The popular fashion magazine Vogue made history this month, placing an African American male on its cover for the first time of its illustrious 116 years of publication. The cover of Vogue’s annual “Shape” issue features basketball all-star, Lebron James alongside the beautiful Gisele Bündchen (see exhibit “A” in the upper left hand corner). At first glance I was comfortable with this photo, probably because I am used to seeing images of black males portrayed in this manner. Pick up any Basketball or Hip-Hop magazine, SLAM, XXL, Scratch – they often display images of Black males that exude energy, swagger, anger, even violence, as this photo does. However, this does not seem to be the standard with Vogue. Particularly unnerving in this photo is the drastic stereotypical contrast between the physically dominating, roaring James and the delicate, quaint Gisele – enter the King Kong comparison. This photo resurrects the centuries-old “Birth of a Nation” stereotype of an animalistic dark male and his lilly white female interest. I’m surprised none of the editors at Vogue raised the red flag on this one. They could have done something a little more tasteful, for their first cover featuring an African American male, ever. You don’t open up the league then put Jackie Robinson in minstrel suit! You might think we’re over analyzing this, but Jemele Hill over at ESPN.com makes a great point,
“it’s hard to believe Vogue would have made Brett Favre, Steve Nash or even David Beckham strike his best beast pose.” Read entire article here.
Can I get an Amen!? Inside the Shape Issue, Vogue also featured snowboarder Shawn White, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and swimmer Michael Phelps, all reserved and looking very stylish despite their professional outfits. Ain’t that some bull?