Saturday, May 31, 2008
The FADER has an nice review of Jamaican Fashion Week. Apparently Georgianna Robertson was one of the stars on the runway:
Of course the spectacle just wouldn't as epic if it wasn't for the star cast of models...Most heartwarming was seeing model Georgianna Robertson take to the runway again for British designer Julia Clancey , a sighting that—in light of current Agyness mania slash overkill—gave us more than passing nostalgia for the old guard of supermodels, real supermodels.
I couldn't agree more. I haven't seen Georgianna in years but I can still remember when she was the model of the moment in the 90s. She was also one of the few models to have lines in Robert Altman's "Prêt-à-Porter." I've always envied her ridiculously long torso and admired her for being one of the few models back then who rocked short natural hair. Truth be told, I'm also bit fascinated by the fact that, like Gladys Knight, she is a Mormon. I'm always wondering what would draw a Black person to that particular faith. Thanks to Camille for the link!
BET News examines the issue in a segment called "Fashion Blackout." I missed the first airing but it will air again tonight at 7:30 (Eastern and Pacific times) and again on Sunday at 11 a.m.
From the website:
So is the fashion industry racist? Or are Blacks simply “not in” this season? And why should we care? We will explore the issue and how the exclusion of an entire race has a negative effect on Black women and their sense of self-worth. We go behind the scenes at New York’s Fashion Week to find the answers.
Since this is BET we're talking about, I don't think the segment will be sharing any information we have't already heard but I think it is good that more people are talking about the issue.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Latoya at Racialicious posted today about her admiration for Skin, the lead singer of Skunk Anansie. Since I too, think this woman is some kind of wonderful, I thought I'd post pic from last year's Gianfranco Ferre campaign (shot by Mario Testino) which featured Skin and Patrick Petitjean.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
My personal opinion of Miss Tyra has taken a nosedive in the last several years. To me her self-involved talk show is only watchable via clips on The Soup and the appeal of America's Next Top Model has evaporated. But then, I'm old. These days my tastes run more towards TV Land's "She's Got the Look". I guess I just prefer that my crying model wannabes have stretch marks.
That said, I was surprised to see her name dropped with the likes of Oprah and Martha in The New York Times Magazine. Clearly she's doing something right, even if I don't quite get it.
The article itself is mildly interesting and worth a look if you are at all interested the lace-front mogul.
This bit caught my eye:
From her two shows, Banks makes an estimated $18 million a year, and her net worth is around $75 million. She owns 25 percent of “Top Model” and last fall Bankable Productions signed a deal to develop projects for Warner Brothers television. Their first project is “The Clique,” based on the national best-selling series about a group of preteen girls from the wealthy suburbs of New York. True to Banks’s practical nature, “The Clique” will be produced on a low budget and will be sold only as DVDs, avoiding the costs (and risks) of theatrical distribution.
I remember Tyra saying to Essence Magazine that she was going to use her power in the industry to create rolls for underemployed black actresses. I just wonder if that power will ever create something more exciting than cheaply produced direct-to-video movies and reality shows.
Is there any black actor or celebrity in the industry actually powerful enough to make the kind of film that I want to see? Something that's not Soul Plan or a biopic or something starring a Wayans brother or a black man in a dress?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Darcel Wynne - Lead Solid Gold dancer
Darcel was the principal dancer on Solid Gold which just happened to be the best show in the world. She effectively replaced Cheryl Song in my heart as long haired dancing machine #1. Sometimes she danced with the group, other times she danced alone but no matter where she appeared in the musical numbers I was right there with her, imitating her steps in my mother's heels while trying not to break my ass or accidentally fall into our plastic covered couch. Darcel was the original Fly Girl.
Kim Fields - Tootie from "The Facts of Life"
Tootie got to live away from her parents AND wear roller skates all the time. If she wasn't living the dream I don't know who was. Also, if the roller set afro was the hair to have of the 70's then surely Tootie's meticulously balanced mushroom took its place in the 80's. The often imitated look was perfected on Kim Fields who displayed just the right length of bumped under bangs to frame her face. In the 90s Brandy would try to revive the look in her short lived sitcome "Thea" but her mushroom was just plain tore up.
Janet Jackson - Charlene DuPrey on "Diff'rent Strokes"/ Cleo Hewitt on "Fame"
Janet always seemed to play the shy but sweet girl on television. She also got credit for adding a bit of flair to the standard mushroom cut by feathering her bangs away from her face on Diff’rent Strokes. I'm starting to realize that Janet Jackson for a time was the black female Ted McGinley, brought in after a show has already debuted in order to breathe new life into the storyline. First "The Jacksons" variety show, then "Good Times" followed by "Diff'rent Strokes" and a stint on "Fame." She was the hardest working teenage in show business but why? My theory is that the first morning Janet woke up, went down to the kitchen and saw big brother Michael having breakfast with Emmanuel Lewis and Bubble the Chimp, she realized that she was going to have to have a nest egg of her own.
Lisa Bonet - Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show
Remember when Denise told Theo she could make a shirt for him just like the one he saw at the store? White folks have the “pirate shirt” episode but I have that one. I love Lisa Bonet for being an unapologetic oddball. She was the role model for every left of center black girl I knew growing up, myself included. Like the rest of the country, I had to get my Cosby Show fix every week so I was surprised when I tried to watch old episodes on cable awhile back and just couldn’t get into it. If I could be a fly on the wall I would have loved to see the look on Bill Cosby’s face when he watched that bloody chicken dance scene in Angel Hart. The Coca-Cola and Jello Pudding pops must have shot right through his nose and onto his expensive African American art.
Diahann Carroll - Dominique Deveraux from “Dynasty”
I remember watching Diahann Caroll on Entertainment Tonight talking about her role on Dynasty. She said then that she wanted to be the first black bitch on TV. At the time, I was surprised they let her say the word “bitch” on TV which kinda made me scared of her. While her character was indeed a piece of work Dynasty never gave Blake’s black half-sister enough to do. You know that if she got into a fight with Joan Collins one of them would have wound up dead at the bottom of the pool. I thought for sure that she would end up dead at the end of that Moldavian terrorist wedding cliffhanger but she survived to star in a few more seasons.
Regina King – Brenda from “227”
Jackee got the lionshare of attention on 227 but for me Brenda, the sulking teenage daughter of Marla Gibbs on 227, was my television doppelganger. Her expertly delivered “Dang!” along with an eye-roll pretty much sums up how I felt from ages 11 to 17. She also rocked a mean mushroom on occasion though she preferred to wear the sides pulled back.
Cast of A Different World
I had a hard time deciding which character was my favorite on this show. Was it the straight talking Jalesa or the free spirit Freddie? Hell, even irritating Whitley had ber moments. In the end it all came down to who had the most memorable scene. Once I figured that out, the choice was clear. Pre-med student Kim (Charnele Brown) definitely had the best scene out of all the women on the show when she pwned green eyed brother Shazza Zulu (Gary Dourdan) for snidely using her has an example in during one of his soap box moments. I didn’t see that brother again until the 90s when he was crying in a Janet Jackson video. Punk.
I watched Robin Givens on “Head of the Class” all the time but back then I didn’t think much of her. She just kind of scared me. Her icy demeanor, crazy sharp cheekbones and bad reputation, made me support Team Kimberly Russell. Looking back I think Robin probably got a bad wrap, after all Mike Tyson is batshit crazy, and for that I’m giving her an honorable mention here.
Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t remember that episode where Kimberly dressed up in blackface for the prom to out her date Roger as a racist.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I was reading last weekend in Entertainment Weekly about the plan to make 21 Jumpstreet into a feature film. Because I am race obsessed, I immediately started wondering about who would be cast in the Holly Robinson Peete/Judy Hoffs role because you know that, these days especially, kinky hair and darker brown skin isn't viewed as "feature film" ready in Hollywood. My best guess is that producers will go the way of a mixed race light skinned actress or a dark skinned (preferably not American) actress with some of that "good hair" -- if TPTB are feeling particularly generous, then Beyonce might get a call, if they're feeling spiteful then Angelina Jolie is going to be breaking out that pancake makeup and curly wig again.
After I spent entirely too much time thinking about this, I started remembering all those other black women (real and fictional) on television both past and present that are sacred too me. Sadly, even after thirty years of television viewing, I still get that deer in the headlights "hey look, a black girl on TV!" euphoria when I see one. I've decided to list here (and in a few upcoming posts,) my all-time favorite black chicks on TV. Note that these are in no particular order and I'm sure I'm missing a few key ladies so bear with me. Please note that additions to the list are welcome.
Maria from Seasame Street (Sonia Manzano)
Okay so right off the bat, before anyone comments, I have to share that when I was a kid my ideas about who is what race were not very clear. My mom is a black Panamanian and she looked a lot like Maria so I just thought Maria was like any other Spanish speaking black person in my family. I have no idea how Sonia Manzano self-identifies but back then I would watch Sesame Street and pretend she was my mom and Gordon was my dad .
Jayne Kennedy Overton
Back in the day, Jayne Kennedy was what Halle Berry is today. That is, she was the black woman who white people name dropped when they had to name a beautiful black woman. She was the first African American woman to appear as a commentator on NFL Today and when I was a kid, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. My uncle Rico used to talk about her so much, I thought he actually knew her. I was clowned hard on the playground for sharing that false piece of information.
Valerie from "Josie and the Pussycats"
This cartoon was already in reruns by the time I was old enough to watch it. All I can really remember is that I had to wake up at 6:30 am to see it on TV. Yeah, those were some miserable days back before TiVo. Okay, so Valerie didn't get to play a "real" instrument and even though I was five, I knew that her character was tragically underutilized but the fact that she got to wear that leotard and furry ears made me a fan instantly. In the abysmal live action movie, she was played by Rosario Dawson.
Diahann Carroll as "Julia"
The original "hey it's a black girl on TV!" I mean, damn, she even got her own show (and she wasn't playing a maid.) Again, this is one that I only saw in reruns but my one of my mother's constant refrains from back then was "when are they going to bring my Julia back?" I guess it was her appointment television. Lastly, I think Julia and Pussycat Valerie look suspiciously similar.
Dee Dee (the black Teen Angel from Captain Caveman)
Yeah, another cartoon but I was in elementary school and TV wasn't very good back then. I didn't even like Captain Caveman (found him to be a little too creepy) but I felt I owed it ot Dee Dee to watch. She was another character that looked alot like Diahann Carroll. I think it's the hair, cartoonists just didn't know how to draw black hair styles unless it' was in an afro. Dee Dee was fly though, I'd take her timeless mini and turtleneck combo over what that blonde is wearing any day of the week.
Uhura from Star Trek
Uhura. C'mon. This one hardly needs an explaination. She was hot AND she got to work on that giant Lite-Bright that passed as a computer. She wore a sexy red dress and boots and had hair like one of The Supremes. If the more recent Star Trek iterations had characters that looked like Uhura, I'd be a Trekkie.
Dee from What's Happening!
How could I have forgotten forever wisecracking "Dee" --the baby sister of Rog on What's Happening? Yeah, her character was written with heaping spoonfuls of sass but no one else on TV could rock an afro-puff like Dee.
Thelma from Good Times
Forget Janet Jackson's Penny and her love for all things JJ. The cutest chick on "Good Times" was always Thelma and her ever changing hairstyles. From cornrows to the big ass halo afro, Thelma always looked fine and was way more well behaved than her white "One Day at a Time" counterpart Mackenzie Phillips. If Thelma ever tried to pull half of the shit on Florida that Barbara pulled on Ms. Romano, there would have been on less child in the Evans household.
That One Black Friend of Marsha's on The Brady Bunch
She didn't have any lines and they made her wear sheer white pantyhose with her minidress but even though that mud in Peter's volcano royally fucked up her press and curl and Marsha probablly never invited her over to the house again, I will never forget her.
Cheryl Song (aka That Asian Lady on Soul Train w/ the Long Hair Who Could Really Get Down.) As confused as I sometimes was on issues of race when I was a kid, deep down inside I knew that Cheryl Song was not black even though my cousin and I tried very hard to convince the rest of the family that she was. My argument was that of course she was at least part black because why else would she be on the show and that if you looked closely enough, you could see a little kink in her hair. My older cousin argued that Song had to be black because of her fresh dance moves and dress sense. No one ever bought the argument but it hardly mattered, because Cheryl Song was just a fly ass chick if there ever was one.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Beautiful French model Noémie Lenoir graces the cover of the July issue of French Vogue. Are they trying to one up Vogue Italia?
ETA: I guess the answer to that question is not completely since white French model Leticia Casta shares the cover, wearing the same outfit on the flip side of the magazine.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I think I've touched on why fashion shoots in "exotic" (read non-Western) locals tend to get under my skin. The main issue for me is the tendency for the photographer to use whatever local is handy as a prop and/or or exploit the model's own ethnicity if she happens to be non-White. I've lost count of how many times I've seen British/Jamaican Naomi Campbell dressed as an African villager on the pages of Elle and Vogue.
This kind of shoot is always lazy and sometimes just plain offensive to me but it is a fashion industry staple, just like pictures of models jumping in expensive clothes in American Vogue.
But would the images be as potentially offensive if instead of a white model, a black one was used? Turns out the answer is "sorta" thanks to Vogue's "From Here to Timbuktu" shoot photographed by Mikael Jansson for their June 2008 issue.
Here are the good things. The photographs are beautiful as is the African* model, Liya Kebede. Okay so she's not from Mali but they get points for not trying to dress her in traditional garments right? Unlike many of the models usually used in these themed spreads, Kebede looks genuinely happy to be in Timbuktu in these vibrant photographs that could conceivable come from someone's own scrapbook if the person in question was extremely fabulous. There is only one photo of the model in a actual safari jacket (this one priced at $385 by DVF if you are interested.) No spread like this is complete without a safari jacket, is it?
What really got my attention with this pictorial was the travel diary, written by Sally Singer, which accompanied it. Singer, who describes Timbuktu as a "sandbox at the end of the Earth" that feels to her like the "most priviledged of all playgrounds." Her tone does in words what wasn't quite captured in the photographs, that this country exists solely for the amusement of Westerners that can afford to travel there, it is a playground full of interesting children who are just dying to take one's perfectly manicured hand and show you around the place. One major difference is that thanks to designers like Oscar de la Renta who has "expertly crafted" mudcloth into his Spring '08 collection, everyone wearing the traditional textile in Mali looks like they've "stepped off the Dries Van Noten catwalk." She even takes calling her local guide Oscar as an homage to the designerr because of the tabard mudcloth garment he is wearing. There's no mention of what his real name is.
I must say that I agree with her , it is a relief to take pictures of locals and not have their outfits clash with yours. For example, my husband and I were in Paris last month and I had to spend countless hours on Photoshop editing out all those unsightly natives wearing last season's Agnes B. Quel horreur!
photo source: Faith Akiyama/TFS
*I say African here rather than Ethiopian here intentionally. Even though Liya's East African features stand out in the crowds of Malians surrounding her, in Vogue's view one black person (or African person) is just the same as another.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Looking back on the 12 issues of Essence published this year, one can easily recognize their cover formula:
Money. No Essence cover is complete with the mention of money and how to get more of it. Appearances on the cover in the past twelve months: 12
Men. Anything from what they think or how to get one of your own. Hell, they'll even pop up on the cover from time to time. Appearances in the past twelve months: 9
Hair. Isn't it funny that no matter how much they tout "sexy new styles" on the cover, when you look inside it's the same lame hairdos that they've been pushing for years? One relaxed bob, a couple of weave styles, and "natural style." I don't think I'd notice if they used the same pics every month. Appearances in the past twelve months: 9
Health. Black woman are more at risk for certain conditions, this is true but the recycled information that Essences thrown on their pages every month isn't getting my attention. Appearances in the past twelve months: 9
Weight. This once overlaps with health on occasion but usually, it gets its own tagline on the cover. Interestingly, there are more references to it on covers produced this year than on last year's covers. Appearances in the past twelve months: 6
The Two Divas: Mary J Blige and Jill Scott. Essences loves them like People Magazine loves Brad and Angelina. Appearances in the past twelve months: 5
**Is there anyone out there who actually collects these issues? Am I going to be sucking my teeth because I recycled mine fifty years from now when they show up on Antiques Roadshow 2058?
The GAP has unveiled their 13 limited edition "ArtistEditions" t-shirts produced in association with the 2008 Whitney Biennial and Art Production Fund. The shirts, which will retail from $28 to $38 were designed by 13 Whitney Biennial artists including Kerry James Marshall and Glenn Ligon . The shirts will be available mid May at select GAP stores and online at Gap.com. They will also be available at the Whitney museum gift shop.
Kerry James Marshall, a 1997 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award, is strongly influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement but also incorporates comic book culture and traditional Japanese art forms into his works. His work is visually bold and his figures often display a darker than usual skin tone. This aspect Marshall has noted, "emerged from an investigation into the invisibility of blacks in America and the unnecessarily negative connotations associated with darkness."
Glenn Ligon is a conceptual artist whose work explores sexuality, identity and race among other topics. Frequently, he employs materials like new and vintage photography, quotations or found objects into his work.
The last thing I need right now is another t-shirt and of course I am disappointed that there are no Black female artists in this group but I might have to pick up Kerry James Marshall's shirt. I am a sucker for a shirt with a black female image on it that isn't clad in booty shorts.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The fashion industry is racist:
These days, ethnic beauty is pretty much invisible.
The fashion world, on this evidence, has been screening out ethnic beauty.
Black faces don't sell magazines:
Editors and managers say that, however much they want to use ethnic girls, putting one on the cover of a glossy magazine will depress sales. If ethnic women brought in big profits, nobody in the industry would be in the slightest bit interested in their skin tones or their racial type. Rightly or wrongly, though women from ethnic minorities are considered a bad commercial bet.
It wasn't always like this:
In the 1960s and 1970s, ethnic women were much more visible in fashion. That was a time of exuberance and change; the time of the Black Power movement, the mantra “black is beautiful”, Roberta Flack singing Be Real Black for Me. This mood continued into the 1980s, with models such as Iman, Pat Cleveland and the young Campbell splashed everywhere.
The gay white puppet masters of the runway like women who look like smooth boys:
One suggestion is that the absence, particularly of black girls with African features, has to do with the tiny minority of people who make the fashion weather: the arbiters of fashion. These are the top casting agents and designers who decide whom to send on photoshoots and the catwalks, and many of them are gay white men. I’m told they really don’t like black women. Again, the question is, why? Or, rather, why not? As ever, if it’s not something to do with money, it is probably something to do with sex.
The sexually immature look is hot right now:
The ideal of female beauty in the fashion industry today is childlike, almost bordering on paedophilia. With few exceptions, the most sought-after faces have small, childish features, with little noses, little chins, small mouths and big, little-girl foreheads and eyes. They are childishly asexual. The same goes for fashionable bodies. The hottest bodies are almost always immature, lacking in secondary sexual characteristics – no curves, no breasts, no body hair.
Black models have the wrong type of body for fashion:
Asian girls, with their uncurvy, boyish figures and neat features often fit easily into this mould, but models with pronounced African features – large, full lips, wide noses and different facial proportions, as well as more curves, bigger bottoms and fuller breasts – do not.
Black women are too naturally sexual for fashion:
Several people have suggested to me that the gay arbiters of fashion find full-on female sexuality distasteful, which is why they don’t favour this kind of womanly beauty among white girls, either.
The new class of super-rich people also hate to look at black people:
...marketing aimed at the new mega-rich consumers in China and Russia cannot afford to ignore the fact that those countries are more racist than the west.
Black people don't like looking at black people either:
There is also evidence that ethnic women have been ambivalent about their own kind of look for many years. For decades, women with dark skin the world over have tried to make their skin paler or their hair straighter, sometimes with dangerous chemicals...
There are, of course, issues of status and power tied up in all this. Most dark-skinned people have been colonised or overrun by pale-skinned people. Pale, in folk memory, means power and wealth, and this has been deeply internalised. Perhaps this is partly why there is some resistance among black and other ethnic women themselves to dark-skinned beauty, even now; perhaps they themselves find something else more aspirational.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
So apparently, Veronica Webb is out as co-host of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style and stylist Gretta Monahan has been hired to replace her. There is no indication on Bravo's website as to why Webb's role was recast.
As much I as studied all the top black models of her era, Veronica Webb was never one that I had any particular fondness for but I was still pleased when I heard that she got the co-hosting gig with Tim Gunn. I am always desperate to see black women on TV in roles that don't involve being someone's sassy sexless girlfriend or a reality show demon.
That said, I've only seen about three episodes of the show. It just got a little too repetitive for my taste. However on the airings that I did catch, Webb and Gunn seemed to have nice enough chemistry so maybe there's a juicier reason for the ousting. Especially since they are trading down for an unknown stylist.
When I think of Veronica Webb, three things pop into my head:
a) That she was the first spokes-model for Revlon's short lived Color Styles collection in the 90s, which at the time was a big deal.
b) Her relationship with Spike Lee, and
c) The time Mary J. Blige threatened to kick her model ass after the two spent together while Webb was interviewing Mary for Vibe Magazine.
Okay, to be perfectly honest, I don't really care about the first two but the Mary J. Blige story flashes across my mind every time I see Webb on TV or in a magazine. I mean, back then Mary wasn't the serene, married, drug-free Zen loving queen of R&B she is today. Back then, Real Love Mary would not hesitate to beat your ass.
If I were Veronica Webb, I'd still be scared.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
It can be political:
It can be conservative:
It can have more fun:
It can be edgy:
It can be sculpture:
It can be bold:
Or, it can just be itself:
But under no circumstances should it ever be a mullet:
Jada Pinkett Smith, consider this is your hairstyle intervention. We love you and are here waiting for you with some deep conditioner and scissors. Come on home girl.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
It's not nearly as grand as Kimora's but I could pass a lot of time in Tracee's closet, trying on her mother's old Mahogany costumes and making snow angels with those handbags would take up at least half a day.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Kimora Lee Simmons seems to be catching a lot of flak for choosing this colorful Kevan Hall Couture gown to wear to the Costume Institute Gala but aside from the fit (which seems a bit too restricting up top) I don't think it's that bad. After all the theme of this year's gala was "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy." It this color saturated composition doesn't scream comic book panels then I don't know what does. Most of the attendees played it safe and dull. At least someone was able to go out on a limb with her gown. I'm probably letting her off too easy though, I am a fan of Detroit born Mr. Hall who seems to be one of the only designer out there who gets "safari chic" right, referencing the influence of African tribes like the Dinka and Maasai and Zulu without looking like a trend vampire.
Sources: Lipstick Alley, Bossip, Getty, The Fashion Spot.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Naomi Sims was a popular model before I started consuming fashion magazines so I don't know much about her. I will share however, that her skincare line was among the first department store skin care products that I ever purchased.
I recall being stunned as a high school student to discover it being carried by Nordstrom. The saleslady didn't even get half-way through her spiel before I agreed to purchase the kit. It cost me a whopping $65 which was a lot considering that The Colonel only paid something like $3.15/hr at the fried chicken emporium that was my after school job.
I can't remember it doing anything miraculous to my skin but I sure felt sophisticated using her products when I went away to college. You couldn't talk to me when I was in the mirror rubbing that potion into my fat cheeks, because I was the shit.
I wonder if they're even still making that stuff...
ETA: It is still being made
Target continues to seek out an interesting array of designers to produce lines for the Go! International collection.
Later this month the man behind the other man behind Edun, Rogan Gregory, will debut his eco-friendly clothes at the mass retailer. What caught my eye earlier this week was the news that the entire line will be available for a three day preview at none other than Barney's NY. Clearly, Gregory has a lot of fans in high places.
I haven't been thrilled with recent Go! offerings but this one has piqued my interest. I'm not touching any of the leopard print but there are more than a few basics in the collection that might be worth a closer look especially at Target's price points.