Prêt-À-Poundo: Vogue Italia Does Blackface, Again

Vogue Italia releases yet another offensive and racist editorial called 'Abracadabra' for March 2014.

Here we go again! Blackface and its different shades are still trendy according to the latest Vogue Italia feature. For March 2014, the magazine released Abracadabra, an editorial featuring Dutch model Saskia De Brauw as a "primitive" wearing expensive designers garments (Chanel, Celine, Saint-Laurent) and posing with safari animals. Sigh. We still don't get how this garbage gets published.

The Vogue brand & magazine is one of the most recognized in the fashion industry, yet they continue to print racist editorials. Do you remember the Lebron James cover and the one issue of Italian Vogue featuring Slave earrings? What about the 'Vogue Black' section part of Vogue Italia? The latter is particularly troublesome. Yes, it's great to have a section featuring the black community but is it really necessary to separate all the photographs, editorials, designers, and models featured in the magazine according to skin tone and then bunch them up in a 'black'-specific site? They could just simply feature black models and celebrities in Vogue Italia without separating them from the rest.

Accountability is a major problem. Anytime Vogue publishes a racist spread like this one, they simply issue a letter of apology which gets shared all over social media — one will surely come soon about Abracadra. The issue is those letters don't erase what's been done and sold for profit. Yet the magazine always claims they don't recognize the offensive aspect of their editorials, playing the the innocent card. It's increasingly difficult to accept that they can keep repeating the same racist actions only to escape responsibility so easily.

Once again, this brings us back to the eternal struggle for diversity on the runway. When you saw these photographs, you might've thought about the cast selection. Why not hire a black model of African descent? We constantly talk about the lack of models of color in the fashion industry and many of our supermodels or veterans models like Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell, and Iman are fighting against it. We've already talked about this issue and its global impact. Over the years, the change is hardly noticeable and the debate is still ongoing. According to Jezebel, for this past February's New York Fashion Week, 78.69% of models were white, against 9.75% black, 7.67% asian, and 2.12% latin models and 0.45% others. It's easy to spot how ethnic models are heavily underrepresented. Looking past the obvious issues with editorials like this for a second: why are they even casting caucasian models to play 'exotic' cultures in the first place? Are the Vogue editors overlooking racism for 'cool' and 'edgy' points?

Obviously, regardless of wether it was a white or black model, Vogue Italia's editorial would still be highly offensive. The grotesques faces, exaggerate arched backs, lower lips pulled to the side, amongst other questionable artistic choices looks like 19th century colonialist caricatures.

We do have a theory, though. Guess what? Racism sells! This is not new but anytime this kind of editorial comes out, all media takes over and spreads the word about it.  Everyone will read, share, tweet and retweet the pictures, videos and pieces written about it. There will be a massive indignation campaign for a few days. What a better way to sell a cover! You'll tell us that our long-winded indignation is free promotion. But you know what, it makes us feel better to address the issue. Look at the the photos, talk about it. It has to be addressed, because if we don't we will never get rid of the little daily racism.

Photo: Jolaoso Adebayo.

Crayon Is Nigeria's Prince of Bright Pop Melodies

Since emerging on the scene over two years ago, Crayon has carved a unique path with his catchy songs.

During the 2010s, the young musician Charles Chibuezechukwu made several failed attempts to get into a Nigerian university. On the day of his fifth attempt, while waiting for the exam's commencement, he thought of what he really wanted out of life. To the surprise of the thousands present, he stood up and left the centre, having chosen music. "Nobody knew I didn't write the exam," Charles, who's now known to afro pop lovers as Crayon, tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom call from a Lagos studio. "I had to lie to my parents that I wrote it and didn't pass. But before then, I had already met Don Jazzy and Baby Fresh [my label superiors], so I knew I was headed somewhere."

His assessment is spot on. Over the past two years Crayon's high-powered records have earned him a unique space within Nigeria's pop market. On his 2019 debut EP, the cheekily-titled Cray Cray, the musician shines over cohesive, bright production where he revels in finding pockets of joy in seemingly everyday material. His breakout record "So Fine" is built around the adorable promises of a lover to his woman. It's a fairly trite theme, but the 21-year-old musician's endearing voice strikes the beat in perfect form, and when the hook "call my number, I go respond, oh eh" rolls in, the mastery of space and time is at a level usually attributed to the icons of Afropop: Wizkid, P-Square, Wande Coal.

"My dad used to sell CDs back in the day, in Victoria Island [in Lagos]," reveals Crayon. "I had access to a lot of music: afrobeat, hip-hop, Westlife, 2Face Idibia, Wizkid, and many others." Crayon also learnt stage craft from his father's side hustle as an MC, who was always "so bold and confident," even in the midst of so much activity. His mother, then a fruit seller, loved Igbo gospel songs; few mornings passed when loud, worship songs weren't blasting from their home. All of these, Crayon says, "are a mix of different sounds and different cultures that shaped my artistry."

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