Listen mainstream magazine editors, y’all slipping. Between teaching white women how to rock afros (even when you have straight hair!), to running entire editorials about braids without nary a Black women in sight, when it comes to being inclusive and writing about Black-inspired trends, it’s clear some glossies love Black culture and creativity, but not actual and factual Black people.
Monday, pictures of Rihanna slow wining all over Barbados hit the web. Like the majority of women in attendance at this year’s Crop Over celebration, Rih Rih rocked a vibrant bejeweled bikini decorated with blue feathered wings. While West Indians—and those who know what’s up—gave Rihanna props for her awesome carnival costume, Marie Claire tweeted, “Nobody can believe @Rihanna wore this jewel-studded bra in Barbados.”
— Marie Claire (@marieclaire) August 4, 2015
Umm…yeah, actually, we can.
Marie Claire’s flippant use of “nobody” was not only wrong, but it also highlighted just how easily the magazine, which claims to care about “what matters to women,” disregards and dismisses the culture and customs of non-white women while actively trying to capitalize on their style.
What’s clear is that Marie Claire has no problem using Rihanna’s carnival look for pageviews and retweets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they publish a tutorial about how “you” (white ladies) can rock her “outrageous” outfit during your next vacation. What’s sad, however, is that it appears they can’t be bothered to even do the tiniest bit of research before asserting “nobody” would believe what Rihanna wore.
They aren’t the only ones getting it wrong. Allure is currently under fire for helping white women Columbus afros; Vogue has been roundly criticized time and time again for fashion spreads featuring models in blackface; Numéro once passed over several Black models to paint a white woman brown for their “African Queen” editorial; Vanity Fair ran a two-page spread praising Instagram model Jen Selter’s “derrière extraordinaire,” which they said inspired other “bronzed” women to love their curves; Forbes crowned Iggy Azalea queen of hip hop despite the fact she’s Iggy Azalea; and the list goes on and on. Even Marie Claire has been down this road before after the mag praised Kendal Jenner’s “bold braids.”
Many will argue we should ignore what mainstream magazines do because they don’t really care about Black people, but that lets them off too easily and discounts their reach. Unlike ESSENCE or EBONY, publications like Marie Claire and Allure claim to be for “all” women, which presumably includes women of color, too.
If these publications, which have bigger audiences and access to more capital (and ad dollars) than Black glossies, want to find inspiration in the creativity of Black folks, I say bring it on. But with one caveat: Mainstream magazines need more Black writers and editors on staff.
Why? When someone suggests yet another “trend” piece that originated in the global Black community and capitalizes on Black culture, mainstream magazines need to have someone in the room who can save them from being so obtuse.
Until then, I’d really appreciate it if magazines would stop writing about Black people and Black creations by proxy, or if they can’t do it right. Because when it comes to prospering off of the things Black folks make hot, imitation isn’t the highest form of flattery, it’s just stealing.