Category Archives: fashion

CW14

Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

A 1960s promo shot of The Supremes, featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like Woman’s Day, GQ, Us Weekly, and InStyle, with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

Eventually, Gainer started a Tumblr and Facebook fan page, both called Vintage Black Glamour, full of gorgeous images that rarely make it into the public consciousness. While her novel went onto the back burner, her web sites drew the attention of a London publisher, Rocket 88. Gainer’s first book, a nonfiction coffee-table tome about women celebrities, Vintage Black Glamour, which will come out this September, can be preordered now.

We spoke with Gainer over the phone, and she explained to us the stories behind the photos she’s found, why glamour is important, and why Vintage Black Glamour will be more than just a collection of pretty pictures.

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Día De Los Muertos Video Special

By Arturo R. García

With All Saints Day & Día De Los Muertos approaching, Mayitzin’s 2012 look at the holiday is worth a look for anybody curious about how the tradition has evolved into the day of rememberance we know today. (Also, the musical selection that opens the video, the 4th Movement of “Noche de los Mayas” (Noche de encantamiento) as performed by Mexico City’s Philharmonic Orchestra, is definitely a compelling choice.)

Meanwhile, Pocho.com’s Sara Inés Calderón prepared a quick, 3-step process for doing your nails calavera-style, as part of her recent series of videos centering on Halloween.

Lastly, because the legend of La Llorona still rings out around this time of year, two versions of the song that bears her name, beginning with Chavela Vargas:

And a rendition by Lila Downs:

Rick Owens sends a bevy of thick, black women down the runway. Progress?

Image from Rick Owens spring 2014 presentation, courtesy of New York magazine.

Image from Rick Owens spring 2014 presentation, courtesy of New York magazine.

 

The lack of racial diversity in the fashion industry has been a hot topic of late. So too, fashion’s celebration of bodies that few women–even models–can realistically obtain. So, Rick Owens’ spring 2014 presentation in Paris (see a slideshow of images at the link), which featured snarling, mostly-black members of a step team (Howard University’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority), with thick thighs and curvy middles, should have been a breath of fresh air–a blow against homogeneity.

Or not.

Kinitra Brooks, pop culture professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, helped me put my feelings in perspective when she said, “I had a mixed reaction. I found the theme of Vicious and the hyperbolic mean-mugging highly problematic. Particularly in regards to the stigma types of strong and angry black women. And then, I was hypnotized by their beautiful shades of skin against those earth tones and their legs, my God their legs! They were so muscular and full of purpose and supported their bodies as they performed all types of physical feats. I read an article that spoke of the women as blessing the audience with their awesomeness and then exiting in such a way that said, ‘Bye now! We are way too cool for this place.’”

As happy as I am to see fresh faces on the runway, unfortunately, I can’t fully appreciate these women, as my friend did, because of how the Owens show was steeped in racial and gendered stereotype. The models’ aggressive expressions and movements seem designed to play into old myths of black women as bestial and hard. I would have appreciated it if Owens had presented those models sans theatrics. As it is, the show seems not a celebration of diverse beauty, but as if the designer thought, “Hey, what’s the opposite of the ethereal and beautiful white women who typically line catwalks? Thick, angry black chicks. Edgy!”

Indeed, Owens called the show his “fuck-you to conventional beauty.” And there we have it. The Owens show is less an expression that women of diverse races and body types can be beautiful, than a designer using brown bodies to present what he believes is anti-beauty to flip the fashion script. I think, this is not so much progress as business as usual.

Meanwhile On Tumblr: Taking The Piss Out Of White People Who Think They’re Not Racist

By Andrea Plaid

While Twitter is having a whole bunch of brilliant fun at the expense of Paula Deen and her racism (and rightfully so), Above Average Productions makes fun of those white folks who feel they should be congratulated for basic manners and human kindness toward people of color. (Though I’m not sure why the woman at the end of the vid is doing Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra…)

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Open Thread: A Tale Of Two (Racialized) Spoofs

By Andrea Plaid

I really need to figure out why people outside of Black communities stay needing to play around with still-volatile n-word. It just doesn’t go too well, especially when folks want to use it to show how oh-so-edgy they are. Example: here’s a spoof on the going-for-a-hipper-image Kmart commercials that goes for it:

Personally, I’m not here for the hipster racism or the Black person in it as a “The Black Best Friend” justification. But that’s me.

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Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.10: “A Tale Of Two Cities”

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and  Andrea Plaid

Gratuitous photo of Dawn being fabulous. You're welcome.

Gratuitous photo of Dawn (Teyonah Parris) being fabulous. You’re welcome.

Does Mad Men love L.A.? If their annual trips out there right about this time are any indication, the answer is sunny, sunglasses-wearing “yes.” However, does the Retrolicious Roundtable love Mad Men in L.A.? Weeeelllllll…

Tami, Renee Martin from Womanist Musings and Fangs For The Fantasy, and I debate the merits of these westerly jaunts, the naturalness of Joan’s and Peggy’s alliance, and the existence of moderate Republicans, complete with a bunch of spoilers.

Tami: I am usually the person who gets the conversation started on these roundtables. And my tablemates can attest that this week it took me several days. This episode of Mad Men felt like filler–the weakest of the season for me. I hate it when they go to Los Angeles!

Renee: I didn’t necessarily consider it filler this time because of everything that happened at the office while Roger and Don were gone. Seeing Joan assert herself was worth quite a bit to me, and I am so tired of them overlooking everything she does and treating her like a glorified secretary.

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: Red-Carpet Bossness, Accurate Maps, And Memorial Day’s Origins

By Andrea Plaid

Let’s start off this post with appreciating the bossness captured in this photo:

Michelle Thrush and Misty Upham

According to People Of Color With Killer Fashion:

Focus on the two ladies:  Michelle Thrush, from the  Cree Nation in  Canada in the black dress, and  Misty Upham from the Blackfeet Nation in the USA in a light dress. Misty says they are the first Native Americans to walk the Cannes red carpet. Also, the man right behind Misty is Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro.   They are doing so for their movie, Jimmy P. Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.

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Friday Foolishness: Selena Gomez Is Wearing A Bindi?

By Andrea Plaid

Image via The Aerogram

Image via The Aerogram.

Usually, this space at this time is reserved for the Racialicious Crush Of The Week. But sometimes we gotta keep our Fridays light by giving some side-eye to some face-palming foolishness.

This week’s features some old-school kyriarchy from former Disney star Selena Gomez, who’s been styling out with bindis since the MTV Video Awards in mid-April. Before folks jump in the comments and talk about how that’s impossible for a woman of color to appropriate from another culture of color…as we say around these parts, “If you’re not part of the group, then you’re more than likely appropriating.” And Gomez, who is the child of a Mexican-American dad and a white mom, wears the bindi with the privileges of a non-South Asian woman born and reared in the US.

The Aerogram’s Jaya Bedi wrote a great post eloquently summing up what’s all wrong with Gomez putting on a bindi:

 It is a problem when religious symbols become widespread and therefore lose their religious significance. But the fear of dilution isn’t really an issue here — the bindi has lost whatever religious significance it once had to Hindus some time ago, and is now used mostly for decoration. Madonna and Gwen Stefani didn’t turn the bindi into a fashion statement when they adopted it in the 90s — we desi women already did so years before that.

What makes the non-South Asian person’s use of the bindi problematic is the fact that a  pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were  to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t. They lend the bindi an aura of cool that a desi woman simply can’t compete with, often with the privilege of automatic acceptance in a society when many non-white women must fight for it.

I understand being a little flummoxed at the rage that the bindi issue inspires in our community. The anger always seems disproportionate to the crime. But will I celebrate the “mainstreaming” of a South Asian fashion item? Nope. Not when the mainstream doesn’t accept the people who created it.

Related posts:

Cultural Appropriation: Homage Or Insult

Indigenous Feminism And Cultural Appropriation

On Cultural Appropriation: Halloween And Beyond

Miss(ed) Representations, Part One: “I’m A Culture, Not A Costume” Campaign

Open Letter To the PocaHotties And Indian Warriors This Halloween