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Does Vanity Fair Hate Black Girls?

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I really couldn't believe the recent spread in Vanity Fair heralding the next generation of Hollywood starlets.

vanity fair new hollywood issue

Kimberly Allers: It was bad enough that they couldn't (or didn't try) to find at least one person of color to include in their annual "New Hollywood" spread in the March issue. They've been taking a little heat for this ridiculous oversight. What about Gabourey Sidibe from "Precious" and Zoe Saldana? Even as an Avatar, she was still in one of the highest grossing movies of the year.

I could have stomached the photo spread; I'm pretty much used to African Americans being excluded from mainstream Hollywood. But they really went too far with the descriptive language in the accompanying story with each waiflike actress getting her respective props for "downy-soft cheeks," a "button nose," "patrician looks and celebrated pedigree," "dewy, wide-eyed loveliness," or "Ivory-soap-girl features." Ivory soap-girl features???

But is this Vanity Fair's journalistic failure and a bad PR problem (hitting the stands during Black History Month no less. The horror!!) or just an accurate depiction of hot Hollywood these days?

Either way, as a mom raising a daughter, it sends dangerous messaging to all girls in general and African American girls in particular. We've often criticized the beauty industry for their unrealistic images of Barbie-like girls and women. We've told young girls they are beautiful as they are in all shapes, sizes, skin tones and features (Ivory soap or not), but then stories like these show the reality of the world all of our girls are growing up in. And what a challenge we have as moms to counteract these influences to raise confident, self-assured girls who love their bodies.

Quite frankly, I'm no fan of Hollywood lately, anyway. And if Sandra Bullock wins an Oscar for "The Blind Side," I will be on a very long personal boycott of the award show. I mean, yet another movie about a (albeit well-intentioned) white woman saving a large, menacing in appearance, from the hood with nobody else, black person. This blog isn't long enough for me to list the stereotypes in that Hollywood gem (Or in movies like "Dangerous Minds," "Freedom Writers," "The Soloist"). And this is Oscar-worthy movie making?? Puh-leeze.

Attention Hollywood: there a thousands of equally inspirational stories of African Americans saving themselves (gasp!) or white people too (double gasp!), but those don't get told because they don't fit into your stereotype of who we are.

But I digress. Slightly.

My point is Vanity Fair has a problem and Hollywood has an even bigger problem. When a major media outlet ignores its responsibility to represent all its readers and its messaging to the young girls who aspire to be in Vanity Fair (or Hollywood), that's just irresponsible journalism. Read: only "button noses" and Ivory-soap girls need apply.

Hollywood, on the other hand, has a more deeply rooted issue that concerns me as mom. For years, extremely talented black female actresses like Halle Berry, Regina King, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington, Sanaa Lathan, Kimberly Elise, Nicole Ari Parker, Lynn Whitfield, Lela Rochon (I could do this for three more pages...) have lamented the dearth of quality movie roles (no crackheads please) available to black actresses. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston (no disrespect, I'm a huge fan, Rachel) has played the same exact character 50 million times with no end in sight.

Thankfully, my own little black girl has not mentioned any dreams of a Hollywood career because, even in this "Yes We Can" era, I'd feel some parenting compulsion to say, "probably not, sweetie." I wish I didn't feel that way. But this article only confirms my fears.

Unfortunately for us all, Vanity Fair did a great job of highlighting the inconvenient truth of exactly how Hollywood is. New or old.

** Editor's note: A rep for the magazine issued a statement saying, "Deciding who will appear on the Hollywood Issue cover -- and within the issue itself -- is a long process, and one we take seriously. For the young actresses on the cover, both films coming out this year and past work were taken into consideration, as were schedules and availability, since we had to shoot all nine actresses in a single day."


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73 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jeannine February 8, 2010, 6:39 PM

Wow. To Sam—You speak as if ALL white people have done you wrong. I am white. I was born in 1982 and grew up in San Diego with black, asian, latino and all kinds of friends and in primarily “minority” neighborhoods. What “atrocity” have I committed? None. Yet, like you, I have often been the victim of prejudiced thinking, of people who didn’t know me judging me for the color of my skin. Just because I am white, does that make me a hateful person? No. Just like being black doesn’t make anyone anything automatically. Stop judging others before you know. Look around you. Yes, it awful that these things happened to you, and it was due to ignorant people and ignorant thinking, but look at how as a nation we’ve changed since. Be willing to change. It is this thinking, the idea that everyone owes you something, that is holding you back. Yes, we still have a way to go—unfortunately in my experience, I hear more racist comments from minorities, even going so far as to stereotype themselves. This is such a shame—Open your eyes and take a look at your own rhetoric. I hope that, as a country, we can stop blaming each other and spouting hate and instead work together to make America great—to make America the land it is meant to be, a land of people striving towards freedom and equality for all people, regardless of race or other differences. Be the change you want to see in the world!
Yes, I am aware that I’m veering towards cheesy, but the sentiments are honestly and earnestly spoken. I hope all can see this as the message of love it is.

Fran February 8, 2010, 8:27 PM

“The experience in film”????
I recognized Kristen Stewart from the tabloid covers she’s on, not from her teenybopper films- and aside from her I have no idea who any of those young women are so clearly they don’t have *that* much experience in film.

I don’t get why white people (and I am one) are so offended by the notion that racism still exists. Nobody’s saying that YOU are racist, but why is it so hard to admit that yes, there is racism. EVERYWHERE.

That B Me February 8, 2010, 9:50 PM

@ Jeannine, It’s history and a work in progress your like Rod Blagojevich huh. Just because you grew up around minorities does not make you know how it is.

Uncanny February 8, 2010, 10:57 PM

You folks are pretty damn arrogant to try to guilt “whites” into not having a cover of a magazine to themselves. There’s nothing wrong with this cover, and no shame in giving a group of fair skinned people their own article, magazine, month, whatever.

Get a grip and give the rest of us a break. It’s 2010. Deal with it.

Anonymous February 9, 2010, 5:45 AM

Vanity Fair can’t have white women on the cover but it’s okay for Jet to ONLY EVER have black people? Yeah Kimberly, you’re certainly not racist.

Anonymous February 9, 2010, 6:58 AM

yawn. kim. another race article just to get a bunch of comments and panties in a twist.

londonsescape February 9, 2010, 7:15 AM

I agree with you on some levels. Gabourey Sidibe and Zoe Saldana should have been featured on that front cover. I would gladly pick either one of them over Kristen Stewart. I’m sorry. Kristen Stewart stars in this Teen Franchise and now suddenly she’s an up and coming great actress of the next decade. Let me bite my lip several times and then I can be an amazing up and coming actor. I do feel like they should have included Gabourey, who had one of her first movies and got nominated for an Oscar or Zoe, who was in the two biggest blockbusters of last year, on the cover. I’m crossing my fingers that Monique walks home with the Supporting Actress award for “Precious”…However, the part where I disagree with you is your saying you shall boycott Hollywood if Sandra Bullock walks away with the Oscar. The movie was based on a true story, therefore they didn’t just up and create it and say, “oh let’s make this movie about such and such.” They took actual events from a person’s life, which I in one found very inspiring. I’m a sucker for sports/inspirational movies. You go on to complain about the fact that Jennifer Aniston just plays the same same character 50 times and still gets recogintion for it, but yet when Sandra Bullock (who IMO Leigh Anne Tuohy was one of her finest characters on the screen) plays something out of the range of her Gracie Lou Freebush characters and you feel like she shouldn’t be rewarded for that. Anyway, sorry…I’m just voicing my opinion! I pretty much agree with you though on the whole Vanity Fair thing and I in turn have decided to boycott them for not including any of those amazing actresses on the cover. Thanks for bringing that into the light.

Ewok February 9, 2010, 7:24 AM

I see your point clearly Kimberly and bravo for your insight!!!

@Gigohead…you are ignorannt “of color” means non-white.
@Chris…there is no story in blacks saving blacks. Whites would much rather see themselves as heroes.
@ Leah, seriously? We have pea-brained blonde “beauty” queens masturbating on her cell phone getting more coverage than Gabourey Sidibe and Zoe.
@ CreoleInDc…point taken but this is America, we are either the melting pot or we are not. Time out for exclusions and misrepresentation. Spoken like a true amgiguous creole. Give you “Real Simple”, eh? While you blend in when it fits you? Just keep blending in like you normally do….your statement says nothing.
@ Just saying….every other month is white history month. please don’t start that tired debate. You want us to forget, but still exclude us from the general picture and expect us to be fine with it.
Black products and media were created BECAUSE we were excluded.
It would be nice if we all just shut up huh? Just let things be right? Why are we making such a fuss, right?

Case and Point: When Clinton was in office, I don’t recall any Tea Party (ies). Now we are ‘in a state of emergency’ becasue “by God, this nigra is running our country into the ground!”
“Give me my country back…oh booo-hoo hoo”
This country was given to our President after Bush wiped his behind with it and then handed the soiled tissue to Obama..
Nobody sees that or wants to see it that isn’t willing to so why beat a dead horse?


chrissie February 9, 2010, 7:53 AM

In this day and age where a half black/white man is elected into the highest office we have, we still have to (as white people) prove that we accept black people is crazy. From what I can tell most of the racist comments come from black people not white. I grow up in an italian home with a racial father against blacks but never did he opinion rub off on me. When I got married 17 yr ago, I had my best friend at the time who is black as my maid of honor. It never even cross my mind that she shouldn’t be the one to stand beside me. My best friend now is also black and I cherish our friendship because I can talk with her about anything and she feels the same with me. We discuss race a lot to help us understand the other side of an issue. I truly believe we are all sisters and brothers and children of God and I understand the pain that was put upon blacks in our society but we need to truly learn to get beyond the hurt and realize that we all are responsible for our own lives. If you feel that the black community is not getting the attention it deserves don’t complain to the white community, complain to the black community for not standing up and projecting a better image and hold the Halle Barry, Denzel Washington, and all the other high profile black people more accountable for not taking their stand as they should. You need to look to your own to be the role models that they should be.

Harvard2010 February 9, 2010, 8:50 AM

That article was more racist than the VF cover!

Anonymous February 9, 2010, 10:39 AM

I think ‘jet’ and ‘ebony’ are racist against white people.

Anonymous February 9, 2010, 11:00 AM

As a minority people like the author embarass me. Just because we’re black doesn’t mean we automatically deserve to be on the cover of a magazine. Kimberly seems to have a very underserved sense of entitlement - just being a certain race doesn’t mean you deserve anything.

CORINNE February 9, 2010, 12:30 PM

11 OUT OF THE 12 MONTHS ARE WHITE HISTORY MONTH

CreoleInDC February 9, 2010, 1:46 PM

@Ewok: Don’t get it twisted just because I think it’s ridiculous to try and make anyone do anything. The world I live in begets choices. I CHOOSE to do whatever the hell I want to do. I don’t buy “Vanity Fair,” I don’t buy “Essence.” I’m not EITHER of their audience nor am I going to ever feel guilted into thinking I should feel as if EVERY.SINGLE.THING is racist or let a racist (regardless of skin color) make me reactionary.

I don’t own a magazine company but if I did I’d make sure the world I identified with was represented and that world includes all skin colors and sizes. VF chose not to. Cool. But again…I’M NOT THEIR AUDIENCE and don’t know many Black women who are so in essence…screw ‘em.

As long as everyone is spitting hate then no one will want to work with ANYONE they don’t identify with. I choose to live differently.

I choose to NOT allow those with simple and small minds make me do ANYTHING I don’t want to do.

REAL.SIMPLE.

I do what I want…you do what you want. Your attempting to “get at” me and anyone who didn’t agree with you is childish just as the comments from those with an undertone that is inflammatory even as they know good and well magazines like “Jet” and “Ebony” were born out of necessity. YOU PEOPLE all have something tragic in common. You’re all racists no matter WHAT skin color you are.

sam February 9, 2010, 2:46 PM

To Jeannie: I have heard exactly what you said many times in my life.

First and foremost know that knowing, being around, or being married to an African American doesn’t mean you understand what it means to be Black in America.

I have children as old as you. Please do not think that since you were exposed to such a multi cultural background that you understand what African Americans are talking about.
Please read and follow your own words as far as judging. I am not judging, I am making an observation. I grew up in an all white neighborhood in San Diego, I heard nothing but racists comments. The shame is that most of the comments came out of the other kids mouth matter of factly, but there were other times when the statements were meant to hurt and degrade. I have 4 children the oldest is White, all White, Dutch and German. I have been his father since he was 3, he is 24, the other three are half white.

Jeannie, I have children as old as you. As far as rhetoric is concerened, I have been on this planet for 48 years, if speaking of my experiences sounds like rhetoric to you, I would say that is what the problem is.

lisa February 9, 2010, 10:17 PM

i mean honestly - do you write these articles just to be annoying? who cares. give us something to really talk about- it’s like the same thing over and over again. Wheres the advice, the stuff “REAL MOMS” can relate to. REAL HONEST? REAL STUPID.

Andromeda18_ February 10, 2010, 11:30 AM

Why should choosing the new generation of Hollywood starlets imply taking their ethnicity into consideration? It’s not the responsible thing to do, it’s the politically correct but clearly hypocritical thing to do.
You’re likely right when you say Hollywood doesn’t give black actresses quality roles, but that’s exactly why they can’t make it to such lists as “the new generation of Hollywood starlets”, not because Vanity Fair (or whatever other magazine) didn’t want to choose a black woman.

And by the way, Zoe Saldana isn’t waiflike?!

Brunbelle February 11, 2010, 6:43 PM

Everything in America is about race and whether you’re a white person that doesn’t want to face up to your horrible past, a black person that ‘doesn’t pay attention to the opinions/ideals’ of mainstream media or on the fence. The Vanity Fair cover IS RACIST! None of the girls on the cover even has a slight tan and we all know the majority of white hollywood actresses are practically obsessed with achieving that auburn/sun kissed complexion. As for Vanity Fair/Hollywood - both continue to show their true colours in regards to race and beauty. They are living in the past and don’t realize the world is sick of being fed the same, bland over -exposed, overrated image of beauty: blonde, pale faced, skinny/starved, no curves plain jane that they deem are ‘the most beautiful and gorgeous’ women in the world. Many of these same women seek to tan, plump their lips, implant their breasts and change whatever else God gave them to live up to these titles. I’m not saying that women with or without these features cannot be beautiful however the lengths other non blonde, skinny, tall white women go to to achieve this look also shows they themselves feel left out and ‘un-pretty’ due to the out dated images and media stereotypes put out by these magazines. My personal opinion is eventually the editors or these magazines themselves will eventually die off as the real world and the majority of the people in it leave behind these old world of ideals of beauty and embrace a true/honest representation of themselves - ethnic, curvy, dark and BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous February 11, 2010, 7:26 PM

umm for everyone crying why does everything have to do with race? BECAUSE THAT IS THE SOCIETY WE LIVE IN, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. it is ever present and not dealing with it directly and kindly there will always be resentment for those who are often slighted the most AKA black people.

Anonymous February 11, 2010, 7:28 PM

and why the fck all you beckys are here anyway? you dont agree with what is being said move the hell on. we dont come on the fox website to “discuss” anything


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