Numéro Magazine has found itself in the middle of a racially-charged firestorm after using a highly bronzed white model in one of its fashion editorials entitled "African Queen."
In the spread, Ondria Hardin, a 16-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed model is seen with darkened skin, striking a pose for the glossy.
The Huffington Post reached out to the magazine for comment and received the following statement Wednesday morning via email:
Some people have declared that they have been offended by the publication in Numéro magazine n°141 of March 2013, of an editorial realized by the photographer Sebastian Kim called “African Queen”, featuring the American model Ondria Hardin posing as an “African queen”, her skin painted in black.
The artistic statement of the photographer Sebastian Kim, author of this editorial, is in line with his previous photographic creations, which insist on the melting pot and the mix of cultures, the exact opposite of any skin color based discrimination. Numéro has always supported the artistic freedom of the talented photographers who work with the magazine to illustrate its pages, and has not took part in the creation process of this editorial.
For its part, Numéro Magazine, which has the utmost respect for this photographer’s creative work, firmly excludes that the latest may have had, at any moment, the intention to hurt readers’ sensitivity, whatever their origin.
Numéro Magazine considers that it has regularly demonstrated its deep attachment to the promotion of different skin-colored models. For instance, the next issue of Numéro for Man on sale on 15th march has the black model Fernando Cabral on the cover page, and the current Russian edition’s cover of our magazine features the black model Naomi Campbell on its cover. This demonstrates the completely inappropriate nature of the accusations made against our magazine, deeply committed to the respect for differences, tolerance and more generally to non-discrimination.
Considering the turmoil caused by this publication, the Management of Numéro Magazine would like to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this editorial.
While Numéro does apologize it doesn't seem to regret the offense.
Although the magazine says it took no part in conceptualizing the story, it did not have to publish the images. Clearly the racially insensitive nature of blackface is lost on Numéro, which is hard to believe since this isn't the first time the glossy has been ensnared in a controversy like this.
In 2010, the magazine published a fashion spread with model Constance Jablonski, who donned overly bronzed skin and an afro, causing many to shake their heads.
Lesson learned? Apparently not.
With that said, our hopes aren't completely lifted that anything will change concerning the glaring diversity issues within the fashion industry since the apology only intends to quell hurt feelings, rather than denouncing the practice of such racial exploitation.
Furthermore, pointing out a few covers featuring people of color does not save you from ridicule and definitely doesn't make the accusations/backlash surrounding the current situation "inappropriate." What's inappropriate is not hiring a black model in the first place.
Come on fashion, we can definitely do better.
UPDATE: At 11:03am The Huffington Post received the following statement from photographer Sebastian Kim via email:
I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France. It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story. Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60's characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot.
It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race. I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images. It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended.
What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.