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Earlier this week, French magazine Numéro decided to pay backhanded homage to “African Queens” with an editorial shoot of the same name.

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Sounds beautiful, except instead of selecting one of the many white South African models in the industry, or one of the many underworked black models with actual African roots seeking editorial exposure in an industry that doesn’t play in their favor, the magazine chose 16-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed American Ondria Hardin and put her in black face for the editorial. 

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The internet spoke up, and now the magazine has released something that resembles an apology for running the photos of the model.

Numéro released the following statement: 

Some people have declared that they have been offended by the publication in Numéro magazine n°141 of March 2013, of an editorial realized by the photographer Sebastian Kim called “African Queen”, featuring the American model Ondria Hardin posing as an “African queen”, her skin painted in black.

The artistic statement of the photographer Sebastian Kim, author of this editorial, is in line with his previous photographic creations, which insist on the melting pot and the mix of cultures, the exact opposite of any skin color based discrimination. Numéro has always supported the artistic freedom of the talented photographers who work with the magazine to illustrate its pages, and has not took part in the creation process of this editorial.

For its part, Numéro Magazine, which has the utmost respect for this photographer’s creative work, firmly excludes that the latest may have had, at any moment, the intention to hurt readers’ sensitivity, whatever their origin.

Numéro Magazine considers that it has regularly demonstrated its deep attachment to the promotion of different skin-colored models. For instance, the next issue of Numéro for Man on sale on 15th march has the black model Fernando Cabral on the cover page, and the current Russian edition’s cover of our magazine features the black model Naomi Campbell on its cover. This demonstrates the completely inappropriate nature of the accusations made against our magazine, deeply committed to the respect for differences, tolerance and more generally to non-discrimination.

Considering the turmoil caused by this publication, the Management of Numéro Magazine would like to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this editorial.

While the publication did offer an apology, they didn’t seem to be particularly sorry about the offense, nor did they offer any explanation further from the “we have black friends too” argument that many normally resort to. 

After poking the accusatory finger in the direction of the photographer, that left the man with the concept behind the lens no choice but to come forward and reveal a somewhat more sincere apology than Numero served up, stating: 

I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France. It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story. Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60’s characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot.

It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race. I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images. It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended.


Sebastian Kim

How about we all avoid having to be sorry by staying away from black face, no matter how artistic one may believe it makes a shoot look.

SOURCE: Huffington Post

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