer. So why was I surprised?

and later,

It just seems like fashion has a specific look that is acceptable for dark skinned women. It is almost as if the woman is not dark with close cropped hair and a bone-thin physique, she simply does not exist.

I've had that same thought go through my head. Nothing will get me to pause on a page longer than the inclusion of a woman with dark skin. It's like I'm staring at a unicorn or something.

Aside from Naomi, off the top of my head I'm having a little trouble thinking of a "glamour girl" model who has very dark skin and honestly even Naomi is probably somewhere in the middle of our color spectrum.

This is not to imply that they aren't out there but when one does see them, they usually fall into a certain mold.

There seems to be a handful of lovely Africans dividing up some of the crumbs brushed down to non-white models in the industry but in spite of the many different types of beauty represented on that continent, most fashion mucks seem to only want to focus on the girls with keen features like Liya Kebede or the cropped hair darker skinned models like Alek or Ajuma.

The first type can appear in the Estee Lauder and Tiffany and Co. ads while the latter is going to see a lot of leopard skin in the course of her career.

Of course there are exceptions.

Sessilee Lopez is currently appearing in ads for Lanvin but her dark skin is seemingly used as one the stylist's props.

Also, Naomi is still thriving in her career but she is such an icon at this point that it hardly seems fair to compare her success to the plight of a model of color with no real name recognition. Her ads for Pinko (see above photo) has the feel of a celebrity endorsement.

Of course, none of this is new especially in this industry but I always find myself hoping that one of these days I'll be surprised in a good way when paging through a mag.

photo source: TFS/simplylovely

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Work It Girl

Style.com has named London native Jourdan Dunn among its list of Top Models for the Fall 2008 ready-to-wear season. She made news earlier by becoming the first black model in TEN YEARS to walk for Italian fashion giant Prada.

Ms. Dunn and Chanel Iman seemed to be the black "it" girls of the moment. Hopefully they will also get the much needed support of fashion magazine editors and photographers to boost their respective careers to the next level. I'd hate to see either woman's career taper off the way former "it" girl Gerren Taylor's did.

The 17 year old beauty was also seen on runways for Louis Vuitton, Zac Posen, and Dries Van Noten among others.

Not surprising, Dunn is the only woman of color on this season's list.

King James Covers Vogue's "Sh-ape" Issue

You know what? I don't even know if I have the energy to go there with this jacked up cover so I'm only going to make two points.

First, why does Anna Wintour have such a hard nipples for black folks with their mouths hanging wide open on her magazine? Specifically, I'm thinking about Jennifer Hudson's horribly unflattering cover last year.

Second, the first image that came into my mind when I saw Lebron's contorted expression and Gisele (in Calvin Klein) looking like a windswept maiden was this one:

That is all. I'm think I'm going to have to lay down now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Will There Ever Be an African Vogue?

Do you remember when Vogue India hit the stands and Australian model Gemma Ward was front and center flanked by two presumably Indian models in what I like to call "the coveted Beyonce spot?" All I could do was laugh at how predictable that move was on the editors part.

In the months since that launch last year, Vogue India has featured a dazzling array of Bollywood actresses and models on the cover. It's as if to say, "yeah, we thought the cover on that premiere issue was lame too but we fully intend to make up for it!"

Anytime I think about that launch I wonder if an African country will ever get its own Vogue. Maybe a Vogue Nigeria or a South African Vogue.

I've debated back and forth on message boards about who would be chosen for the imaginary inagural cover. Legendary Iman? Alek Wek? Liya? Oluchi? Gemma in a safari hat?

I read an article in The Times this morning about Oluchi in which she was quoted as saying that top magazines in South Africa (like Glamour and GQ) refuse to put blacks on their covers. This in a country that is 79% black.

She said:

“As a Nigerian and an African I have done so much in my career to represent everything African in Western countries. There is a diverse group of people in South Africa, be it black, white, Asian. ...If you pick up Vogue India everything about it, from the first page to the last, is very Indian...I would like to see that in South Africa. They [magazines] need to embrace diversity and show more love ...It doesn’t give me joy to pick up a copy of South African GQ and feel like I’m reading American GQ."


This saddens me. I recall seeing the cover of South African ELLE once with a dark skinned woman on the cover and for months I tried to find an issue at various newsstands only to come up empty. I was dying to know if the cover I saw was an anomoly. So far, I'm not willing to pony up the $90 or so for a subscription to find out.

Back to my magazine fantasy...I picture two covers. The first one featuring a mix of models from all over the continent with Iman or Liya Kebede, Alek Wek or Ajuma to show the very different types of African beauty. My second thought has editors mixing it up a bit more with the likes of a Jourdan Dunn, Emanuela dePaula, Chanel Iman, Chrystelle Saint-Louis Augustin, or Damaris Lewis to illustrate how there isn't a corner of the world that hasn't been touched by this so called dark continent's beauty and influence.

Seriously, I could ponder this for hours. I am so much more satisfied by made up magazines than by their real conterparts. Maybe there's an editor out there dreaming of this launch too, and of Gemma Ward posing on an elephant for the cover.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

London Telegraph: Model Waris Dirie Says She Was Abducted

Waris Dirie, the former supermodel and James Bond girl turned United Nations women's rights ambassador, has claimed she was abducted and assaulted during a three day period she went missing in Brussels last week.

Miss Dirie was admitted to hospital, in her hometown of Vienna, with an arm injury and abrasions to her legs. Gerald Ganzger, her lawyer, alleged the injuries had been inflicted by a Belgian taxi driver who abducted and attempted to rape her while holding her hostage in his flat for two days.

Miss Dirie, a 43-year-old naturalised Austrian, went missing in the early hours of last Wednesday morning just hours before she was due to speak alongside Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, at a top level European Union conference on women's rights.

Her disappearance sparked a national manhunt. Following her initial reappearance on Friday afternoon, Miss Dirie apologised for a "misunderstanding" and said she was "lost".

Walter Lutschinger, her manager, has tried to explain why Miss Dirie did not tell police of the attack. "I think that she was simply in extreme shock," he said.

Jos Colpin, the Brussels prosecutor, expressed police bafflement. "It was made clear by her that she was the victim of nothing. Naturally we will open a new dossier if a new charge is made."

The mystery over Mis Dirie's missing days also deepened after a 45-year old Belgian man, known only as William D, came forward to say that he picked up Miss Dirie in a bar.

The window cleaner first spotted the former model on Thursday in a scruffy Brussels bar, Chez Henri, before approaching her over a glass of red wine the next day. After inviting her back to his home to eat, William D. and Miss Dirie were stopped by police officers, who had recognised her.

"If only I had taken another way home or a taxi, I could have had a good time with a splendid woman," he told La Dernière La Dernière Heure newspaper.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Essence, I wish I could quit you

I used to love Essence Magazine...when I was 16. Back then it was like Cosmo for black teens full of articles about famous people, lifestyles and hairstyles that I could never quite pull off. There was also the occasional article about sex which made reading the magazine seem like a very grown up thing to do. I always looked forward to seeing who would be on the next month's cover and then gobbled up the issue in no time flat.

Flash forward more years than I care to reveal and the magazine is still around, only my feelings for it have changed.

As a girl growing up reading the magazine I guess I thought it would grow up with me but this is clearly not the case. Everything about Essence is the same as it has been for twenty years. It looks the same, weighs the same, talks about the same "safe" celebrities ad nauseum and features damn near the same articles month after month.

You always know what you are getting with Essence and maybe that's good enough for some readers but it's like boring sex. Everyone has it at some point, but if it's always the same it might be time to see a therapist.

To be fair, Essence is really the only magazine of its type out there. It has a healthy circulation and doesn't seem to be starved for advertisers. Its closest rivals might be Jewel or Heart & Soul but really, the former is still too green and the latter makes me feel like I'm reading a browner version of Redbook.

After it became clear that Suede was never coming back from its hiatus, I secretly wondered if some Suede's fresh attitude would eventually start to invade

Essence but it didn't. Suzanne Boyd left the company and it was back to business as usual.

So what about that content? There's usually an "inspirational" letter from the editor that I don't read, some beauty products shot against a white

background, a page or two of hairstyles, the ubiquitous "I'm in an interracial relationship" article, one page confessional essays, the cover story, a poorly

shot fashion layout sometimes featuring an America's Next Top model contestant, some recipes,and another "inspirational" essay by former editor Susan Taylor.

The end. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I guess their philosophy is "if it ain't broke why fix it?" I'm sure there are a lot of Essence readers who like it just the way it is. I'm just not one of them and I refuse to believe I'm alone in that.

One particular issue of Essence that stands out in my mind is one that featured Lil' Kim on the cover some years back. At the time I was surprised that Essence would put a rapper of Kim's particular niche on the cover so I snapped up the issue only to get home and find that there was no interview with Kim in the magazine. There were just details from the 10 hour plus photo-shoot and an "open letter" to Kim written by an editor. Not even a write around, just a letter saying nothing new about her provocative image. It was, in a word, lame.

That pretty much sums up what Essence has become to me. A pretty cover photo to draw you in and not much going on between the sheets.

Will I buy this month's issue featuring Erykah Badu? I don't know, but I won't lie, I will probably page through it at the grocery.

Naomi in Paris Match (1996)

Photography by Patrick Demarchelier in 1991.
Source: Omifan9/TFS

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Iman (1985)

Iman is photographed here by Peter Beard, the photographer credited with "discovering" her while she was a student at the university in Nairobi.

Source: Omifan/TFS

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Erykah Badu in a Bottle

According to Vogue.com.uk, Erykah Badu will be the face of Tom Ford's next fragrance. Let me tell you that those are two names that I never thought I'd be typing in the same sentence.

I haven't really been a fan of Ford since he left Gucci and as lovely as his first fragrance is, I though the ad campaign was unappealing. In spite of that, I am looking forward to seeing what these two come up with. Erykah is as unique and intoxication as the black orchid for which Ford's last fragrance was named and self-promotion is Ford's middle name -- I'm sure the end product will be provocative. I just hope it's in a good way.

Stay tuned...

Edit: Here is a link to a video of Erykah discussing the campaign from Youtube. (Thanks Camille!)

Photo credit: Dallas News

Slow Blogging Day

Has it really been three years since Essence put Suede Magazine on permanent "hiatus" after only four issues? If you are like me, you still have those issues tucked away somewhere and occasionally take them out and flip through the pages, dreaming about what might have been. I mean, the magazine was in no way perfect but I definitely appreciated what they were trying to do.

Suede's former editor, Suzanne Boyd has a new job. She's in charge of revamping a Canadian baby boomer magazine called CARP. The new title will be Zoomer and is being billed as a fashion and lifestyle magazine for near-retirement demographic. Sigh. I wish her the best but the news puts another nail in the coffin that was my desire for Suede to rise from the ashes.

I got the March issue of Harper's Bazaar in the mail today. For some reason Lindsay Lohan is on the cover. I honestly can't remember why I subscribed to this magazine in the first place.

There's not much of interest in the magazine, save the regular "Diet News" feature. I'm always fascinated by what other people eat and what they do for exercise. Not that I plan on doing any of the routines myself, I just like to live vicariously through other people's personal trainers. This month spotlights Keisha Nash-Whitaker. She must have a great publicist.

If you're interested the super slim model/actress/entrepreneur eats a half bagle w/ salmon and cream cheese for breakfast, a tuna melt or turkey burger for lunch and a sensible dinner with her family. I read previously that she was vegan but here she says that husband Forrest Whitaker and her oldest daughter are vegetarian but she still gets her meat on.

I also got Nylon in the mail recently. This one I don't feel as bad about because I got the subscription for free. I've always liked the layout of it but I find it kind of dull. I think I'm older than their target audience. There is one editorial featuring a black model which was unexpected but it's not exactly worth buying.

Slow week, I'm crossing my fingers that Entertainment Weekly shows up tomorrow.