Paris Vogue in black face model row

Oct 14, 2009
Jonathan Harwood

Editor Carine Roitfeld’s blacked up model may be all right in France, but Americans are shocked

Paris Vogue and its fiery editor Carine Roitfeld are at the centre of a race row after publishing pictures of a white model with her skin painted black. The photos of usually-blonde Dutch model Lara Stone did not raise eyebrows in France, it seems, but have provoked outrage among the usually unshockable fashionistas of New York.
The photo shoot was styled by the magazine's long-time editor, Roitfeld, who - along with controversial photographer Steven Klein - has been denounced as "culturally insensitive" by US fashion site Jezebel.
"What Klein and Roitfeld should know is that painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people is offensive in ways that stand entirely apart from cultural context," said Jezebel. The French anti-racism group SOS Racisme described the pictures as "tactless".

Among the shoot's other critics is Nana A Tamakloe, founder of Confidence Model Management, who said: "It's horrible, there's nothing else to describe it." Shevelle Rhule, fashion and beauty editor at black women's magazine Pride, commented: "It's as if we've stepped back in time."

Roitfeld has often been talked of in the past as a potential successor to Anna Wintour as editor of US Vogue. But the current row is unlikely to win her many supporters: a gimmick of this kind might be all right in Paris, but does not go down well in New York.

Only last week the American singer and actor Harry Connick Jr was visibly shocked when an Australian talent show he was appearing on allowed a skit about the Jackson Five, performed by white singers who had blacked up. Connick, who was a guest judge on the programme, refused to give the performance a mark.

Intriguingly, Stone, the supermodel of the moment, is said to be dating Little Britain actor David Walliams - who has been known to black up for roles himself.  He has played a black and white minstrel and donned a black fatsuit and facepaint to portray a character called Desiree in the comedy show.

Photographer Steven Klein is no stranger to controversy. He was behind a recent raunchy topless photoshoot of singer Rihanna for Italian Vogue. It came out on the day her ex, Chris Brown, appeared on the Larry King show in America to discuss his conviction for assaulting her.
Klein also produced a short film starring Lara Stone called Lara, Fiction Noir, that features the blood-spattered Dutch model apparently executing a police officer, tying a man to a bed and sitting next to a corpse in a car.

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