Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fashion Magazines and Race: Can the Two Survive in Harmony?

Hi Ladies!! Sorry for the few weeks' Chic Mommy mentioned life has been a little crazy. I'm back now and to kick off my return, I would love to hear some your comments on a topic that a fellow blogger posted recently.

Racialicious has blogged about How Women's Magazines Whitewash Different Ethnicities. While this is not a particularly new debate, it is one that recurs every now and then just like the uproar over fashion models being too skinny.

I agree with some of Alex Alvarez's points, especially the one about magazines "creating a standard of beauty that will forever be just out of the grasp of most women - prompting them, of course, to wait until next month’s issue for more advice on how to be perfect." I have regularly read these magazines for the past 13 years and I can tell you that despite probably a million and one hair "tips," I STILL do not know what to do with my crazy, frizzy, curly hair. Yet I continue to read these magazines hoping for a miracle. I'm beginning to think the magazines really don't want my hair to look fabulous.

Also, I agree that when covers of these magazines do feature women of ethnicity, these minority celebrities are not exactly always representative of their communities. I think it is impossible to always represent every single person in an ethnic community given how varied our looks are. However, putting Jessica Alba, who looks more Caucasian every year that passes, hardly qualifies as representing Latinas. On the flip side, Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez don't bother me as much as they do Alvarez. P.S. I posted the latest Vogue India cover featuring Laxmi Menon above as an ideal cover look that I would love to see one day in a U.S. fashion magazine!!

To be fair, there are some fashion magazines that have gotten better with features a variety of races and ethnicities over the years. Glamour and Marie Claire now regularly feature women of color and once in a while, you even see a desi girl! They are not perfect, but its something.

Take a read of the article and let me know what you think. Is Alvarez spot on about fashion magazines publishing images and articles that idealize the white woman? Or do you just think its impossible to represent every type of every ethnicity or race in America?


  1. Hey Kohl Girl,

    the Alvarez article, was to me anyways, preaching to the choir, but it's no less true and yes sad.
    I just wanted to comment on how you wished that a pic featuring someone like Laxmi Menon to be on a US magazine. With all due respects, Laxmi Menon still does not represent the pre-ash/pre-sush Mohenjodaro-type bountifully curvy beauties. Laxmi is simply part of the group that I tag as the "poor man's brazilian bandwagon", on which one will also find Ujwala raut, they are beautiful indian women, but are probably currently successful because 1) they fit haute couture's gay power wielder's ideal of the androgynous beauty and 2)they are 'non-descript' by western standards as in they could be mixed, hispanic, brazilian, native american etc. Ah will the day ever come when we shall see a sultry,dark, hippy, curvy, kinky-haired beauty such as Suman Ranganathan on the cover of Vogue US or UK???? which reminds of another question: has Alek Wek ever been on the cover of Vogue US/UK? (Iman/Naomi might be ethnically of african descent, but Naomi's asian eyes and Iman's ethiopian face is still not 100% representative of the average african woman/woman of african descent.

  2. GG - You're right...Lakshmi is no Mohenjodaro sculpture. But you can't win them all. The reason I love this particular picture is because its an Indian woman, of non-Ash, non-Preity gori gori skin color idealized in India...not in the least. She's not only brown...but she looks like she baked in the sun. Something my mom used to scold me about when I was little lest I become too dark.

    Anyways, I would like to see something representative this cover but I would also love to see a range of body types as well. But like I said, you can't win them all. And representation with different skin colors is huge progress, to me at least.

  3. oh, and I'm not sure if Alek has ever been on a US/UK cover...I will investigate!!

  4. Hey Kohlgirl,
    yeah I know what you mean about mom bugging you not to go in the sun and slathering on ridiculous amounts of sunscreen. Another reason why my mom hates tropical destinations for vacation. I love the sun, having grown up on a tropical island and until now, I would soak it up, but I have to be super careful now, because I need to keep the wrinkles at bay. Also I noticed that as a girl of indian ancestry, I tan a little even if I have sunscreen on.
    I'll be adding your blog to my favourite links,
    take care

  5. I know the perfect solution for your curly, frizzy, hair...go to
    I've been using it for the past year and it is amazing!!


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