Magazine under fire for 'blacking up' white model to portray 'African Queen'

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Magazine under fire for 'blacking up' white model to portray 'African Queen'
Ondria Hardin © Numero magazine.

A French fashion magazine has caused controversy by "blacking up" 16-year-old white model for a photo shoot entitled "African Queen".

Ondria Hardin appears in the March issue of Numéro magazine "heavily bronzed" to resemble a black woman.

The teen model — who usually sports blonde hair and very pale skin — wears an African-style headdress in several of the shots, and Masai-inspired bangles and necklaces to complete the African look.

The choice to paint a Caucasian model instead of using one with a darker skin tone has sparked a firestorm of criticism online, with bloggers around the globe condemning the casting choice.

Ondria Hardin © Numero magazine.

Ondria Hardin © Numero magazine.

"Why hire a black model when you can paint a white one?" fashion blogger Foudre wrote.

Women's site Jezebel was similarly horrified, saying the use of a white model to portray a black character could discourage black women from pursuing careers in fashion.

"It's impossible to look at this and not ache for young women of colour who want to pursue careers in modelling," Jezebel reporter Laura Beck wrote.

"When they don't see themselves on the runway or in magazines, it could be very easy for them to think, 'huh, I guess modelling isn't for me'.

"Then the status quo remains, and the runways remain monotone. If jobs for 'African Queen' photo spreads aren't going to black women, what hope is there?"

It's not the first time a French fashion magazine has got into hot water for "blacking up" a model.

French Vogue caused a scandal in 2009 when it painted supermodel Lara Stone's skin black for a photo shoot styled by long-time editor Carine Roitfield.

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