I’ve always given side-eye to Fashion Fair Cosmetics ever since I started wearing make-up. To be a part of the Johnson Publication empire–the people who bring us Ebony (and its online equivalent) and Jet–their make-up was not only too rich for my wallet but never quite fit my skin tone. (You’d think, of allllll the companies, Fashion Fair would have a shade that fit the full spectrum of Black folks and well, right?) And, to be honest, the brand itself made me think of its relevance to my mom’s generation–the fresh-off-the Movement, up-the-corporate-ladder Baby Boomers–not mine.
The marketing for beach-related vacation destinations often capitalizes on the association of foreign beaches with (partly) naked bathing beauties. This intersection of race, gender, and sexuality that positions the “ethnic” woman as particularly sexually accessible have deep roots in our colonial past in which foreign lands “open” to conquest by the Western world were conflated with foreign women “open” to conquest by Western men.
Nicki Minaj at Hackney Weekend. Courtesy: The Sun (U.K.)
The Hackney Weekend’s lineup proved that hip-hop artists have little difficulty finding their mainstream flow. On Saturday night, Nicki Minaj spat her brand of hip-hop pop before Jay-Z took to the stage, while on Sunday Britain’s Plan B –back in the arms of his first love, hip-hop, having left the crooning and smart suits of his Strickland Banks era behind him–Professor Green and Tinie Tempah will warm the stage by the Olympic Park for headliner Rihanna. “This is hip-hop’s moment,” said 1Xtra DJ and hip-hop artist Charlie Sloth. “For the BBC to acknowledge that hip-hip is the dominant force in modern culture is huge.”This weekLast week, Ben Cooper, head of Radio 1, said of the Hackney Weekend: “We’re going into an area that I don’t think any commercial operator would have gone into after the unrest of last year. That is the job of the BBC.”
Sloth added that local boys Labrinth–born and raised with nine siblings in Hackney–and Tottenham rapper Wretch 32 playing alongside stars like Jay-Z would send a positive message to the crowd, many of them residents of one of London’s poorest boroughs, who were given priority in the ballot for free tickets. “Seeing these artists up there, coming from the same place as they come from–it gives them hope, it shows what they can achieve.”
But for youth worker turned government youth adviser Shaun Bailey, the gangster lifestyle vaunted by some rappers creates a lack of respect for the black community. “You’ve got a few people who do live a fug-life, a gangster life, and everybody else with their faces pressed up against the glass. They get to see it all, they get to hear it all but they don’t have to suffer any of the consequences, any of the danger,” he said, in a video trailing the debate. “It says to our young people, someone messes with you–blow their head off, literally. And you need to ask yourself: are we building massive hip-hop revenues on the backs of our young dead people?”
This past weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of visiting a local Urban Outfitters store in Minneapolis. It appeared as though the recording “artist” Ke$ha had violently exploded in the store, leaving behind a cheap, vulgar and culturally offensive retail collection. Plastic dreamcatchers wrapped in pleather hung next to an indistinguishable mass of artificial feather jewelry and hyper sexualized clothing featuring an abundance of suede, fringe and inauthentic tribal patterns.
In all seriousness, as a Native American woman, I am deeply distressed by your company’s mass marketed collection of distasteful and racially demeaning apparel and décor. I take personal offense to the blatant racism and perverted cultural appropriation your store features this season as “fashion.”
All too often industries, sports teams and ignorant individuals legitimize racism under the guise of cultural “appreciation”. There is nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress T-shirt or the Navajo Hipster Panty. These and the dozens of other tacky products you are currently selling referencing Native America make a mockery of our identity and unique cultures.
Your corporate website claims to “offer a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual”. If this is the case, then clearly you have missed the mark on your target demographic. There is simply nothing educated about your collection, which on the contrary professes extreme ignorance and bigotry. Continue reading →
A search for “Cherokee” on the Urban Outfitters website reveals 1 result. A search for “Tribal”: 15. A search for “Native”: 10. “Indian”: 2. But Navajo? 24 products have Navajo in the name alone.
This post started as a massive Urban Outfitters take-down, I spent an hour or so last week scrolling through the pages of the website, and adding anything to my cart that was “Native inspired” or had a tribal name in the description. I got through JUST the women’s clothes and accessories (no mens or apartment), and had 58 items in my cart. So, then, like any good researcher, I began to code my cart for emergent themes, and the one that jumped out far above the rest? Urban Outfitters is obsessed with Navajos.
I want to show you some examples, and then talk a little about the issues with using tribal names in products that are decidedly not-. Finally, I want to share what the Navajo Nation in particular is doing about it, and the action they’ve taken is pretty cool.
Without further ado, some of the “Navajo” products to grace the pages of Urban.
Did anyone else know that Emmy and Oscar nominee Taraji P Henson is the third lead this season on Abrams’ and CBS’ new thriller Person of Interest?
No? Don’t be ashamed, because you certainly wouldn’t know given the advertising. The New York billboards feature the white male leads, Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, and that same poster is the one you’ll see featured in magazines and papers all over, including this morning’s free Metro in NYC. As far as I was concerned these two men were the show’s only leads. I had no idea that an Oscar and Emmy nominated actress was the female star.
WOW!!!! TV Guide is NOT including me on the cover with my cast members……..I am the female lead of a 3 member cast and I’m not included on the cover!!!!!! Do you see the shit I have to deal with in this business…..I cram to understand!!!!
The post was removed later and replaced with:
I swear you guys keep my spirit lifted cause it ain’t easy AT ALL for a sister in Hollywood. Your love is God sent!!!! Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart. Wanted to tell you all this on live TV at the Emmys (if I’d won) but……oh well. Muah!!!!!
I really enjoyed VH1′s short documentary on the history of Soul Train, but the icing on the cake was definitely the archive of retro commercials. The ones for Afrosheen – especially where they use an appeal to black history – are hilarious.
Best Afrosheen line ever: “Isn’t it made with cocoa butter from the motherland? So it’s for sisters! If it was for brothers, wouldn’t it be from the Fatherland?”
Afrosheen will even help you fight a cartoon hawk!
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World