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.
One would hope sport media outlets might take their civic duty to foster critical thinking, public engagement, and informed debated seriously. Their approach to the representations in Native Americans in sport suggest otherwise. Under the veil of fairness and balance, they opt to speak for, to be silent and to silence as preferred pathways.
When ESPN columnist Rick Reilly offered a defense of Native American mascots because the American Indians he knew did not have a problem with them. Flouting his whiteness and playing his privilege with little regard, he spoke for Native Americas. His word – his whiteness, his platform – made their words meaningful. His editors neither batted an eye nor cleared a space for Native Americans to express themselves.
I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.
I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.
[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.
Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles. Or because of them.
Vogue Italia, the magazine known for taking a stand against anorexia and promoting the use of black models in fashion, made another statement this week, putting an Asian woman on its cover for the first time.
Fei Fei Sun On Vogue Italia’s cover. Image via People.
Chinese model Fei Fei Sun covers the magazine’s January issue (out worldwide Monday), a celebration of the multicultural, border-free facets of fashion. Editor in chief Franca Sozzani, who works as a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations’ Fashion 4 Development Project, chose Sun for the honor.
The kicker about Sun’s cover is, says the celebrity magazine:
According to the Daily Mail, French Vogue was the first European magazine to put an Asian model on its cover–Chinese supermodel Du Juan, in 2011. And while both British and American editions of Vogue have featured Asian models in spreads, neither has selected an Asian woman for its cover…yet.
I have to admit it: as much as I loved seeing Octavia Spencer giving some serious 60s retro sexiness on the cover of Elle,
I would’ve loved to see Elle give more women of color some love for their “Women In Hollywood” issue.
But then, from what I gather, Spencer isn’t getting total cover girl respect: this gorgeous cover is only available to subscribers. If you pick up the November Elle from your local supermarket or newsstands, you’ll see Sarah Jessica Parker, not Spencer.
I generally skip the celebrity interviews in Lucky. I was planning to do the same with Eva Longoria’s, but I happened to catch the term “Federalist Papers” on a skim of “Happily Eva After” and decided to double back. And I’m glad I did:
She’s more effusive when talking about the minutiae of education reform in the Latino community or how hard it is to pass a citizenship test. (Longoria had her assistant, a U.S. native, take the test. She failed.) “They’re not easy questions. When was the Constitution ratified?” Longoria asks the room.
“1786!” shouts out the photographer.
“No!” says Longoria. “1787.”
She’s been studying the Constitution as well, both for herself, but also as a way for her, as a Democrat, to comprehend the Right. “I think it’s important that people who are politically active understand the other side as well,” she says. “I just read the Ronald Reagan biography. When you’re fighting for social justice, one of my biggest pet peeves is speaking out of ignorance.”
Longoria tells me she’s been interested in politics since she was 17, when a high school teacher in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, made her class volunteer for a Presidential campaign. It was 1992; she picked Clinton. Right now, as part of Obama’s reelection campaign, she’s been spending a lot of time in the swing states, talking with women and Latino voters.
Celebrities, especially female celebrities, struggle to be seen as full human beings. So it’s laudable that interviewer Starlee Kine made sure to touch on Longoria’s new projects (For Greater Glory with Andy Garcia is a standout), her production credits (she’s got a dating show in the works and is the executive producer of that Devious Maids show), her start in political activism, why she’s reading 50 Shades of Grey,and her sense of style. Now if only we could get a little more rigor in questions about her projects…
Today I learned that Michael Bullerdick, the latest managing editor of Essence Magazine–a highly influential publication whose first issue published in 1970–inadvertently outted himself on social media recently by expressing extreme right-wing beliefs that counter the history and long-standing values of the organization where he was hired last summer.
What’s notable about this story is that Mr. Bullerdick is a white man. While he is not the first white employee to make headlines–as Ellianna Placas did when she became the first white fashion director–he is the first white person and first man to be the managing editor of this publication geared to Black female readers.
According to Richard Prince at Journalisms, Bullerdick was asked to leave after his posting habits on Facebook came to light:
In one screen shot, an April 10 posting is headlined, “No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?” touting a video by James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who worked with right-wing trickster Andrew Breitbart. The same day, Bullerdick shared a photo illustration of Al Sharpton headlined, “MSNBC Race Pimp.” Bullerdick also recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website townhall.com, from which Bullerdick posted “the Frequent Bomber Program,” an article about 1960s radical Bill Ayers. Bullerdick wrote, “Obama’s mentor and friend.”
The mismatch in values not surprising to me–even though I know very little about Bullerdick, personally. What I do know, however, is that Essence was acquired in 2005 by Time, Inc.–the largest magazine publisher in the U.S.–a corporate conglomerate that well understood the cumulative spending power of Black women.
In 2000, the Black owners of Essence sold 49% of this iconic company to Time. Why just 49%, you ask? Because by retaining 51% ownership of the company, they could technically say that Essence was still Black-owned (insert air quotes here).
The owners no doubt predicted that many Black readers and non-readers alike would condemn this choice as nothing less than “selling out” at the expense of an institution that, in the field of media and journalism, has provided an important outlet for Black women to express themselves in ways that corporate media was loathe to do both before 1970–and arguably even today–in many mainstream circles, despite a few notable exceptions. Continue reading →
“Slave Earrings” are in Vogue. Literally. According to the Italian fashion outlet, “Jewellery has always flirted with circular shapes, especially for use in making earrings. The most classic models are the slave and creole styles in gold hoops.”
Emphasis mine, ridiculousness… all theirs.
Two weeks ago, Vogue Italia found itself under a deluge of criticism for declaring “Slave Earrings” in fashion. Originally, they thought to qualify the name they gave them. “If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern United States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom. Colored stones, symbolic pendants and multiple spheres. And the evolution goes on.” Does it go on to declare “necklaces with detachable chains,” “hillbilly slingbacks,” and “Holocaust tattoos” in fashion? None of that is me, by the way, this is taken from the 21 pages of comments, nearly all chiding the wording choice in English and in Italian.
Allow me to fill you in on the latest: Vogue Italia gave an apology earlier last week that was more like an “Oops!” than anything. The style bible’s editor, Franca Sozzani released a statement Monday that said, “We apologise for the inconvenience. It is a matter of really bad translation from Italian into English.” Again, emphasis mine, but let’s be honest, the emphasis should have been theirs. They continued, “The Italian word, which defines those kind of earrings, should instead be translated into ‘ethnical style earrings.’ Again, we are sorry about this mistake which we have just amended in the website.”
From the myriad of complaints, tweets, and articles that has inspired this fashion nightmare, it was pointed out the word “ethnic” translates to “etnico” and slave is “schiavo” in Italian. Completely dissimilar words. So obviously, Sozzani’s statement needs to be taken with a… grain of salt. My thought is, in the surprise this wording… mistake… caused, they had to say something. Like equate ethnicity to slavery. Oops! I think Iman said it best to Style Bistro: “Slave does not make it ethnic. Mind you, it’s not lost in translation–the word slave, we know what it is. They might as well have called them n***** earrings.” Snap. We should know by now that it’s best not to anger Iman. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson would be none too pleased, either.
Really, these earrings do originate from the time of slavery, however… let me throw out an example. Right now, I’m wearing a Calvin Klein buckled leather bracelet. I am not wearing a Calvin Klein shackle cuff. See the difference, Franca? I know this all may be confusing, but maybe the word should have been edited out before released to the public, as editors are wont to do. And what if, (and this is completely hypothetical of course) the model on the site was black?
Now do you see why that term shouldn’t have ever, ever, ever have been used? I felt wrong even cutting and pasting another face into this. Imagine how we feel knowing that you wrote, edited, approved, coded, and posted the article without even so much as a “Uh… guys?”
“Vogue Italia is doing the post-racial mulitple-oppression sell: under the guise of thinking they’re being all ‘We did the Black Issue, so we’re cool in doing this’ using the myriad of oppressions of women of color to sell some damn gold-tone hoop earrings named after…WoCs’ oppression! And that oppression, in many cases, melded sexual oppression (Antebellum US, the Japanese and Korean “comfort women,” etc.) This, coming from the magazine whose brand is all about the sexy framed as stylishness.”
Though they may not deserve it, as a gesture of good faith, I took a peek around Vogue Italia’s trends section. Maybe this was just a one-off terrible mistake. And I found another post about… Jungle Bracelets. My first inclination was to shout “Why!?!” But, false alarm, as I read, there was nothing really- “…manchettes in python for a night marked by tribal rhythms,” huh? “Turn your evenings into “jungle nights” characterized by tribal music, wild dancing and a bit of aesthetic rebellion,” you say?
Less malevolent, sure. But I’m uncomfortable anyway, and while relatively tame, is this something to be angry about? Maybe. But, to be honest, should I be bracing myself for racism on their website now? Slave Ethnic Earrings should be completely gone from the site as that “gesture of good faith.” As of Wednesday afternoon, the Ethnic Earrings post is still up, complete with the slide show.
It shouldn’t be, so let’s all just face the fuc— I mean facts. Face the facts. I’m sorry, it was a really bad translation. But I caught myself.
Image credit: Vogue Italia and Joseph Lamour
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World