It seems like Black women can do very little without having our style jacked by the “mainstream.” Slicked-down baby hair, cornrows, creamy brown skin, dashikis, and afros have all become trendy lately because white women have “discovered” them. Now, it seems some white women want make vitiligo chic a thing, too.
Canadian model Winnie Harlow has a very distinct look. Harlow, who quickly became one of the most popular (and most talked about) models last season, has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. Now the face of labels like Desigual and Diesel, Harlow has spoken openly about her disease and her struggle to accept the way she looks.
“It was really hard growing up. I had to grow thick,” Harlow said earlier this year. “People make fun of you and you have to learn how to deal or you break down. I’m not trying to break down so, I have to deal.”
Now, it seems Harlow’s skin condition is en vogue among some white fans who’ve painted themselves brown to look like her. While the whole thing appears to be ridiculous and offensive, Harlow is perfectly fine with white girls rocking blackface in her honor. In fact, the model took to Instagram to assert Black women should be happy our features are now being “loved and lusted over.”
My response to this is probably not what a lot of people want but here it goes: every time someone wants fuller lips, or a bigger bum, or curly hair, or braids does Not mean our culture is being stolen. Have you ever stop to realize these things used to be ridiculed and now they’re loved and lusted over. No one wants to “steal” our look here. We’ve just stood so confidently in our own nappy hair and du-rags and big asses (or in this case, my skin) that now those who don’t have it love and lust after it. Just because a black girl wears blue contacts and long weave doesn’t mean she wants to be white and just because a white girl wears braids and gets lip injection doesn’t mean she wants to be black. The amount of mixed races in this world is living proof that we don’t want to be each other we’ve just gained a national love for each other. Why can’t we embrace that feeling of love? Why do we have to make it a hate crime? In a time when so much negative is happening, please don’t accuse those who are showing love and appreciation, of being hateful. It is very clear to me when someone is showing love and I appreciate these people recreating, loving and broadcasting something to the world that once upon a time I cried myself to sleep over.
Despite arguing Black women should be happy our styles are now trendy (ehem, so long as they’re on other women), many of her fans weren’t buying it. One Instagram user (gottahavebricks) said Harlow’s personal offense means very little to the larger discussion on blackface.
“I’m black, and I’m not offended.” I can’t stand that shit. One black person doesn’t speak for the majority. White folks bout to take this bullshit and run with it. It’s not about their “appreciation” or whatever other ignorance you want to call it. It’s simply like this; black women do it, black women are criticized, white women do it, and she praised for being edgy and “starting” a trend. That’s why its a problem. This is blackface. I have an appreciation for pizza, but I’m not gluing pepperonis to my face. There’s a way to support something or someone without becoming it. Black people get a few white friends, and forget their privilege doesn’t include them.
Another (ughvegan) said copying Harlow’s look wasn’t an act of appreciation at all.
“The second white people start doing something it’s automatically “accepted” or “in”. Theres this constant need for white validation, them literally mocking the vitiligo on your face isn’t appreciation. It’s blackface! The fact that you’re ignoring your African American fans who are bringing this to your attention is disheartening.”
After she was roundly criticized for condoning the pictures of women painted to look like her, Harlow took to Instagram to defend herself.
I get it. But It’s one thing to recreate my skin & wear a crown in a photo, & it’s another to recreate my face & then wear a noose (which is not the case). There is a difference in love vs hate & it’s easy to see. There’s this fine line between stealing & showing appreciation or seeing that something’s are being accepted by the world.
Here’s the thing. Whether Harlow is offended or not isn’t the issue. The problem is painting oneself to look like a Black woman is offensive–full stop–no matter what the intention was.
Bottom line: If these women want to pay homage to Harlow they should find a way that does not invoke centuries of racism and degradation for an entire swath of people.