British Vogue: Embracing Black Beauty or Exploiting it?

By Gauri Nair and Gabby Teachey

The face of beauty for a long time has been a cookie-cutter look of what society proclaims beauty is. Now times are changing as big-name corporations are breaking these societal standards, realizing beauty is a subjective thing that not one person can embody. One of these big-name corporations is Vogue, which has made big strides in straying away from the stereotypical model look and focusing more on individuality. 

In Vogue’s 2022 February cover, they celebrate Black History Month with nine dark-skinned women front and center intending to embrace black beauty. 

At first sight, there are a lot of thoughts about the cover. With most of society relating the standard of beauty to white, skinny women, seeing dark-skinned women in a position of such visibility is a refresher for Mt. Hebron students. 

Junior Autumn Wall stated, “I think it’s amazing because it clearly shows a lot of diversity. Usually dark-skinned women are not represented in the media and now they are.” By picturing skin tones that are not typically displayed in the fashion world it allows for people who look just like them to see themselves represented. 

Although at first glance the cover appears to be a call for equal representation, this may not be the case. In the time since the cover came out British Vogue has faced backlash on the account of allegedly darkening the models’ skin tones. 

When asked if this changed her opinion on the topic, Wall replied, “Yes a little bit, because I feel like the editor shouldn’t have to darken their skin color. If he wanted that representation he should have just hired darker women.”

 On the opposite side, Mt. Hebron teacher Mrs. Carter said, “No, for me personally it doesn’t necessarily change anything – maybe because it’s a female of color.”

The cover has sparked much debate on what is right and what is wrong in terms of the editorial process. There are many models in the world that would be the same complexion naturally without any editing. The question Mt. Hebron students and faculty are asking if these magazines are preaching for diversity then why not just hire models that are actually of a darker complexion instead of editing a photo to make it appear excessively different? 

Conversely some such as Mrs. Carter, thinks the editing is okay because it’s only “Enhancing the models skin tone”, but there is still the question of how far is too far when it comes to these edits. 

Mrs. Carter also made a point of when the editors darkened the skin tones, “You’re not even able to see the models’ natural features.” While it is nice to see representation for darker skin tones, it takes away from the message when the models photographed are retouched and changed to look a certain way to fit an aesthetic. 

This problem was seen again when the public noticed none of the models were pictured wearing their natural hair but instead in “European-style wigs.” 

When sophomore Elena Donnelly was asked about the issue, she stated, “I think they should have stuck with their natural hair. If they’re going to embrace the skin color, might as well have them embrace all of them, not just some of them.” It is important to highlight all aspects of a person, especially since the cover is in honor of Black History Month. By only portraying one type of hair on the cover, it may be obstructing the message. 

Mrs. Carter also spoke on the hairstyles, saying, “When we think of people of color we have people with straight hair, curly hair, very tight coils, and loose curls. By wearing the wigs it may send a message that everybody who’s in the photo has straight hair and it’s not their real hair.” One of the most important things for a child growing up is seeing themselves portrayed in media so they can have a figure to relate to and know they are seen. 

Mrs. Carter brings up a very important topic of having not only inclusivity but diversity. The magazine tuned into one type of look, which may have ended up being more counter-productive than they thought. There is not only one shade of skin and there is not only one type of hair. While there are differing opinions on the cover, it is important for the fashion industry to take constructive criticism so they can grow and learn to appeal to all types of people rather than just one.

Categories: Features, The Style File

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