Category: The Germany Files

August 28, 2009 / / The Germany Files
August 27, 2009 / / The Germany Files

by Guest Contributors Carolina Asuquo-Brown and Elisabeth Schäfer-Wünsche

Heidi Klum may have never exactly been a catwalk super model like fellow German Claudia Schiffer, but she is definitely one of the country’s most savvy business women and biggest advertising stars.

In Germany, Heidi’s face sells sweets, shoes, fast food and almost every other product you could come up with. But her biggest media success so far has definitely been to follow Tyra Banks’ footsteps and host a show called “Germany’s Next Top Model,” a show that in most respects is the exact copy of its big sister “America’s Next Top Model.” We all know the story: Young hopefuls from all parts of the country flock to Heidi’s castings (conducted strict governess style), strut their stuff on the catwalk and undergo various photo shots and challenges before, in the end, one young woman is crowned the next Heidi.

One thing that is strikingly different though is the ethnic make-up (no pun intended) of the contestants. Though a look at any shopping-mall or classroom will suggest that Germany is an ethnically quite diverse nation, up to season 3 (this summer) no brown face made it to the final stages of the show. In last year’s show, a girl with a Brazilian mother came fifth. But it was not until the 2009 season, that Sara Nuru, Bavarian-born with Ethiopian roots, did not only crash the Top 10 ranks but also won the contest.

Interestingly enough, another hugely popular German TV format (also adapted from a US show, namely from “American Idol”) is well known to draw its contestants mainly from Germany’s migrant population. It has consequently elicited quite a number of vitriolic remarks from the media, branding it Germany’s “Migrant Idol.” But most Germans (at least those who admit to watching the show, as it is considered quite a bit of a guilty pleasure that most intellectually demanding German TV viewers deny watching), for 5 consecutive seasons have happily been going along with the highly diverse crowd of aspiring Idols.
Things seem to be a bit different though, when it comes to reactions to Sara Nuru’s victory and to modeling, a business that is almost solely based on looks: features, hair, body and the iconography created around those attributes.

Based on comments from German online communities, it seems that the majority of participants in those virtual discussions happily accepted the fact that the arguably prettiest contestant won, some voicing that they especially appreciated the fact that a not stereotypically German looking girl made it.

Of those that did not agree, only few were blatantly racist, but quite a few more flaunted an only slightly more subtle racism. Read the Post Germany’s Next Top Model and the Psychology of Privilege [The Germany Files]

August 25, 2009 / / On Beauty

by Carolina Asuquo-Brown

Just a few weeks ago I was flipping through the pages of a fashion mag with a friend.

An editorial featuring an obviously biracial black/white model sporting a huge curly ‘fro caught our eye and that I have to say – I just loved the style.

I have been natural most of my life (not necessarily out of conviction but due to the chronic and persisting shortage of German hairstylists who can deal with wild biracial hair more on the afro side-or with any kind of biracial or black hair) save a few relaxed spells every few years after which I desperately longed for my kinks and curls to come back.

Anyway, my style of the moment is natural and the model’s medium-length curls were something I really considered desirable. The hairstyle did strike a chord with me, but my friend Jen, who has two African parents, is many a shade darker than I am and has shiny and fantastically healthy-looking relaxed tresses (which I have never managed to obtain) was a lot less enthusiastic about the model’s look.

“That’s something mixed girls get away with” she said, “They can get their hair to look like that – I couldn’t. I feel that curls are something like the latest fetish – it’s like there are black girls with great curls all around, advertisement, movies, magazines. And lately it has become a bit like what straight hair used to be-you’ve got to have it.”

It had never occurred to me, but speaking to Jen, I realised that she might be right. Over the next weeks everywhere I looked, be it the streets of my city or most of he few female black German TV-presenters – it really seemed that nowadays the fly mixed or black girl hast to have curls. Generous, semi-loose curls that is, tight enough to give you the volume but loose enough to be considered beautiful in a more mainstream way. Read the Post Are curls the new straight hair? [The Germany Files]