Music Lists

Naomi Campbell Lashes Out at ELLE Germany: “We Are Not a Trend”

The magazine put out an ill-advised campaign that proclaimed "Black is back."

ELLE Germany has come under fire for a new editorial campaign called "Black Is Back," which was offensive from start to finish.

The first problem begins with the ill-advised title, which seems to imply that blackness is a new trend, something that can be put on and taken off.

That wasn't all. The editorial used a photo of a model named Naomi Chin Wing with a caption that referred to a model named Janaye Furman. To add insult to injury, an issue called "Back to Black" of course features a white model on the cover.

Daily Mail

Naomi Campbell lashed out at that, posting the caption, "This makes me so sad to see this, @bethannhardison @the_real_iman and I are here if you are not clear on the guidelines of diversity," Campbell writes. "Your mistake is highly insulting in every way ... I've said countless times we are not a TREND. We are here to STAY." She continues, "I too in my career have seen pictures of others models called me just because of the color of our skin, and recently seen many pictures of models of color being called being @adutakech... do you know what it feels like to do the job (@naomichinwing) and not even be given the right name credit?"

Adut Akech, a model who recently faced a similar issue—a photo of a different model was used in an interview with her—also commented, "SO SICKENING!! I'm over it honestly."

For her part, Janaye Furman posted herself sipping tea with the caption #blackisback.

The magazine's actions were first called out by the account Diet Prada on Instagram, which reports fashion industry missteps.

ELLE Germany responded with an Instagram post of their own. "This obviously was not our intention and we regret not being more sensitive to the possible misinterpretations. Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman is a further error for which we apologize. We are aware of how problematic this is. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and, again, we deeply regret any harm or hurt we have unwittingly caused," it read.

Though this campaign is particularly riddled with missteps, this is far from an isolated incident. The fact that fashion magazines seem to have such poor sensitivity towards race reveals a chronic lack of diversity in higher-up editorial positions, and a lack of care and sensitivity in general. We can call-out publications for their mistakes all we want, but what we really should be calling for is an increase in diversity in all spheres of the media industry.

As one commenter wrote on ELLE Germany's Instagram post, "Perhaps if you had people of colour on your team (whose opinion you value), it may perhaps be an opportunity to make better executive decisions?"

Surface-level representation means nothing if it doesn't use input from the actual group that's being represented, and too often, diversity is used as a performance, something used to sell products. This is a problem that extends to the whole magazine and media industry. A 2018 study from The Guardian reveals that of the 214 bestselling magazine covers published in the UK last year, only 14 of them featured people of color on the front. The issue extends to children's magazines, meaning that so many kids still aren't seeing themselves represented in positions of power. While magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair have made efforts to prioritize diversity, it isn't enough.


Good Riddance, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

There's nothing wrong with bearing your skin, but this show was never meant to help women find their power or self-confidence.

Like most of the women I know, I struggled with body image for many years when I was growing up.

This struggle was definitely corroborated by the existence of spectacles like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which paraded stick-thin women around and called them "angels," making them out to be deities of sexual appeal. From the first time I watched it at age 11, the show helped me develop damaging concepts about beauty that would take years to unlearn.

So the recent cancellation of the Victoria's Secret fashion show is a very powerful step towards a redefinition of beauty, and it could help prevent thousands of girls from going through the utterly pointless and yet strangely devastating waste of time and energy that is hating your body. The show—with its skeletal, glitzy, glorified models always discussing their pre-show diets—was a gleeful parade of harmful constructs built on women's shame. The brand made its empire by equating beauty with thinness and exclusivity, by glorifying white and Eurocentric standards, and by focusing on making a profit at any and all costs.

The show may not be over for good. According to model Shanina Shaik, the show was only canceled this year so the managers could work on its branding. Still, the fact that the show needs a whole year to work on its brand reveals a stunning, company-wide lack of understanding. If Victoria's Secret had begun presenting even slightly more normal bodies, if it had begun prioritizing even the most inoffensive versions of physical flaws, then it might've been able to capitalize on the existing "social justice" fad that praises even the slightest deviation from the normative model.

Shanina ShaikImage via Arab News

Competing underwear brand Aerie was able to do this to great success. By ditching photoshop and displaying very ordinary women's bodies with a few stretch marks or visible bellies now and then, their revenue shot up by 20%. Still, further capitalizing on diversity and representation is obviously not an ideal solution, and personally, I'd love to see the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show shot straight back to the hell from which it came.

Iskra Lawrence via Redhook

The entire company was built on a rotting foundation. For two decades, convicted pervert Jeffrey Epstein was the brand's financial manager and was influential in shaping the company's operations. The store itself was built specifically as a place where men could feel comfortable shopping for women's lingerie, according to its founder, Roy Raymond. Recently, its chief marketing officer Ed Razek famously stated he wouldn't permit transgender women to walk the coveted runway, because "the show is a fantasy."

Well, it is a fantasy, Mr. Razek: It's a fantasy that the show could ever continue as it always has, glorifying unhealthy figures and promoting extremely outdated ideas about women. It is a fantasy, and this is reality—a reality where women wear bras to sweat and to work and to express themselves—not to fulfill an outdated image propagated by a lingerie company looking to make bank.

The cancellation isn't the first hard hit that Victoria's Secret has taken over the past few years. This summer, supermodel Karlie Kloss explained her decision to part ways from the brand. "The reason I decided to stop working with Victoria's Secret was I didn't feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful," she told British Vogue. There have also been accusations of cultural appropriation and underage models, Photoshop fails, and the like.

Karlie Kloss via Net-a-Porter

And who knows how many girls the show quietly wounded? Every year that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show rolled around, I subconsciously tried to avoid the TV and the Internet, just as I now avoid fit tea-promoting Instagram influencers (raised on the VF Fashion Show, no doubt) like the plague.

Hopefully, someday soon, millions of young girls won't ever have to go through this in the first place. Obsessing over your weight is a waste of time and energy. It's deeply tied to capitalism and patriarchy—capitalism thrives off women's insecurity, which makes them buy products in order to look a certain way that in no way relates to health, happiness, or anything that has any meaning at all. Furthermore, patriarchy thrives off the subjugation of women, and what better way to subjugate half the human race then brainwash them into believing that unhealthy body standards are what determines their worth? What better way to silence a whole demographic than to convince them that their bodies' worth isn't based on how they move or feel or love, but rather how compliant they are with an arbitrary ideal of beauty?

Certainly health is important, and exercise is good because it clears your mind, but there is no reason any woman should ever try to look like a Victoria's Secret model unless that's her natural, healthy body. The Internet hasn't helped with this—Instagram and pornography have both perpetuated harmful beauty standards—but at the same time, people seem to be waking up to the fact that fatphobia is deeply rooted in profit models and archaic, sexist constructs. Victoria's Secret certainly did not create these constructs, but when shows like the VS Fashion Show are canceled, it shows that at least we're going somewhere.

Women should be allowed to wear the clothes they want, and there's definitely power in owning one's body and baring it all. And admittedly, there were some beautiful works of fashion design on that runway. Still, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was never going to be a place where women could own their power. It was made for and by men. It was made to sell padded bras and to seed shame in women across the globe, and for a long time, it succeeded. So goodbye, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and good riddance.

Culture Feature

Wear Whatever You Want. Fashion is Dead.

We unpack the rise and fall of American haute couture.

As Carrie Bradshaw famously said, "Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future. This is known as FASHION WEEK."

While any real New Yorker knows that Sex and The City is a rose-colored depiction of the cockroach-filled-hellhole we happily call home, surely the show at least nailed its representation of fashion week. After all, it's a week devoted to all things shiny and inaccessible: beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes in elegant rooms with mysterious locations. Yeah, someone vomited on your Reeboks on the L train during your commute home to your 4th-floor walk up, but surely, despite all the things New York turned out not to be, it's still this one thing: the home of high fashion and unimaginable glamor.

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Culture News

Trans-Model Responds to Victoria's Secret's Anti-Trans Comments with Lingerie Campaign

LGBTQ+ activist Munroe Bergdorf launches her first post-operation modeling campaign.

The Independent

Anyone still disappointed in Victoria's Secret for its lack of diversity should take heart that "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Is Dead," as The Cut reported in December.

The 2018 event garnered the worst ratings in the brand's history, largely due to the chief marketing officer's intolerant remarks during an ill-received interview with Vogue. Even though Ed Razek issued an apology on Twitter, the consumer and celebrity backlash against the brand continues.

But VS's intolerance has only helped Munroe Bergdorf, LGBTQ+ activist and trans-model, promote her cause—as well as her career. The 31-year-old has collaborated with Bluebella to launch a new ad campaign with the British lingerie line.The Valentine's Day campaign features Bergdorf modeling for the first time since her gender reassignment surgery. The new line by the "female-owned and female-created lingerie brand" debuted yesterday.


As an outspoken activist, Bergdorf has been open about beginning her transition at 19 years old, struggling with body image issues, and experiencing discrimination in the fashion industry. She told The Daily Mail, "Lingerie should be something that all women can enjoy. It's something personal, beautiful, and intimate that is a celebration of femininity, something that every woman should have the option of being included in." She added, "True diversity is the future, let's leave any form of discrimination or exclusion in the past."

The model also disagrees with critics who believe that lingerie fashion "upholds a standard of beauty that is infiltrated by the male gaze." In an interview with Out, she emphasized the difference between celebrating femininity and objectifying women: "I would say, if the lingerie isn't picked by a woman, if it's not intended to represent all women, if the lingerie is being created in mind for the benefit of men, then I think that's very different from lingerie celebrating femininity. If it's intended for the consumption of the gaze of men, then that's very different from it being a tool of empowerment."

Describing her first post-op campaign, she told Elle UK, "Bluebella is a lingerie brand created by women and I think that's so important, especially in today's society when we are becoming more conscious of conversations surrounding inclusivity and authenticity." In contrast, Bergdorf has been outspoken against Victoria Secret for stifling diversity in its brand, stating, "It's a big shame Victoria's Secret decided not to be inclusive of trans women within their shows or campaigns."

Her criticism is rooted in Razek's ill-worded response to a question about consumers' expectations. He said. "Do I think about diversity? Yes. Does the brand think about diversity? Yes. Do we offer larger sizes? Yes."

But then the 70-year-old added: "So it's like, why don't you do 50? Why don't you do 60? Why don't you do 24? It's like, why doesn't your show do this? Shouldn't you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don't think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It's a 42-minute entertainment special. That's what it is. It is the only one of it's kind in the world and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we're the leader."

Despite later acknowledging that his remarks were "insensitive," Razek still implied that transsexual models would ruin the constructed feminine "fantasy" that Victoria's Secret profits from. This week, Bergdorf told Out that she hopes the heads of Victoria's Secret sees images of Bluebella's line, saying, "[The campaign is] a great reaction to a really sad situation. I mean, ultimately, any woman can sell the fantasy. These images show that trans people aren't an exception to that statement." She added, "I'm not trying to look like a Victoria's Secret model. I'm not trying to look like anybody else apart from myself."

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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Rihanna "Work"

Sex sells cars, beer, music, Kylie Jenner lip kits, herbal teas, deodorant, toothpaste, HBO — pretty much everything...

Do you remember a time when you were underage and had to create a fake YouTube account so you could watch restricted music videos? Or do you remember getting kicked out of the computer lab for watching D'Angelo's "Untitled (How does it feel?)"? I do! Since the beginning of time, sex is the name of the game. Sex sells cars, beer, music, Kylie Jenner Lip kits, herbal teas, deodorant, toothpaste, HBO — pretty much everything, and music videos are no exception. It might look like Britney Spears is counting her steps, but really, she's using her impeccable abs to convince you to buy from an assortment of candy-scented perfumes. Conspiracy theory? I think not! I went ahead and did the dirty work for you and picked ten of the raunchiest music videos of the last decade.

N.E.R.D. "Lapdance" (2009)

Where are all my N.E.R.D. fans at? Star Trak! Star Trak! The Neptunes are responsible for a lot of early 2000's rap hits, some you might not even realize. "Lapdance" is one of their raunchiest songs from their debut album In Search Of. The video is sleazy and features a young Chad Hugo, Pharrell Williams, and Shay Hayley.

Christina Aguilera "Dirrty" (2011)

We know it's dirty because it's spelled with two r's. When Christina Aguilera isn't screaming at the top of her lungs, she's screaming at mid-range just in case you can't hear her. "Dirrty" was Christina's break into sleazy pop music, short, school skirts and caged boxing rings where women fight for equal rights! Just kidding, but maybe for equal camera time. Some critics said it was too much and an awkward transition into her adult persona.

Iggy Azalea "Mo Bounce" (2017)

I put "Mo Bounce" on the list because having a young girl dance in an otherwise sexually charged music video is WRONG. JUST WRONG IGGY! Someone forgot to tell Iggy that the presence of children on set doesn't somehow negate all of the ass shaking. If you can sit through her devastating "blaccent" at least you'll get to peep some exceptional backsides.

Miley Cyrus "We Can't Stop" (2013)

Remember when Miley Cyrus was on Disney as the wholesome country singer Hanna Montana? God, that wig was horrendous. It's not hard not to see why "We Can't Stop" is the classic good-girl-goes-bad conundrum, or more specifically, Disney-girl-makes-out-with-a-barbie-and-then-angers-several-moms-on-her-world-tour. Yeah. Miley found herself in the deep end before the life jackets were supplied.

Jeniffer Lopez "I Luh Yah Papi" (2014)

Folks, this is the female gaze. Jennifer Lopez flips the script in "I Luh Yah Papi" and puts the camera on men. If you're a heterosexual dude and it makes you uncomfortable looking at half-naked men, think about all the media portraying naked women. Ooo la la. Subverting sexism in the music industry is so naughty.

Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" (2013)

"Blurred Lines" is a really creepy song that slightly promotes rape culture, along with Pharrell William's classic make-a-hit-for-summer formula. (And some argue it ruined Robin Thicke's career and marriage.) But with that aside, the video is also a creepy spectacle of the male gaze, some type of male fantasy where supermodels can't find shirts or hobbies outside of smizing for the camera. The unrated, NSFW version is only viewable on VEVO. You're welcome.

Rihanna "Work" (2016)

Is it me or does every Rihanna song rely on animal noises for the chorus? "Work, work, work, work, work, work!" "Wild, wild, wild thoughts!" "Ella, ella, eh, eh, eh." "Work" is a sexy song with a sexy video, so sexy I feel weird watching it in public. What's better than Rihanna in a mesh maxi dress twerking while staring at herself in a mirror? If you try to tell me motherhood, I'm coming for you!

Beyonce "Partition" (2014)

"Partition" is Beyonce strutting around for her man Jay-Z. What makes the video so provocative is that marital couples, especially power couples like Beyonce and Jay-Z, tend to keep their personal affairs private, and here we are given a very intimate look into Beyonce's and Jay-Z's sexual repertoire.

Nicki Minaj "Anaconda" (2014)

"Nicki, Nicki, Nicki, put it in your kidney!" She needs no introduction. We know Nicki for her cutthroat lyrics, outrageous style (which she's recently toned down), and her voluptuous backside. Let's just say in "Anaconda," Nicki isn't shy to show herself off or challenge sexual stigmas against women's bodies.

Kanye West "Famous" (2016)

Kanye. Oh sweet, sweet Kanye. He loves attention almost as much as we love giving it to him. And "Famous" is brilliant for breaking the fourth wall and observing the dynamic between fame, celebrity, and privacy. A naked Taylor Swift, Donald Trump, and wife Kim Kardashian are shown as eerie wax figures for our viewing pleasure. Someone get the popcorn, and someone print a copy of Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Voyeurism has never been this much fun.

There's nothing wrong with a provocative art, nothing wrong with a little bit of skin, and nothing wrong with Nicki Minaj showing us her backside. I just recommend maybe not watching these videos in the computer lab while your teacher circles the room.

D'Angelo Untitled (How does it feel?)

Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.

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