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Teen Vogue beauty editor Elaine Welteroth recently paid a visit to Kigali, Rwanda and while she was there decided to chronicle her hair braiding experience. Welteroth arrived in Rwanda with her naturally curly fro, but left with Senegalese twists.

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Welteroth wrote about the experience on Teen Vogue’s site:

Adopting this hairstyle became an integral aspect of drinking in the cultural experience as a first-time visitor to East Africa—women sported braids and twists everywhere. But I wasn’t sure how people would react back home in New York City.

At the office I found myself fielding responses ranging from shock to sheer confusion. (Wow! How did your hair grow so fast? Do you wash them? Is your hair still inside there? Those things look heavy! Don’t they hurt?) Sure, the questions were innocent enough; though, laced with ignorance, they started to make me feel like I was wearing a target on my head.

But once the story was published in the print edition of Teen Vogue, the backlash began, over the models chosen to showcase the braids.

The model, Phillipa Steele, who according to  Models.com is half Fijian, and also Tongan, French, English, and American, sported the twists in the shoot and also was profiled on Instagram.

The print article also included photos of Zendaya Coleman, wearing her faux locs, as well as Zoe Kravitz.


But people were offended that none of the models represented darker skinned black women.

The first person to bring attention to the spread was user on Twitter:

Interestingly enough, Welteroth responded to the accusations online.

“How do you define black?” she wrote. “Just curious. Is it about skin color? Eye color? Hair texture? I ask because this mixed-race model is as black as I am. Also, how do you define cultural appropriation? I ask only because I want to better understand your point of view.

Then the model in question stated that she’s actually ‘black’, even though everything but black is listed on her Models.com page.

“For the record, if anyone even cares . Yes im half black and half French.”

In any event, does anyone expect anything other than light-washing (as opposed to white-washing) from Teen Vogue?


Photo Credits: Teen Vogue/ Chloe Louvouezo/IG

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