Black Beauty vs The Beast – An Editorial

Vogue Italia - "tribute to Black Beauties" photographer Ellen von Unwerth

Recently when Psychology Today blogger Satoshi Kanazawa an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics, created a firestorm with his blog post “A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature,” in which he claimed, “black women are less physically attractive than other women,” and went onto make even further despairing statements, about the non-attractiveness of black women by explaining his findings, sending shock waves through the community leaving many asking the question why.

Thankfully we can look to the creative brilliance and what some in the fashion publishing industry might call bravery, of Vogue Italia to dispute his fatuous claims with the magazines continued celebration of the beauty of black women, featured again in the publications May issue in two fashion editorials, “tribute to Black Beauties” and “Jump And Smile” shoot by photographer Ellen von Unwerth.

Vogue Italia - "A Black Issue" photographer Steven Meisel

The success of Vogue Italia’s “A Black Issue” (2008) shot by photographer Steven Meisel with four distinct covers featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez and Jourdan Dunn, not only sold out in the U.S. and U.K. within 72 hours, breaking sales records, but had an additional reprint of 30,000 American copies, 10,000 British and 20,000 Italian.

The bold editorial move by the publication not only received critical acclaim but single handily energized and started, the careers of many black models in the fashion industry that were quickly becoming extinct, on the catwalk and in editorial print.

I can’t tell you how many seasons before “A Black Issue,” that while attending New York Fashion Week that if I saw one black model in a show I was amazed. Now as a person, who’s made his career working in the fashion industry as a stylist, fashion show producer and fashion director for IONA magazine, (a publication geared towards today’s upwardly mobile woman of color) the blatant omission of black models from fashion made me question what I saw as a growing trend, and hadn’t gone unnoticed by others in the industry including agent and former model Bethann Hardison speaking publicly about the issue raising the dialogue.

Vogue Italia - "Jump And Smile" photographer Ellen von Unwerth

Now if you’ve read this far into this blog or other posts I’ve made, you’ve seen my blog picture and know that I’m a black man, an African American so it was impossible for me to separate my personal feelings from this, along with the now recent comments published by Satoshi Kanazawa.

With that said despite Kanazawa demoralizing comments, I’m a true believer in the positive as seen with Vogue Italia and now as well in American Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, that change can happen for the betterment.

Satoshi Kanazawa’s blog post was quickly removed from the site with an explanation from Psychology Today’s editor-in-chief to NPR, “Our bloggers are credential[ed] social scientists and for this reason they are invited to post to the site on topics of their choosing. We in turn reserve the right to remove posts for any number of reasons. Because the post was not commissioned or solicited by Psychology Today (in contrast to a magazine article), there was no editorial intent to address questions of race and physical attractiveness.”

Sadly the damage had been done. You see as we’ve all learned and some the hard way that with the joys and conveniences of the internet that once something hits the web it’s infinite.

Model - Lily Taylor, Vogue Italia - "tribute to Black Beauties" photographer Ellen von Unwerth

Now remember how I stated earlier in the post that I’m a true believer in the positive. Well, in the current issue of Vogue Italia in the magazines editorial features “tribute to Black Beauties” and “Jump and Smile” there’s a beautiful young model who crossed my path several seasons back while producing a show for Kevan Hall, that I personally took interest in because I saw something very special in her. Her name is Lily Taylor, pictured (left) and like all black women, or rather all women is beautiful.

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