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Black women’s bodies and blackface in fashion magazines

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Race as an aesthetic has been a contentious issue in the modelling industry since the early days of organized aesthetic labour, as black models straddle a tightrope between following a bourgeois, white ideal ‘look’ or highlighting their ‘exotic’ non-white features in order to stand out. Models may be the faces of fashion, yet photographers, editors, agents, art directors and stylists are the gatekeepers making the aesthetic choices and decisions. There have been strides forward in the fashion industry – on the runway, in publications and on social media – to celebrate diverse forms of beauty, including those that fall outside of the de facto standard. These efforts tend to confuse race with aesthetics, that is, with stereotypical racial styling of non-white models, and blackface is still prevalent in the most prestigious of fashion magazines.
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Keywords: blackface; fashion industry; fashion magazines; fashion modelling; politics of representation; racial stereotypes

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.

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