Indigenous Model Samantha Harris – June 2010 Vogue Covergirl

Samantha Harris - June 2010 Vogue Covergirl Indigenous model Samantha Harris has landed the coveted cover of the June 2010 issue of Vogue onsale today. She is only the second Aboriginal model to appear on the cover of the fashion bible, the first being Elaine George in 1993.

It is very rare to see a black model on the Australian cover of a magazine (not including celebrities and singers). Mia Freedman let us in on an industry secret back in 2005 that black models apparently do not sell magazines.

Naomi Campbell is an outspoken advocate of more racial diversity in the fashion industry and constantly speaks out about the lack of representation of black models.

While Naomi is hardly the poster child for good behaviour and more well known for her with her phone throwing prowess and petty tantrums than trailblazing a path for ethnic models, she certainly does have a valid point.

In 1997 as quoted in the article Campbell famously got into a media catfight with the feared editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, when she relegated Campbell to a story inside the magazine and featured blonde, blue eyed girl Nikki Taylor on the cover.

At the time, Wintour admitted: “It is a fact of life that the colour of a cover-model’s skin (or hair for that matter) dramatically affects news stand sales. Although it is rare for an issue of Vogue to go to the printer without one or more black models featured prominently inside, black models appear less often than I, and many of you, would like on Vogue’s covers which, no one will be shocked to hear, are designed to appeal to as large a group of potential readers as possible.”

In 2008, Vogue Italia made history with its July issue, which featured an all-black cast of models to draw attention to the racial disparities in the world of high fashion. Vogue Italia was supposed to herald the beginning of a new era, one in which black models are just as in demand as white ones.

About the Italian Vogue cover, Naomi said “[Italian Vogue] made some noise, but, unfortunately, we are the same as before,” she said. “People, in the panic of the recession, don’t dare to put a girl of color in their campaign, full stop. Nor of any other race. It’s a shame. It’s very sad.”

Vogue has come under fire before for not using ethnic models. Our own Gemma Ward featured both on the Indian and Chinese inaugural issues of the magazine. While Gemma was photographed with Indian and Chinese models respectively, she was clearly the focus of the cover and promoting westernised ideals of beauty. Sadly, even in their own countries of birth, native models are sidelined in favour of Anglo Saxon women.

As saddened as I am to be writing this post in 2010, Kristie Clements, the editor is somewhat out of vogue (pardon the pun) and has gone against the trend to put an ethnic woman on the cover. The photo shoot is aptly named ‘The new generation of beauty’. Show your support – vote with your wallet and buy this month’s issue of Vogue magazine and/or post on the forums.

It is no wonder then that Naomi Campbell is Samantha’s favourite model. Like her or hate her, Naomi has had a very long career in an industry where the average expiry date is in your mid 20s. If Samantha can have the longeveity and even half the career Naomi has had, she’ll be doing well. She is already causing a stir at Sydney Fashion Week and definitely one to watch.

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  1. Grace, 6 May 2010, 9:41 am

    I love this. I LOVE THIS!
    As a non indigenous woman, I am fed up with the Aboriginal stereotypes we are fed.
    I, for one, am all for Aboriginal people in the mainstream – and that means television, radio and music. When was the last time you saw an Aborigine on Home and Away?
    Samantha looks fantastic – and proud – as she should be.
    I hope this issue sells out.

  2. Ali, 21 May 2010, 2:25 pm

    You GO girl!!!!!!! Samantha you look absolutely gorgeous. It is about time there was some of the natural beauty from our own cultural origins put out there onto Australian shelves and for the rest of the world to see.

    You’ve done your country and people proud!!!!
    Congratulations again…
    I am sure we will be seeing plenty more of this beautiful aboriginal beauty in the future.

  3. Gillian Nalletamby, 22 May 2010, 11:02 am

    The issue seems to be selling well. It was sold out at three newsagencies in my local area. I managed to pick up the last copy at another nearby agency. She is lucky to be on an issue that is onsale during Sydney Fashion Week as that will increase circulation for that issue. Remember to buy the issue this month if you haven’t already!

  4. Michele, 5 July 2010, 1:56 am

    How come they never feature an abo model who’s totally black ,with flat wide nose ?
    Yes, Samantha is beautiful, but if you look carefully, her features are still very European looking especially the nose.

  5. Kate, 9 July 2010, 4:27 am

    Samantha is half Aboriginal. She’s also half German. It’s no accident she’s on the cover and they play up her aboriginal ethnicity as a marketing tool. She is mixed and looks it.

    Michele, regardless of ethnicity, facial features come in a wide variety. Waris Dirie is a Somalian model with petite features that did not come courtesy of a scalpel. There are many African and black american/black european women with petite features.

    Wide noses aren’t sought after for the most part because people, regardless of background, don’t find wide noses to be the most attractive. I’ve been to China, Ethiopia, Brazil, Japan, England, Russia and elsewhere and you find this “ideal” everywhere.

    Gisele Bundchen got a nose job but was still attractive prior to her rhinoplasty. She used to have very dark hair. Once she got her nosejob and died her hair blonde, she became popular.

    Overprocessing such as relaxing, straightening using high heat, other perms and extensions all contribute to a receding hairline. Naomi has lost several inches of hairline due to this. A recent candid shot revealed how bad her hair loss. But, she did it to herself. To thine own self be true.

    While it became popular a long time ago to call anyone (based on physiognomy) with large features black, aboriginal and black aren’t the same thing regardless of whether people choose to identify themselves as black. Samantha Harris is not black. Her mother isn’t black.

    I can’t think of a single black female celebrity who wears their hair natural in public, at events. It just doesn’t happen. The unfortunate trend is to make the hair pretty much the opposite of its natural state. It’s laughable that many of these women claim to be black and proud. Clearly, they’re not.

    Samantha’s very striking and attractive. She’s beautiful. and it’s great for someone mixed like her who embraces her ethnicity to be in the limelight. If you look at her on the runway, you can tell that sometimes, she lacks confidence.

  6. Gillian Nalletamby, 9 July 2010, 8:06 am

    “Wide noses aren’t sought after for the most part because people, regardless of background, don’t find wide noses to be the most attractive. I’ve been to China, Ethiopia, Brazil, Japan, England, Russia and elsewhere and you find this “ideal” everywhere.”

    I would really question what came first; the chicken or the egg? Do people prefer straight hair and straight noses or is this what they are led or taught to be believe is the ‘beauty ideal’ and what they should strive for? I would argue that it is the latter rather than the former and this is why I wish strong black role models in society like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey would throw away their hair straighteners and embrace their black features. The ‘beauty ideal’ is dynamic and strongly influenced by popular culture, celebrities and dignatries and they should wield this power more responsibly.

    It’s a shame that we do not see more positive black role models but I for one will continue to wear my hair naturally curly no matter how negative comments I get about my hair or people asking me if I straighten my hair.

    And for anyone reading this post, asking someone with curly hair whether they straighten their hair may seem like an innocent question to you but you’re actually making an indirect statement that their curly hair should be straight.

    Thank you for your feedback Kate!

  7. Teri LaFlesh, 9 July 2010, 3:06 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article, Gillian—there are so many great points being brought up. I’m mixed (black and white), and though I was ashamed of my curly hair most of my life, once I embraced it, let it curl as much as it wants to, I get lots of compliments on it. I think there is room for those of us who don’t fit this idealized image the media is putting out there for us to consume. It’s just that we aren’t as marketable as more standardized forms of beauty (such as the straight hair, thin bodies and noses, light skin). I agree with Gillian, that in many ways I think the media might be stuck in a certain ideal, and peddling this idea of straight hair and light features feeds on itself. The more they tell us it’s beautiful, the more we believe it is so. I do wish very much Michelle Obama would wear her hair curly. What is so wrong with hair that curls instead of hanging straight down? It’s almost as if it’s a dirty secret that many of us of African ancestry have curly hair. And just like Gillian, I often get asked if I ever straighten my hair, as if having it curly isn’t good enough just as it is. I usually answer that question with “Why would I?”

    Another concern I have is that in many ways showing this image of Samantha Harris as the “new” aboriginal face is terribly unfair to those who are darker aboriginal people. This is the same as Soledad O’Brien being the new face of being Black in America. I think Soledad is lovely, but I don’t know if it’s fair for her to be held up as a person who represents the black experience in America. Michele has a great point that though Samantha is stunning, she’s also perpetuating the “light ideal”, which is an unfair and unobtainable goal for those with darker skin and/or features that are considered more African or Aboriginal. It’s an impossible standard. It’s holding up someone mixed like me and saying my features are now supposed to be the ideal for all Africans or Aboriginal people. I got many of my features by being half white. It isn’t fair to then tell others who don’t have the same mixed heritage that this is what the media considers beautiful. It’s crazy. This is the thinking which causes more internalized self-hate (such as the awful “good hair” versus “bad hair” belief). I have a friend who is African, who was born and raised there, and she said even there the ideal of beauty is towards the “lighter-the-better” mentality, and it breaks my heart. There is room for all shades, all hair textures, all noses, all body types. The media should not have such power in dictating to us what is beautiful when there is so much beauty out there in all different packages (I know, I’m an idealist).

  8. Mandy Geralys, 10 July 2010, 4:04 pm

    I too am mixed race. Born in South Africa . I totally agree with Teri that the media contribute largely to what we perceive as being beautiful . I am so dispondant at this point that I don’t even buy beauty mags any more. Simply because the largest percentage of these mags only cater for thin, lighter skinned, sraight and SMOOTH textured hair girls! You would read on the cover” trendy hairstyles for summer” , only to discover none of these styles apply to us tightly curly haired girls! This would just pound my confidence down into the ground again. Therefore I stopped buying these mags alltogether. Rather sad really,as reading these mags is suppose to be fun and suppose to inspire us and keep us up to date with trends.

  9. acacia finn, 2 August 2010, 11:51 pm

    it’s not if your hair is curly – it’s really your cultural upbringing – samantha harris is of mixed heritage – she grew up black in south tweed – i remember her mum – maryna sussyea – who also grew up black – growing up urban black does not make you less black – neither does having mixed heritage – it’s what you know – how you grow up and with whom……….. we can all mix it up…………….

  10. Natalie Smith, 28 April 2011, 11:09 am

    What really irritates me is that black women like myself always have to justify ourselves. My caucasian friends can go to the salon and spray on a different skin colour, pump up their lips to look african, wear a fake booty – and guess what – no questions of racial identity are raised? I’m talking about people who risk cancer to change the colour of their skin!

    However if a black women wants to change her hair then she’s got to answer to the world. Her racial identity is called into question. People want Michelle Obama to wear her hair a certain way to ‘set an example’. WTF? She can wear her hair however she damn well pleases. I saw some caucasian lady stand up on Oprah’s TV show and told Oprah that she should wear her hair without a relaxer. WHO THE HELL is she to tell Oprah how to wear her hair? What makes it okay for a person to tell black women how they should define their own beauty – whether they are saying ‘lighter is better’ or ‘get back to your roots’? I get the feeling there are people who think I should roll out of bed and not touch my hair or face, just to make people feel better about their politics.

    Yes there are issues of how black beauty is potrayed in the media. But that doesn’t mean people can tell me how to wear my hair, whether I can wear contact lenses or whatever else I want to do.

    Lay off, and let models like Samantha Harris be, whether she is mixed, dark, too fair, too dark whatever. It’s ridiculous that this forum has turned into issues of ‘racial identity’ where if it were an anglo model it would be about the clothes, the make up etc.

    Annoys me like you wouldn’t believe. When certain sectors of the community stop spray tanning, pumping up their lips and faking a booty pop, then come and talk to me about racial identity. Until then, LAY OFF.

  11. Gillian, 28 April 2011, 11:27 am

    Yes, I can see you’re annoyed but not as half as I’m annoyed as I am when I’m always called into question for choosing to wear my hair naturally curly. I personally would like there to be more positive role models to show women of colour that is acceptable and beautiful to have dark skin and naturally curly or afro hair. I don’t know what world you live in but from where I’m standing, there is a less of a problem of black women being questioned about whether they are straightening, colouring their hair or wearing extensions and more of a problem that black women who choose to embrace their natural beauty are being ridiculed for it and pressured to conform to a so called ‘ideal standard of beauty’.

  12. Natalie Smith, 3 May 2011, 1:25 am

    Yes it would be nice to have positive role models who embrace their ‘natural beauty’. in fact if women of all looks did this worldwide we would have a revolution on our hands. couldn’t care less how another person wears their hair I don’t need a magazine to tell me that, I was raised with great role models. For those less fortunate and who want to read about role models over and above who has curly hair or how light/ dark they are, you may need to read more widely than glossy mags and empty blogs. A real role model makes a statement with her mind not what sits on top of it. The world I live in is one where this point was made clear.

  13. Gillian, 3 May 2011, 7:47 am

    We will have to agree to disagree because I do think it is important for children and girls with afro or curly hair to see people in popular culture (meaning popular or ’empty’ blogs, magazines, TV etc) who have embraced their natural beauty and do not make them feel like their only choice is to straighten their hair.

    Wearing my hair naturally curly is making a statement but it is one you may simply not care about that and that is perfectly fine but perhaps instead of coming to a blog with your preconceived ideas and telling people to ‘lay off’, you could try and listen to another point of view. I certainly support your claim that women have the right to choose how to wear their hair but I also have the right to wear mine the way I want.

    If you re-read this original post, the article wasn’t just about having women with natural curly or afro hair on magazines. Samantha who is half German has straight hair (or I’ve always seen her wear it straight) as a lot of Indigenous Australians do and incidentally Naomi Campbell who I also wrote about in the article usually wears her hair straight but I’m very glad to see women of colour appearing on magazine covers whether they have straight, afro or curly hair.

  14. Lo, 1 June 2011, 7:27 pm

    Kate: Your comments are deeply offensive. I am an Aboriginal person and have always been black. It’s the colour of my skin. It’s what I’m called. It’s what I identify as. Who are you, as a non-Aboriginal person, to tell me what I am and what I am not?

    It does not matter if Samantha Harris is half-German. Most Aboriginal people don’t care about ‘percentages’, since they’re white labels that have been infringed upon us since the days of the Australian government forcibly removing our children.

  15. Ailsa, 24 August 2011, 8:03 am

    Australia has many beautiful people, it is the attitudes of non indigenous people who would not even look at using them to gloss the cover of their magazines, nor advertise, their clothes and products. Using Samantha Harris shows that non indigenous attitudes are changing and they are accepting Aboriginal people into Australian society after 200years. Not to take anything away from Samantha she is very beautiful.


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