Darker Skinned Glamour Girls

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Paging through an older issue of Pride Magazine, I noticed something that initially stood out to me as strange.

Hmm, I thought to myself, they have a lot of dark skinned women in this magazine. Wonder why?

Then I wondered to myself why I thought it would be strange to have dark skinned women in a magazine that caters to black women. That should have been a no-brainer. So why was I surprised?

It wasn’t until I got home and paged through a few other magazines when it hit me – I thought it was strange because I normally don’t see many women featured in fashion magazines that are darker than myself.

Gabrielle Union and Kelly Rowland tend to illustrate darker complexioned women in mainstream magazines and black based magazines may feature a darker skinned model or two, but representation is seriously lacking.

Later on that evening, I was prepping a large batch of magazines for recycling. After thumbing through about 30 issues of various magazines, I made the following notes:

*One fashion spread featuring a darker skinned woman in the 2006 Vibe Vixen.

*An Azzure ad from that same 2006 era, also featuring darker skinned, plus sized woman

*Last month’s Essence included one profile of a darker skinned business woman, and a couple of advertisements containing a darker skinned woman.

*Self Magazine had a stock photo in January featuring a darker skinned model with a loose natural style.

That’s all I got out of 30 magazines? Unfortunately, the current crop isn’t much better. I also noticed some interesting trends.

To be represented, it appears that darker skinned women have to fit into a certain mold.

Mold 1 – Striking and Exotic

Ajuma:
Ajuma

Alek Wek:
Alek Wek

Or Mold 2 – Used for color contrast:

However, the women featured in the Pride Magazine broke these molds with a quickness.

Recording artist Mica Paris was featured with her hair loose (pictured below) and also in another photo with a white catsuit and large afro.

Mica

Model Rachael Williams was featured as the face of African Pride. This was the back cover ad:

African Pride

Her MySpace Page also includes pictures from photo shoots, like this one:

Rachael Williams

Or this one:

After taking in these pictures, I reflected on the lack of comparable images in American glossies. This is not to say that models like Ajuma and Alek are not beautiful. It just seems like fashion has a specific look that is acceptable for dark skinned women. It is almost as if the woman is not dark with close cropped hair and a bone-thin physique, she simply does not exist. Seeing women like Rachael Williams and Mica Paris gracing the pages of a fashion magazine were a welcome change for hair and size diversity.

March arrived a couple weeks ago, and I quickly ran to the newsstand to pick up the newest copy of Pride. I skimmed through the pages eagerly, only to notice something was missing. Throughout the magazine, the models were mid-brown to fair. So were the subjects for the articles.

The darker-skinned glamour girls were gone again.