…because finally a mainstream fashion magazine has finally started to cater for the woman outside of Caucasian likeness. Yes its hard to believe that it’s taken Marie Claire this long to realise that a lot of its readers are in fact black. I’m not pissed, actually I’m elated and what’s even more peculiar is that I’m surprised at how elated I am!
Marie Claire images November 2010 issue
I think it’s because even though this issue has played on my mind, when flicking through my favourite monthly magazines, I didn’t realise just how accustomed I was to not seeing my likeness being represented or even consulted in the make-up sections. It’s such an obvious problem, I get to the make up pages and I flick through sometimes even stopping, reading through the hair styling and make-up applications (who was I kidding!), eventually putting two and two together and noticing that the only thing me and Alexa Cheung would ever share was the first five letters in our names, the term ‘bed hair’ took a whole new and horrendous meaning when applied to my own and tha the prescribed shade of blush really wasn’t going give me that English Rose look we celebrate here so much. I’m English, I want to be a rose, alas it is a term reserved only for palettes as pale as Lily Cole and Kate Winslet with the only exception applied to a woman being the lightest woman of colour I know Thandie Newton. The connotations of English Rose aside from aristocratic like mannerisms is flawless white skin, lustrous but not Hollywood over-styled locks, rose-pink cheeks and small but pert rouge lips (even Thandie has this) and usually a social class status between middle class and upwards.
Shame really because I think the term of English rose can be redefined with the increasing emergence of gorgeous Black British stars (below in order) Naomi Harris, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Freema Agyeman, Larissa Wilson, Claire Hope-Ashity and Jourdan Dunn, Phina Oruche, Marsha Thomason, Carmen Ejogo Wright and Sophie Okenado – to name a few. However I am seeing more and more magazines for young ambitious black women, there is nothing wrong with this, you could even argue that it’s just highlighting just how segregating existing popular magazines out there are. I still hate feeling like I am being force-fed the ‘Strong Black Woman’ line, I wasn’t brought up to see being black as hindrance and I don’t feel like I’m being persecuted for it either, I believe hard work gets you far regardless. Yet its little things like the recent black beauty feature in Marie Claire that tells me it must have effected me a little.
I’m not naive about the prejudices that are out there, its glaringly obvious, but I have enough self belief in my abilities that I can only hope will shine through, and surely being the only black person out of hundreds tends to shine the spotlight on me just a little brighter. I am seeing more of us in varied careers especially the Arts which makes me so happy and nervous, I want us to prove that we be in positions of inspiration and that one day It won’t be, “She’s a black director and brilliant” why not just be brilliant regardless of colour?
Marie Claire images Nov issue 2010
So forgive me for pointing out the uncomfortable truth, but even though its been a long time coming (trust me its overdue) it’s still a magnificent thing. If Marie Claire is doing it then I hope ELLE and then Vogue will follow – not just in some novelty collectors issue to sell more magazines but just because it is a true reflection of our world inclusive of race. Although its a small section it’s enough. Beauty writer Funmi Odulate keeps it concise and in keeping with the Marie Claire upper high street tone. It fits perfectly, like its been there all the time.