Last month’s ELLE that split the cover with several white actresses and Gabourey Sidibe got a lot of attention. Some of it was positive as many claimed it was empowering for black women to see Gabby on the cover. Some…ahem begged to differ and stated emphatically that not only did the choice of actress but the layout was in fact insulting and damaging to the image of black women.
I personally didn’t appreciate the cover because I thought it was highly unflattering to Gabby. She has had other photo shoots where she’s been styled better – but there’s no mistaking her size. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree about her individual beauty in contrast to established norms, you’d be hard-pressed to find other groups uplifting women who don’t fit into their established parameters. Thus it is a concern when outsiders use their forums to promote an alternative image of women from another group.
The larger argument is of course since there are so few black businesses and we haven’t taken control our image (as well as the ongoing support for denigrating black women) these types of situations are bound to occur. It would be one thing if insiders were controlling large quantities of output across various media entities and threw in a few “alternatives” for the sake of variety and inclusion. An example of this is when edgier fashion and foreign music magazines have touted singer Beth Ditto (who is most excellent by the way).
(M)Essence magazine was never owned by black women to begin with and since it has not been a priority for anyone else to create new titles the resulting dearth is a logical conclusion. Ebony/Jet may or may not be turning things around as they were in financial distress. Beside a few other black-oriented titles there are no other magazines to fill the void in reflecting the needs of an African-American audience.
So, with that in mind one of the other arguments that resulted from the brouhaha was to question why ELLE (and other white magazines) had not put other black women (let alone models) on their covers. Washington’s name was offered as an example of a traditionally beautiful woman whose image enhances instead of detracts.
Usually magazine covers are planned months in advance. I’m not certain whether the decision-makers at ELLE had previously scheduled this succession of covers, if it was a “fluke” or if it was in response to some pissed off black women. Such a prompt response usually does not occur. The irony of sorts is that the ELLE cover isn’t really anything to sneeze at, especially compared to this cover by…you guessed it….Messence. Yikes!
So ELLE finally gets around to adding someone new to their roster of blonde actresses and they’re upstaged by a much better layout from Messence! Look, one thing they get right is photos, lighting, makeup & styling. They do know how to make black women look phenomenal.
Where is the discussion, the angst, the praise or the expressions of an emotion? So many people were invested the last go-’round why the silence? So far there has been near zero buzz and this is supposed to be a positive thing! Where’s the support?! Ah well…
If you want to write a Letter to the Editor THANKING THEM you can send it snail mail to ELLE, 1633 Broadway, NYC 10019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Have at it!