Vogue Italia – Fashion forward or backward?

Vogue Italia May 2011 - “The Black Allure”Vogue Italia’s May 2011 issue has a 15-page spread called “Tribute to Black Beauties” featuring the world’s top African American models.

The models featured are Jeneil Williams, Cici Ali, Ubah Hassan, Gayle McDonald, Kelly Moreira, Jae Childs, R’el Dade, Jasmine Tookas, Lily Taylor and Ariel Meredith with blonde haired, blue eyed Kristen McMenamy on the cover.

This is hot off the presses after the Vogue Italia February 2011 “The Black Allure issue, the July 2009 “Barbie Issue and three years after the groundbreaking July 2008 “Black Issue” was published.

So is this another step in the right direction or just a startling admission that nothing has changed in the last three years in terms of ethnic diversity in fashion?

This is what Vogue Italia has this to say about their iconic May 2011 issue:

30-is-the-new-black-quotation-marks2.jpgA tribute is due to the woman whose skin tone ranges from alabaster to mahogany to smooth onyx, who can flawlessly carry any makeup look-from gold dusted lids to fuchsia blush to ripe purple and pink glosses.

These pages pay homage to the versatile woman whose hair can oscillate from a tightly coiled and coifed Afro, to sleek layers, to a slicked back pixie cut in a matter of minutes.

To the divine woman whose enviably full lips, strong, white teeth, and delightful smile 30-is-the-new-black-quotation-marks.jpghave been known to electrify the hearts of many. To the siren whose smooth, velvety skin blocks the sun yet remains supple and unblemished with the passage of time.


Vogue Brazil has followed suit with their January 2011 all-black issue with Emanuela de Paula as the cover model.

There is a lot of discussion about the Vogue Italia spread and whether this is purely tokenism or whether it is celebrating black women and trying to correct the imbalance of ethnic diversity in magazines.

This could slowly be the start of social change like the Australian Cosmo ‘Body Love’ policy started by Mia Freedman back in 1997 when she was the editor of Cosmo and pioneered the regular use of real women of all shapes, sizes and nationalities.


Now in 2011, real women and plus size models are regularly featured throughout Australian Cosmo although admitedly rarely featured on the cover.

I previously wrote about the lack of ethnic representation in Australia and Australian Vogue putting ethnic model Samantha Harris on their June 2010 cover.

I believe this is the way forward where people of different backgrounds are naturally and seamlessly integrated in magazines rather than making an issue of it (literally) and potentially encouraging separatism.

Politics aside, the editorial styled by Giulio Martinelli and shot by Ellen von Unwerth is breathtaking. Buy a copy of Vogue Italia if you’re lucky enough to find one on the newstands or view more of the editorial on their website.


  1. Emma, 9 May 2011, 11:54 am

    Achievements deserve to be celebrated but I look forward to the day when diversity – inside magazines as well as on covers – is the norm, rather than a break from standard practice and therefore something to be highlighted.

  2. Gillian, 9 May 2011, 12:24 pm

    I completely agree Emma. I’m glad that Italia Vogue is making such a strong stand but I also look forward to the day when this is no longer an issue.


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