Misunderstanding the news business

Is the British fashion industry racist? Well, it’s a bit like asking whether a British sky is blue – in theory, yes, although in reality, it’s often a dismal grey. Brief bursts of translucent pink and cloudy lemon drift through and for longer, more reliable periods, it’s a deep ink. But then, sometimes, as The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly might lecture, it is undeniably cerulean blue. How blue? Ask Alexandra Shulman.

Formerly the most powerful woman in the industry as editor of Vogue UK, Shulman gave an eye-watering interview to the Guardian last week on the publication of Edward Enninful’s first issue heading the magazine. It was an excruciating unintended trashing of her 25-year legacy in which she appeared to confirm the worst of her blinkered privilege.

In more than 300 issues of Shulman’s editorship, only a dozen covers featured a black person. Two were Beyoncé and Rihanna, who had to become the most famous women on the planet before they were deemed worthy of British Vogue. Campbell – permanently in the world’s top 5 most famous models throughout her 30-year career – featured on five.

This is to entirely misunderstand. Newspapers and magazines chase their readers, not form them. Viz does not cause men to be giggling schoolboys, it appeals to that part of us. Shooting Times does not onvert people to the joys of shotguns, it appeals to those who already have it.

Concerns about who goes on a magazine over should be directed at those who buy – or crucially, don’t – magazines. That is, if there’s any racism here (and quite why a majority white country shouldn’t have majority white people on the cover, well?) then it’s of the people, not the editors.

28 thoughts on “Misunderstanding the news business”

  1. Solid Steve 2: Squirrels of The Patriots

    One of the less celebrated benefits of Third World immigration is being endlessly lectured about how racist we are.

  2. @JuliaM – indeed, no-one cares about this shit apart from the idiots who moan about it and people who wish they would STFU.

    Tellingly the Guardian comments were closed after 60, almost all of which were critical.

  3. @ Jonathan
    Yes.
    They are required to be racist inasmuchas they regard Jews as a special race but that does not require them to be nasty as they are also required to treat Gentiles fairly.
    OTOH if one of them is a nasty racist, *you* and *I* are not allowed to blame them ‘cos they are (i) female and (ii) not-white-British.

  4. The black community believes that by featuring black models on the cover of fashion magazines, society’s perception as to what constitutes ‘beauty’ will not just be challenged but, in time, will be persuaded (nudged). Unfortunately, as Tim suggests, if no one buys the magazines, society won’t be persuaded.

  5. I see Tim’s point. It applies to publications generally but fashion is weird. Nosheen, everybody knows it just takes two or three influencers to start wearing purple thumb gloves, and hey presto everyone will do it. So the basic nature of the industry is that you can, in theory, make everyone do what you have dreamt up in your head. Not surprising therefore Nosheen targets the influencers.
    Now the caveat of course is that , its pretty difficult to get in the headspace of the influencers, because that’s what everybody is trying to do. But the real mistep Nosheen makes is you don’t really want to tackle racism through the dynamic of fashion because say you do reach your goal it is unalterably only a matter of time for the fashionable to become unfashionable.

  6. Since the magazine-buying public is manifestly racist in their cover-page preferences, the government should pay for glossy full-page anti-racism adverts inside the magazine.

    This principle could be expanded across the print media range: readers of Car & Driver get government-funded lectures about the joys of bicycles, readers of Horse & Hound get a piece from the League Against Cruel Sports, and so on.

    Sadly the poor Guardian wouldn’t see a penny of this revenue, as their readers are already perfectly right-thinking.

  7. There is a pretty black woman; or partly black anyway. Hollywood girl; name escapes me. Rather a stunner when she was younger.

    Or, if you go back a million years, the singer Lena Horne. Delish.

    But what does it matter? The black woman who brought most beauty into my life was Ella Fitzgerald, who was – to understate it – no looker, but what wonderful pipes.

    Come to think of it, Prince Harry’s lass seems rather attractive.

    P.S. I’m using “black” in the common American sense of someone who is of wholly or partly descended from people from west sub-Saharan Africa. No doubt there are lots of attractive black women from the Horn of Africa.

  8. ‘In more than 300 issues of Shulman’s editorship, only a dozen covers featured a black person.’

    Rilly? Somebody counts these things?

    How many Asians were ‘featured?’

  9. “How many Asians were ‘featured?’” That’s a good question: there are millions of attractive Asian girls. But how many are models? How many are models who could persuade more people to buy the mag?

    P.S. Got it! Halle Berry.

  10. And here you miss the fundamental difference between right and left wing, between liberal and “liberal”. The former believe people have agency and free will and that shoud be followed and altered by argument. The later believe that the right to direct people’s lives and opinions belongs to them.

    We may have a liberal economic system at the moment but everything else is far from liberal.

  11. In more than 300 issues of Shulman’s editorship, only a dozen covers featured a black person.

    Meanwhile, ‘people of colour’ are vastly over-represented in advertising – all, I assume, in the interests of “community cohesion” and the multicultural project.

    I received a flyer for car insurance today, and, of course, the featured driver was black. Another flyer had six small children on it – two white, one oriental, one mixed race, one South Asian and one black. Often, a black man is featured with a white woman and their mixed race offspring.

  12. And the lone “white guy” now always, ALWAYS has a big bushy beard, because ‘diversity’ is representing all the people the media are and mix with, not the people they are trying to reach.

  13. There’s always ebony girls on America’s Next Top Model, and invariably they are nasty bitches. THis sample may not necessarily reflect the whole picture …

  14. What TomJ said. Surprised the point wasn’t made earlier.

    Of course you could argue that the UK population is not the right denominator. Maybe fashion is for the young or the urban only, to some people. But it’s certainly not fair to sling racism accusations at the lady.

    I also agree with the posters above who made the points indirectly about Chinese and East Africans vs West Africans (and their mixed race counterparts). The focus always seems to be on the latter ethnicities.

    In the UK in particular the ‘South Asians’ always seem to be the ethnic groups really under-represented in all the fussing over the ‘black’ thing. Will be interesting to see how many Pakistanis or Bangladeshis this new editor Enninful puts on his covers.

  15. Forget Pakis and Bangles. India has one sixth of the world’s population. Shouldn’t they get two covers a year?

  16. Oblong, I’m willing to bet that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are overwhelmingly the majority on the cover of Jilbaab Weekly.

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