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Having never worked in print media, I can’t say for sure how many thinking, breathing people sign off on a magazine’s cover each month. At least a few, right? And yet once again, we find ourselves face to face with a face ... that does not look like the cover star’s usual face. Yes, we have another bad photoshop job on our hands.
Vogue Italia dropped the first images of its May issue on Instagram yesterday, and as droves of commenters have already pointed out, its cover star, Gigi Hadid, is totally unrecognizable. In the Steven Klein photograph, her blond hair is darker, her skin is significantly more bronzed than usual, and the lower half of her face seems to be stretched out. Hadid’s only recognizable feature is her eyebrows, basically.
Beyond the obvious insensibility of warping an extremely beautiful person’s facial features, numerous commenters on social media have said that the darkening of Hadid’s skin (whether by photoshop or a spray tan) is consummate to putting her in blackface.
“What a disappointment cover! You literally Photoshopped her into a different race,” wrote one Instagram commenter. “If you’re trying to achieve a certain ‘look’ hire a dark skinned model.”
“Blackface in 2018??? wtf is wrong with y’all?” wrote another.
While some Instagram commenters have pushed back on the accusations of blackface, saying that it was a spray tan gone wrong — or that the magazine was trying to make Hadid, who is half Dutch and half Palestinian, look more Italian — the point stands that achieving greater racial diversity has been a slow road in the modeling industry. So when a blonde, blue-eyed model like Hadid is hired for a job and made to look more tan than she is, it’s a missed opportunity to cast someone else. On top of that, fashion magazines have a history of using lighting or photoshop to whitewash women of color, as with Zendaya and Willow Smith on the cover of W in 2016 and Kerry Washington on InStyle in 2015.
Hadid responded to criticism of the cover in an Instagram story on Thursday, saying that, “The bronzing and photoshop is a style that S.Klein has done for many years and I believe was what was expected from the shoot (to show me in a different way creatively), BUT, although I understand what Vogue Italia’s intentions were, it was not executed correctly, and the concerns that have been brought up are valid.”
“Please know that things would have been different if my control of the situation was different. Regardless, I want to apologize because my intention is never to diminish those concerns or take opportunities away from anyone else, and I hope this can be an example to other magazines and teams in the future.”