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White model Ondria Hardin poses for Numéro Magazine in feature titled 'African Queen'

White model Ondria Hardin poses for Numéro Magazine in feature titled 'African Queen'

So earlier this week I spotted these pictures from the  March 2013 issue of Numéro Magazine floating around the web titled ‘African Queen’.  I personally thought and still do, think these pictures are quite artistic in a high fashion sense of the word. The head wraps are  bad ass and the garments chosen I feel are extremely chic and serve the purpose of what this shoot is portraying.

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There seems to be a lot of controversy developing around the images as the model used is a white, blond haired model called Ondria Hardin, heavily bronzed to what some are calling ‘black face’. Here are my thoughts on all the hoopla; I think it can be quite difficult to establish if a company is celebrating or mocking black woman and men by imitating ‘us’ in imagery. European magazines especially I feel seem to go up to the mockery/offensive line a lot in their publications and sometimes cross it. This I feel is especially true of French, Dutch and Italian magazines, in more so an ignorant way than with malicious intent.

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The black community for all intense and purpose seem to go over every image that is felt relates to us in anyway with a fine tooth comb, seeking out something wrong, something we feel is offensive to us. The model in this particular shoot is made up to fill a role to capture a specific look. I really don’t see this as them trying to make her look black and I certainly do not see “Black face” as she clearly still looks like a white woman.  Just a white woman that has a really  good tan. Woman, black and white are bronzed and lightened for film roles, photo shoots, adverts all the time. What is the biggie here?  If the two words African and Queen were not present, would this have been so much of an issue for the black community? I personally feel this shoot is very tastefully done.

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  • Hiya!

    I just came across your site today through Facebook. I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far :)
    I just thought I’d leave a comment here because I think you raise an excellent point. I too am frustrated by hypersensitivity about race (I am of mixed heritage). It seems that in order to move on we need to let some things go but I must admit that I was a little confused by these images at first glance! I wondered why they chose to do a campaign called African Queen and not use one of the many, many, MANY gorgeous black models out there?!
    Having said that, I think you’re right. They’re selling a look and a concept to all kinds of women and by using a white model they’re showing the versatility of the clothing. It’s actually quite smart!
    I didn’t mean to leave such a bulky comment but as a final statement I’d like to say thanks for giving me another point of view :)

    Keep it up! xx

    • Vi

      “They’re selling a look and a concept to all kinds of women and by using a white model they’re showing the versatility of the clothing. It’s actually quite smart!” But surely then, if showcasing the versatility of the clothing was the intention, portraying the model as she actually is, white would have been smarter? (and defo less offensive!) Peace, Vi

    • Wunmi Akinlagun

      Thanks for sharing

  • Tre

    (Generally speaking….) Black people in ‘normal’ society are passed over for jobs. Black people in ‘normal’ society will not be the first thought for job promotion.

    Were there no Black models available to depict an African Queen? No Black model, African or Diasporan were available for a role that depicts us? Nah, I’m not buying that.

    I don’t think Black people get riled up unnecessarily, if anything, they don’t get riled up enough about the bullsh*t that goes on within and outside of our own communities. We sit back on the community on our black blogs and rant and moan about societal injustice…once upon a time we would boycott – we no longer do that. Not just towards non-Blacks..but boycott runts like Lil Wayne etc.

    In short, I dislike them using a white woman to depict a black woman..we’re not even good enough to depict our damn selves? Oh….

    • Wunmi Akinlagun

      Thanks for sharing

    • Izz

      Hypersensitive about race? Please. I’m half black, half hispanic, so I have two sides of me that witness this same White Supremacist justification. We were still being lynched legally less than 100 yrs ago. The question is NOT “Why are black people so sensitive to race” but RATHER:

      “WHY do white people feel the need to make EVERYONE WHITE?” Why do they find their own features worthy of destruction of everything else to keep??? Whether they are depicting specifically Egyptians or an “African Queen” the ONLY WAY they feel comfortable is to make everyone white. WHY IS THAT? Why are they so uncomfortable displaying other cultures as other cultures? I’ve even seen white people start talking about “dark skinned white people”. What is that other than black? Why do they insist on semantics and games when it comes to accurate, respectful portrayal?

      Maybe if this was a random instance–maybe if they hadn’t been doing this for the last decade and the last 100 decades prior MAYBE if this happened ONCE IN A BLUE MOON then MAYBE I would say, “Ok. They want to appreciate us”.

      But white people have a HABIT of taking our stuff, putting their face on it, and acquiring GREAT WEALTH for having done so. And all that with NONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING BLACK IN A WHITE SUPREMACIST-RUN WORLD! It’s pathetic, and I believe it needs to stop.

      We can’t rely on “White Innocence” excuses. We can’t sit around and let them tell us “We just love your music and culture sooooo much. All this is for YOU”. White people once thought we were HAPPY as SLAVES. White people once believed we were “uncivilized”. White people once thought we APPRECIATED their destruction of our culture. White people in the 30s, 40s, and 50s thought all black people had the same opportunities as them. CLEARLY WHITE PEOPLE LIVE IN LALA LAND WHEN IT COMES TO IMPORTANT RACIAL ISSUES. And clearly this has been occurring for centuries.

      Every black person has a choice–are we going to just duck our heads and join the white people who enjoy living a White Supremacist culture where they are in charge of 80% of everything (and therefore see NO PROBLEMS and believe “Racism is over”), OR are we going to shut down shenanigans, shucking and jiving, hoodlum racist tactics by important white figures, and direct disrespect to ourselves and our ancestors? The choice is literally yours.

      It’s not about fighting OR joining the white man. It’s about demanding respect from him for ourselves, our families, and our people as a whole.

      • Evelyn

        Yes, but what do you think of the photos? I like them. For me, this is not an issue. I take them for what they are – photography and fashion. Let’s do the same. A black model under the title of European Queen. That to me would be contentious – positively.

  • Lexa

    Thank you for sharing such a a thought provoking and insightful post. While I think the photos are beautiful, I would be dishonest if I did not admit that I am disappointed that a woman of color was not chosen for the shoot. I am disappointed, not outraged or angry. True, women of color have been lightened for print, TV, and movies, but in leu of the fact that there are fewer opportunities for women of color, the practice is a little more understandable. Yes. There is a population of black folk (my mother being one) who see “racism” in just about everything, which is ridiculously extreme. As with most of us, we’ve either listened to or chimed in on the plethora of conversations where folks angrily and bitterly complain about experiences or the latest “hot topic” in the media. I am not discrediting anyone’s experience or perspective, but often wonder, how many of the “complainers” are willing to take some kind of action to increase awareness of bring about change. Something as simple as writing a letter to an organization can bring about surprising change. Thanks again for a great post. ;)

    • Wunmi Akinlagun

      Thank you for sharing…

  • Vi

    Jaxx talked about this on Colourful Radio this morning so I have 2 things to say. She and the station she broadcasts on are most definitely working towards striking a balance in media, another industry that people of colour are under-represented within, so not just complaining but doing.
    Also, in response to “Do I think we will get anywhere by complaining about it? No!” If the suffragettes didn’t raise their voices, if the Martin Luther King didn’t campaign, if the gays didn’t make a stand in regard to marriage would anything have changed, No!… did complaining make a difference for the better, yes! So why not in an instance like this? There’s power in diversity so just because the magazine is not largely for a black audience doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from seeing a black face every now and again within its pages rather than hinting at one as per this image.
    I find it sad that when the black community stand up for ourselves because we have taken offence to something (regardless of what the intentions were of the photo-shoot) we are accused having a chip on our shoulder. It wasn’t a boycott, the shoot has taken place and I think speaking out against it is a great thing as it may (I stress may) lead editors to consider using women of colour more widely.

    • Wunmi Akinlagun

      There is a big difference between just “complaining” and “campaigning”… I referred specifically to people that complain, yet do nothing about it… The “suffragettes, Martin Luther King, the gays” were “active” by campaigning for their beliefs, they didn’t JUST complain about it… With that in mind “Do I think we will get anywhere by complaining about it?” No!…

      Thank you for sharing your opinion

      • Vi

        Thanks Wunmi – loving your work, Vi x

  • jojo satoes

    Perhaps the message is white women look beautiful in african attire. I’m african (born of african parents albeit in america) and spent a number of years on the continent. It’s always pleasurable and amusing for Africans to see other races don African attire. It’s so traditional seeing a black woman of any hue wearing african garb, but a white woman with a head-tie and a long senegalese-que gown is like BOOM. I’m sure the designer wasn’t complaining either.

    Blacks in the diaspora do tend to be very sensitive and own everything associated with blackness or Africa. But how many of the complainers even own one African outfit? This is an amazing opportunity for the designer and an opportunity to showcase African attire to people who ordinarily wouldn’t see it, as well as show them, they too would look good wearing it.

    Getting touchy, outraged or overly-sensitive relative to issues that seemingly, although not necessarily, has racial undertones has become the status quo. It’s like the lady who was fired because a viewer stated on her company’s Facebook page that he did not think it was appropriate for women with short hair to be newscasters. IMO, she turned this very broad attack on the appearance of women in the workplace to a discussion of racial (particularly African American) acceptance. She of course eventually lost her job.

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  • Camille

    Models are “role models” that is why having a white woman in a “good tan” described as African Queen is very wrong. There is a clear agenda here. Liya Kebede is an African queen. Iman and many more. This girl with her great tan is not an African queen. This is just like having white people play EGYPTIAN kings and queens.