Glamour Magazine on Women, Race, and Beauty

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop.

Last August, a former Glamour editor found herself in a hailstorm of controversy after she gave a speech to a law firm where she indicated that an afro was not an office appropriate hairstyle. Jezebel had the scoop:

[A] recent slide show by an unidentified Glamour editor on the “Dos and Don’ts of Corporate Fashion” at a New York law firm shed some light on the topic, according to this month’s American Lawyer magazine.

First slide up: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the ‘Glamour’ editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was ‘shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go.

In November of that year, Glamour tried to make amends to its readership by hosting a panel to discuss Women, Race, and Beauty. The March Issue of Glamour contains the transcript from the panel as well as some extra information about the panelists and some sidebars.

Reading the finished product, I notice I am left feeling unsatisfied. It’s kind of like when I saw The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift soundtrack advertised. DJ Shadow, Mos Def, Verbal from M-Flo, Dragon Ash, The Far*East Movement, and N.E.R.D. were all featured but after I previewed the tracks, I ended up leaving the CD in the store. How did something so right go so wrong?

I got the same feeling from this Glamour article. All the all stars are here: Farai Chideya (NPR, News & Notes), Vanessa Bush (Essence), Jami Floyd (TV Anchor), Daisy Hernandez (Colorlines), Lisa Price (Carol’s Daughter Hair Products), Venus Opal Reese (PH.D, University of Texas), Mally Roncal (Celebrity Make Up Artist/make up creator), and Barbara Trepagnier (Professor of Sociology). And yet…

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Interview with Mat Johnson, author of graphic novel Incognegro

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Mat Johnson is winner of the prestigious Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction and currently teaches at the University of Houston, Creative Writing Program. Read more about him at Niggerati. Click the thumbnails below to read full-size pages from his new graphic novel, Incognegro.

Carmen: Mat – congrats on all the great media coverage your new book is getting! (New York Times, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

Mat: Thanks. It’s a hell of a lot better than watching a book tank, I’ll tell you that.

Carmen: LOL I’m sure. Well you’ve been a co-host on our podcast, Addicted to Race a couple times (episode 57 and episode 61)…

Mat: I miss that. We had fun.

Carmen: …and longtime listeners will remember that former co-host Jen and I used to do a segment called “Racial Spy.” Your book takes the racial spy concept to a whole new level – can you explain to our readers what Incognegro is all about?

Mat: Incognegro is about a mixed race Negro journalist who looks white who investigates lynchings in the 1930s. The story is about when his own brother is framed for a murder, and he must go Incognegro to solve the crime and free him.

Carmen: As soon as I read that synopsis, I was hooked.

Mat: So was Vertigo. I sold them the idea based on the synopsis. [Note from Carmen: Vertigo is Mat's publisher, they're an imprint of DC Comics.]

Carmen: How did you come to make Incognegro a graphic novel?

Mat: I have read comics since I was 6 and still read them. I thought this story had the elements of the comic hero, but had the chance to do something new in the form as well. With my prose, the work is character based, prose based. Graphic writing just let me focus on the story and the dialogue.

Carmen: I think the format really works well – as I was reading it, I kept imagining what an awesome movie it would make. Speaking of… I hear there is interest in turning Incognegro into a film. Anything you can say on record about that at this point? Continue reading

Latino Artists Bear Burden of Anti- Immigrant Frenzy

JLo in Bordertown(Jennifer Lopez in “Bordertown,” which won’t be seen in the United States)

by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodiguez, originally published at Multiplicative Indentity

In 2007, Mexican-born author Reyna Grande’s first novel, “Across a Hundred Mountains,” is released to critical acclaim, and wins the American Book Award – yet Grande’s San Diego bookstore appearance is canceled after anti-immigrant patrons call the manager to protest their support of a novel by and about “illegals”.

In 2004, the South Coast Repertory Theater in Costa Mesa, Calif., kills its Hispanic Playwright’s Project, in part to appease donors who fear “illegals” benefiting from their money.

In 2007, Touchstone Pictures pulls the plug on “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a feature film starring Eva Longoria, about a fully assimilated Mexican American woman, saying there is nothing particularly “Latina” about an educated, professional shopaholic from Texas; meaning, the character is “too American” for audiences to believe as “Latina”. (Meanwhile, Texas is no longer a majority-white state, and most Latinos there speak English…)

In 2005, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles dismantles all four of its minority playwright development programs.

In 2008, People magazine puts Latina singer Christina Aguilera on the cover and sees the average number of copies sold drop by more than 100,000.

The Latin Grammys, created in 2000 with a mainstream English-language CBS audience in mind, have since been downgraded to Univision only, in part due to protests from anti-Latino viewers.

In 2007, ABC decides to pull the plug on The George Lopez Show, even though the show had better ratings than at least two other series that were renewed; he is replaced by a short-lived sitcom about cavemen.

Also in 2007, Jennifer Lopez wraps filming on the Gregory Nava movie “Bordertown,” about serial killings of Mexican women along the US-Mexico border, only to find that it will not be released in the United States after all; hostile anti-Mexican reaction in screenings relegate the film to release in Europe only. Variety magazine savages the film’s anti-NAFTA stance. The film goes on to win several awards at the Berlin film festival, including one from Amnesty International.

I, meanwhile, have seen my publisher decide to stop printing my books simultaneously in Spanish for the domestic market, citing a waning interest from booksellers for such material. Latina authors in my circle of friends all say times have gotten harder and harder for them over the past two or three years, with several telling me they, like I, have been on the receiving end of more and more hate-mail through their web sites and blogs. Personally, I have seen the advances paid on my books decline by 80 percent, and the size of my book tours slashed from 14 cities to 4.

Taken separately, these anecdotes might appear to be nothing more than bad luck, or flukes, a the natural ebb and flow of a career in the fickle entertainment industry. But taken together, and held up against a shifting corporate media climate that increasingly scapegoats and targets immigrants and Latinos (a trend both the ACLU and FBI blame for drastic rise in hate-crimes against Latinos), they paint a frightening picture of an increasingly hostile America for all Latinos – creative artists included.

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links for 2008-03-04

New Hermes campaign shows desi model in her native (colonized) habitat

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

It was just Thursday when we wondered why fashion designers and editors don’t seem to be able to use models of color without exoticizing/exploiting their race or culture. And last summer, we discussed Vogue’s obsession with romanticizing colonized Africa and Asia.

Folks at Hermes must have been reading closely because they managed to squeeze both blunders into a single ad campaign.

Check out their new ads, featuring desi model Lakshmi Menon. And lo and behold, what else appears in the ads? Elephants! With colorful henna-esque tattoos! And jodhpurs! Lest we forget the glorious days of British colonial rule in India!

See the rest of the ads here. Via FabSugar.

“Create Your Hero” Down to Two

by Racialicious guest contributor Elton Joe

Word on the tubes is Heroes will return in September . In the meanwhile, dedicated fans can check out promotions such as NBC and Sprint’s Create Your Hero, which, through fan voting on lists of attributes, has culminated in two new characters, Santiago and Audrey:

Santiago

Santiago is twenty three. He is an only child, and lives with his mother in a poor part of Lima. He works as an auto mechanic, but has a burning desire to go out in the world and accomplish something that will make his mother truly proud.

Santiago lost his father years ago to the Peruvian civil war. He carries that loss in his heart, but has found solace in the teachings of the Catholic church. Santiago attends mass every Sunday, in a local cathedral which was built by the Spanish Conquistadors more than four hundred years ago.

It was one Sunday after mass when Santiago first discovered his powers. He was playing soccer with his friends in a dusty lot, when he suddenly realized that he was faster-much faster-than his opponents. In fact he was so fast, that he had to hide his ability in order not to attract too much attention.

Santiago loves being fast-he uses his power to become the star of his soccer team-but he believes that his abilities are a gift from God, and feels strongly that they should only be used for good.

Audrey

Audrey is eighteen. She lives with her mother and younger sister in Paris, in an apartment above the family’s bakery. Audrey’s father is out of the picture, and Audrey’s mother has fallen sick, so Audrey has been forced to take responsibility for the family business, despite the fact that she is still in school.

It is while working behind the counter at the bakery that Audrey discovers her power-the power to affect the speed of other people. Audrey can speed people up, or slow them down to a crawl.

Suddenly everything is possible. Audrey can easily help her sick mother, finish her homework on time, and hang out with her friends-practically all at the same time.

However, Audrey begins to succumb to the temptation of using her powers for darker purposes. She starts by doing nothing more than speeding up her math class to get out early, but then, before she knows it, she is slowing down everyone in the bakery so that she can steal money from the cash register.

As Audrey’s understanding of her powers grows, she resolves to use them for the greater good, but sometimes her means of getting to that good are morally questionable.

Latin Americans always seem to turn out strongly Catholic in the Heroes world, but in general, I don’t think Santiago and Audrey are stereotypes.

When I first wrote about Create Your Hero, I called it a “pathetic attempt at corporate creativity.” I wanted to find something overtly offensive about the promotion, because I was tired of the all-too-common Hollywood mentality that actors of color must be pigeonholed into roles defined by racial stereotypes. Actors of color often seem to be restricted to particular roles based on their race. And casting directors often seem to forget about the possibility of filling non-race-specific roles with non-whites. As aspiring actor Liam Liu (Ken Leung) said in David Ren’s Shanghai Kiss, “Why do I always have to play an Asian guy? I was born in Queens. Why can’t I just play a guy from Queens?”

Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek was played by a black actress, Nichelle Nichols. The role was written for a person of African descent, but Gene Roddenberry’s multicultural vision of the future meant that this woman of color had an important place on the bridge next to a diverse cast of multiple races and even an alien. She was black and proud to be black, yet wasn’t confined by her blackness. This is what I want for actors of color.

Although a brief look at Create Your Hero’s process of voting on labels such as “rugged” or “exotic” seemed to reveal a reliance on shallow stereotypes, I now believe the end result, created from a series of concise-yet-diverse categories, has potential. I think the challenge now is for the writers to do something interesting and surprising with the winner in the contest between Santiago and Audrey, who will star in a live-action series on NBC.com.

Claire is a blonde cheerleader, and Hiro is a Japanese cubicle worker, yet they became much more than stereotypes might have suggested. I hope the new Hero will also belie his or her brief summary, and that when Heroes returns in the fall, we can expect more characters who evolve beyond their original parameters.