Just a few months after InStyle was accused of lightening Kerry Washington’s skin tone, another top glossy is being taken to task, this time for what’s being called a lack of diversity.
In its latest issue, Teen Vogue’s Beauty and Health Director Elaine Welteroth penned an article about the experience of having her hair styled in Senegalese twists when she visited Rwanda, as well as how they were received when she returned home to New York City. The online version of the story featured personal photos from Welteroth’s trip, but the print article was accompanied with the image of model Phillipa Steele with her hair twisted into chunky plaits.
And this is where the twists hit the fan.
Twitter erupted with criticism over the magazine’s choice to feature Steele, who told Models.com that she is half Fijian, with Tongan, French, English and American roots. The print article also featured a collage with the photos of other women who’ve sported braided styles, including Zendaya and Zoe Kravitz. As Buzzfeed noted, one of the early dissenters was Twitter user @JOJOTHAJAWN, who slammed Teen Vogue for only highlighting light-skinned Black women in the story.
In a flurry of tweets, she wrote, in part, “Zendaya is not the only POC [person of color] who wears these hairstyles. So why is she the only POC you showed as example!?? @TeenVogue Snuck a pic of Zoe Kravitz in there. Two light skin black women. What about Solange? Janelle Monáe?? Non celebrity POC??!!”
In an open letter posted on TeenVogue.com, Welteroth, who is biracial, responded to backlash that Steele simply wasn’t “Black enough” to be included in the original feature story and brought up some poignant arguments about the thriving light skin vs. dark skin debate among the Black community.
“Black comes in a myriad of colors and textures — all of them beautiful, all of them deserving of representation. In the telling of this particular story, which is my own personal story, it was important to me to include a model that is also mixed-race (she is Black and French). The model, like myself, the author of this piece, and Zendaya, the celebrity who inspired it, represents a broadening spectrum of what Black looks like. I can only hope that this story and the conversation it ignites can help shed light on the reality that race cannot be defined by just skin tone, eye color, or hair texture”
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(Photo: Teen VOGUE)