For a continent that is often grossly misrepresented in the mainstream media, fashion publications included, a chance to change the way that the rest of the world view’s their shared culture and contributions would have been mind altering to say the least. However, with Condé Nast denying Cameroonian photographer Mario Epanya’s proposal to develop an African edition of Vogue, the culturally diverse continent once again is relegated to safari spreads and pleas for aid.
Condé Nast has yet to comment on why, with 18 editions of the magazine published and distributed from India to Australia, Vogue Africa did not fit their criteria for licensing the Vogue name and likeness. Speculators have alleged everything from the more pressing issues plaguing the people of Africa to the logistics of distributing a publication to 1 billion people in over 2,00 different languages. The most disturbing reason being cited has to do with the lack of diversity in the mainstream fashion media.
After Vogue Italia’s Black issue way back in 2008 and the recent calls for more realistic models, Condé Nast had no problem with Vogue Italia launching Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy sections of their website-all in perfect English by the way-to satisfy the masses calling for diversity. The problem with both of these sites is that, as we Americans learned over 50 years ago, separate is not always equal. By segregating these populations into their own online editions, we are in fact placing a band-aid on an issue that need to be remedied not covered. Instead of focusing on featuring more girls who look like Sessilee Lopez and Crystal Renn on the pages of Vogue-did you notice its always Vogue Italia attempting to display more diversity-we push these girls into their own site on away from the mainstream. I didn’t know Vogue Black existed until recently, and as an African-American woman I was appalled to find a site where Tyra Banks interviews people and stories on stereotypical Black issues are featured-FYI there is already a Vogue Black in print, it’s called Essence. Again, the issue with this is not the clichéd images of women sporting natural hair and Black models smiling backstage, the problem is that there needs to be equal representation on the pages of mainstream outlets to remedy the diversity issue.
Getting back to Vogue Africa, without a definite statement from Condé Nast all we can do is speculate as to why they passed on the opportunity to showcase such a culturally rich continent in a positive light. All too often Africa is still portrayed as a war-torn land of savages ravaged with infectious epidemics, the fact that there are areas of affluence, a rich tradition in textiles and the arts dating back centuries before the founding of America, a diverse array of cultures and traditions, is often left out when mainstream media attempts to define the entire continent with brief snippets from a few countries. Hopefully with this story burning up the blogs, Condé Nast will at least look into expanding the Vogue brand to Africa not only in an effort to inject more diversity into the fashion periodical section at Barnes and Nobles but to also show more of the world the truth about Africa, which is not a country despite that popular misconception.
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