By Tamera Adams
tadams@nationaljeweler.com

Lightening bolt sales of the July issue of Italian Vogue, which was dedicated to black models, proved that women of color can sell fashion magazines.


However, page after page of ads featuring white models confirms advertisers' lack of confidence in black models' selling power when it comes to fashion products—an observation made by Beverly Smith in an Advertising Age article.


This type of inequity is what drew the attention of Italian Vogue Editor in Chief Franca Sozzani and prompted her to fill the editorial pages of the July issue with the beautiful outcasts.


Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede appears on one of the issue's four covers. In 2004, she became the face of Tiffany and Co.—breaking past the color barrier that also seems to exist in the jewelry sector of advertising.


As a black woman, I was delighted to see a luxury jewelry ad with a face resembling my own. However, I have read criticisms suggesting the complexion of Kebede's skin was altered in the ads.


Complaints about the lightening of black models' skin in fashion ads or advertisers dressing them in African-inspired clothing are a reoccurring topic right along with their infrequent hiring.


Panel discussions by former black model Bethann Hardison, Sozzani dedicating an entire issue to the topic and 100 pages of pics featuring black models shot by Steven Meisel might have raised awareness about the bias of advertisers, but will it facilitate change?


Yes, the July issue of Italian Vogue sold out at newsstands in the United States this past Friday, but racial controversy sells—especially now that the United States has its first black democratic presidential nominee.


Unfortunately, advertisers might use this perspective to rationalize the success of the issue while maintaining their stance against hiring black models to sell their products.






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