Monday, September 13, 2010

Perhaps We Should Not Celebrate Gabourey Sidibe on The Cover of Elle

Gabourey Sidibe is featured on the cover of Elle magazine in celebration of their 25th anniversary.

I have spent the last few days reading the positive commentary about how wonderful it is to have a fat Black woman on the cover of a major magazine.  Gabby is after all, not only fabulously beautiful, she is extremely talented and it is a step forward to see her in the mainstream, which has a tendency to promote a thin Euro-centric aesthetic.  So, we are all supposed to be happy right?  Yeah for inclusion except for this:

and this:


Do you see the point that I am making yet? I am sure that Elle felt that just having Gabby on the cover was making some statement about how progressive they are, and so I suppose that actually having a picture of Gabby in her natural skin colour was easy to deem unimportant.  As the two other images reveal, Gabby is actually several shades darker than she is pictured in Elle.  Photoshopping is quite common in magazines, but when they chosoe to lighten a dark skinned Black woman, it is racist no matter what the original intent was.

Light bright and damn near White, is still the standard in the media, unless they are trying to portray a POC as guilty of a crime.


Not only is this photo a creation of Whiteness, it will also functions to support the hueism that has historically plagued the Black community.  Due to racism, Blacks have to struggle to get ahead and the few people that invariably get the golden ticket to mix and interact with Whiteness, are generally speaking lighter in hue.  Whether it is fashion, with its anti-Black model perspective ( don't you dare bring up Italian Vogue), advertising, movies or music, dark skinned Black women are notably absent, unless of course they want to paint us as exotic.  Even to appear as exotic, one must be absolutely flawless, with European features.

Christina Hendricks of AMC's Mad Men is currently the hot new thing with her size 14 body.   People are questioning whether her current popularity means that Americans are finally moving away from the twiggy aesthetic to embrace women with curves.  She has suddenly become the new woman, while Black models are being turned away for having a booty.  She is everywhere and yet, can you imagine a magazine deciding for one moment to darken her skin colour? What if the price for appearing in a high profile magazine was darkening her skin to make her more appealing to the Black community?  Ludicrous isn't it?  Whiteness is power and therefore this would be seen as a reduction in her status not an uplift.

No matter what image we see in the media, we cannot take it at face value because there are always larger systems at work.  Sure, it is fabulous to see an attractive fat Black woman grace the cover of Elle, but what does it really mean, if the editors felt that they had lighten her image.  Did Black women really gain anything, or were we once again told in a very subtle way to get to the back of the bus?