February has started and the most influential fashion magazine in the world, Vogue, will be launching its new magazine issue anytime soon. This retracts me to the controversy American Vogue sparked last month with the released picture of Kamala Harris for the cover of their February issue. As the world celebrated the election of Kamala Harris as the first-ever woman vice president of the United States, she also received acclamation for being a woman of colour holding an office as high as VP of the world’s most revered democracy. Undoubtedly, South-Asian and non-white Americans consider Harris as an idol and face of the underrepresented community.
American Vogue as well decided to celebrate Kamala Harris’s victory by dedicating to her the centre of their cover page for the February 2021 issue. The magazine shared a picture on January 10 of Harris standing casually against pink and green drapes wearing a Donald Deal jacket and black sneakers.
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But the fashion mag was quick to receive major backlash by netizens who believed that the editors had “whitewashed” her skin tone. Although the magazine denied such claims, the apparent lightening of Harris’s skin colour to fit into the set standards of beauty raised questions as to why Vogue had to whiten the skin tone of the lady everyone sees as a representative of the non-white community.
Many said that the magazine has also previously been condemned for such steps under the charge of Anna Wintour who time and again received criticism for her racial insensitivity.
Moreover, the pictures looked amateurish and messy where Harris’s commanding power and formal image were reduced in the name of “approachability”. The picture lacked authority and political glamour which is typical of portraits of revered politicians. Another major criticism was the usage of the phrase “The United States of fashion” which is absolutely unrelated to the achievements of Harris and overshadowed her political achievements.
As Harris stood casually in front of the camera against a messy backdrop and half-smiled, the extreme lighting on her face whitened her dusky complexion, something looked highly upon by marginalized communities in America.
One could opine after the incident that diminishing women of colour for their skin tone instead of celebrating them for their accomplishments is still a popular trend even in high-profile and reputed organizations such as Vogue.