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Is Italian Vogue’s Franca Sozanni gunning for an NAACP Award? Seems like it since the editrix has published another all-Black girl editorial in the risk taking Conde Nast fashion bible. 

The multipage spread, titled “Tribute To Black Beauties,” is inspired by 1970s fashion and features Ubbah Hassan, Cici Ali, Janeil Williams and more, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth. 

The direction of the Unwerth editorial begs commentary because there is various representation of what a pretty Black girl model looks like.

The few things the models have in common is the fact that they are women, they are Black and they are photographed with natural hairstyles or wigs and do not look exotic or Asian, as publications are wont to do. Further, they are not posed with or interacting with animals, are not wearing tribal prints or have sassy attitudes. They do have their mouths open in one or two images, however, a gimmick white photographers seem to adore when photographing Black people.  

The editorial follows after Sozanni’s daring all-Black Italian Vogue issue two years ago and its subsequent follow ups, becoming an asterisk in the dialogue of race and fashion in the 21st Century. You know the drill: there’s an absence of melanin on the catwalk, there’s an absence of melanin in big name magazines, campaigns etc.  

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It’s a battle cry we’re all tired of hearing, but often sing because it’s true ― white fashion editors and casting directors are just not into Black girls. Supposedly they don’t sell magazines and white readers are unable to suspend belief and identify with someone who doesn’t look like them. Perhaps fashion and Hollywood have been talking?

This draught of Black model visibility was hardly the case in the 1970s when models and not celebrities were the muse of the designer and Black models didn’t look like white women dipped in chocolate. Yves Saint Laurent, a white gay man of Algerian descent, saw something in them and used Black women in his shows and campaigns frequently. As did Catherine Malandrino several years ago.

Can Black women only be in vogue on VH1? We hope not.

After the break, images from the Italian Vogue editorial and Yves Saint Laurent on why he loves working with Black models. 

Above: Italian Vogue May 2011 Issue.

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Italian Vogue May 2011 Issue

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Italian Vogue May 2011 Issue

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Designer Yves Saint Laurent with Iman and Mounia in the 1970s.

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Yves Saint Laurent on why he works with Black women. 

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