As someone who co-owned, operated and spearheaded one of the earliest digital magazines back when the digital space was VERY new regarding urban media, I am well aware of some of the pitfalls and much of the pressure that exists to conform to survive. ESPECIALLY for those that have print editions that come with large overhead. However, in publications that are widespread, very popular and while they may be doing slower business than usual, they are still heavily funded, the pressure to make certain concessions is there…but in my opinion it’s not. And when I saw this month’s issue of InStyle Magazine with Kerry Washington on the cover, I knew that there was something to be addressed!
I have been an avid subscriber to both the print, and the iPad edition of this magazine since 2008 or so. I have always loved magazines. I loved poring over the glossy pages that show me loads of the latest fashion and trends that I can pull out and swipe to create story boards and inspiration walls. The pages and pages of all things wonderful to a girlie-girl such as myself, who would have been a stylist in her former life. LOL Not to mention the articles that span everything from music, to politics, to the latest stars exposing more of their personal selves. And InStyle is all of that good stuff. BUT, what also comes with magazines, be they digital or print, is the necessary editing of the photos and pages; and therein lies my issue today.
I am all for a little retouch, don’t get me wrong. A not so fun fact that you may not be aware of is that I suffered from hormonal adult acne from the age of about 28 through about 32/33. It had been very emotional and embarrassing for me, as someone who lives much of her life on film and in pics. During the most horrible phases of this, selfie was not a word and “the GRAM” didn’t exist. BUT, I was doing a lot of auditioning, live theater and so on, so having a face full of bumps, and scars from bumps was NOT okay. My face looked like a topographical map, and that really is no exaggeration. Thank goodness my body and hormones cycled, and I got my life and my face back a few years ago! My skin has improved impressively but there are still some textural issues in my eyes, and now I get a pimple or two bi-weekly. Nothing like the clusters of painful and pus-filled things I used to get, but I still do deal with the after effects of it all. So the use of photoshop for my headshots and professional photos has been a God-send to make a chick look almost flawless and totally fab in pics. And once they gave a retouch option on the cellphone...chile!!!! I was all for this amazing ability! And if you follow me on Instagram, I use it often. LOL But I use it wisely and make sure that I don’t falsely advertise. What you get in person is not so far removed from what you see on social media and in pictures. I just enhance it a bit for the infinite existence of myself in cyberspace.
All of that to say, I get it! Pics must be retouched, photo shopped, cropped, lightened, etc., especially for the masses and in such a well-known and widely read pub. But over the years it seems that we have watched more and more women of color be altered so much that they don’t even resemble themselves by the time the issue hits the stands or your inbox.
Such is the present case with Scandal star Kerry Washington as she graces this month’s InStyle. And it’s not the first time, as she was a victim of this foolery in that most unfortunate and totally ridiculous Lucky Magazine cover back in their December 2013/January 2014 issue. She had been lightened and cropped so awfully that it was not an attractive, nor was it an accurate representation of what she looks like each Thursday night when the gladiators pour their best red and watch her flit on-screen with Fitz and the crew.
This go-round InStyle did their brand of damage by lightening Kerry so much that she looks nearly Caucasian…or anything BUT like the African-American woman she is. Granted she’s a lighter shade of brown, but pigment is not something she’s lacking AT ALL. And she’s a beautiful woman as is. Why must she be light, bright and damn near white to be given the privilege of InStyle’s cover? Especially given in their Fall 2005 Weddings issue they had the stunner on their cover in all of her nut-brownness! Now she looks more like Zoe Kravitz than Kerry Washington!
This is far from a silent issue though. The backlash from this was major. #BlackTwitter and other urban social media spaces were in an uproar and the comments ranged from hilarious to downright incensed. Why is it okay to dilute the visuals of our stars today in order for companies and organizations to feel they are marketable? I know and am well aware; many of these spaces are not directly marketing to African-Americans or people of color in general. No matter how many EEOC mea culpa statements they release. InStyle claimed she looked this way due to the lighting. And Kerry herself remained fairly neutral on it, but tweeted that she was glad that the mag addressed this important issue. I get it doll, you need to maintain them coins and being the focal point of this issue but avoiding being in the middle of it was important for her. But InStyle…c’mon son! You guys do this for a living! I do not see your fair skinned and non-olive complected starlets of European and Mediterranean descent being lit to look alabaster on your varied covers? So why must our brown girls continue to get the brightening treatment in post?
Then there is the other extreme. Beauties like Lupita and Alek Wek are never lightened on covers and in media. Know why? And this is just my opinion…but they are not lightened as their blackberry colored flawlessness is considered by non-blacks to be EXOTIC. So if you are very dark, then you can stay that way as it’s not missed ever that you’re black…but you’re not African American then. You are AFRICAN in appearance to them, so that equates to exotica and that is art, and beauty and it’s cool to appreciate and celebrate that. And if you are ‘ethnically ambiguous’ then that’s non-threatening and usually doesn’t get touched either. But the medium to milk chocolate woman has no place, right? She’s either not dark enough or not light enough. And you don’t dare make her darker, so you make her lighter to fit your little stupid jello mold. Well you know what…I have no room for that J-E-L-L-O. My pudding cup is all the way fine with being full of chocolate and no swirlage is necessary.
As a culture, we have enough color issues amongst one another. This behavior and apparent industry standard of adjustment does NOT help the issue. And I say this as an actress that falls into the cocoa category. I don’t care what song you sing or meme you make…THEY are not in love with the cocoa!
I grew up thinking my dark skin - I spent much of my summers and holidays back home in Guyana and throughout the islands back then so I was definitely darker then than I am presently - and fluffy coils made me less than. And the more they lighten us up to justify our being in their mags, on their billboards and so on; the more they blow out our fros or contour our faces to slim our noses and dull our features, the more little girls and other women see this and feel that the visual they get in the mirror, as is, is not okay. So the altering starts and you get things like the fact that Lil Kim looks like an old Asian woman these days and not the beautiful sister she was back in her Junior Mafia days. And I’m NOT one of those no weave, no perm, no makeup women. I think enhancing is great, just look at my photos! I say do what makes you happy and keeps you looking put together friends. But to have others do it just to say NOW you are marketable to the masses is…DUMB. It’s disrespectful and just another attempt to not-so-subtly dilute who we are.
This is why I continue to be the change I wish to see. I celebrate the color spectrum in my work. Diversity is daring, delightful, delectable and doable in my world, so I ensure it is evident in my films, videos, plays and media. Diversity of ethnicities, cultures and complexions. I do this as I know that my short hair, brown skin, curves and stacked stature does not quantify my talent and what I bring to the table. But to many it qualifies, or DISqualifies me from at times even being invited to the table just as I am. But that’s okay. Even if others don’t believe I know that #iAmMOOREthanEnuff.
What is your take on this magazine madness Shining Starrs? Let me know and let’s talk about it. Tweet me, hit me on FB or comment on this post here in the blog and use the hashtag #MagMadnessMTE with your responses.