Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Gabourey Sidibe on the Cover of Elle Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Issue

Jeez. SMH. Hat tip to both Womanist Musings and Colorlines.

Check this out. Is it my imagination, or is something wrong with these two pictures?

Will the real Gabourey Sidibe please stand up? Most of the criticism focuses on her size, but they're also missing a more obvious point by a mile. (Courtesy: Colorlines)

I thought so.

The Gabby at the right is rocking her natural black skin color.

The Gabby at the left, on the cover of Elle Magazine, has had her skin color photographically lightened to brown.

Just too black, I guess, compared to Amanda Seyfried, Lauren Conrad, and Megan Fox, who also grace other Elle covers at the same time next month.

The media gets it about someone like Janet Jackson (who has also had her nose and face altered over the years) but they still don’t get it about women like Gabourey Sidibe, who is like a round peg in a square hole. A very square hole.

At the same time these magazines (and the media in general) lighten and alter black women’s faces and bodies that are not up to white standards of beauty, they darken black men’s faces to justify criminality.

Remember this iconic photo? I still think he did it, but he wasn’t even on trial yet. Oops, my bad. Yes, he was.

Take it away, Colorlines:

It’s a common, tired practice, and the routine is well-practiced: beauty companies and fashion magazines regularly lighten women’s skin (and darken the faces of black men), pissed off consumers shout back, and sometimes an apology is issued. But come the next fall collection or election season, photo retouchers are inevitably back to trying to make women of color more attractive by lightening them, and darkening the skin of men of color to make them seem more dangerous and suspect. Color, still, is everything.

And that’s just one thing Elle got wrong with its Sidibe cover. By cropping Sidibe’s cover photo so close, Elle may have been trying to hide her full-figured body—its own travesty—but they only made her seem bigger. Sidibe doesn’t get the standard female cover photo treatment: three-quarters of the woman’s body centered with strong margins of white space on either side of the woman. She gets a uniquely awkward cropped shot.

And I’ll just say what I know you’re thinking: the weave Elle gave her is not doing Sidibe any favors. It’s the kind of unflattering and embarrassingly obvious weave that a fashion magazine should be ashamed to put on anyone. (And Elle’s done it to Beyonce in the past, too.)

Landing a cover is a big deal for any star, more so for Sidibe, whose skin color and wise-cracking smarts and body type make her something of an obvious outsider in Hollywood. Sidibe’s also been famously snubbed by fashion magazines. She was reportedly passed over by Vogue, because she was too big. And in March, Sidibe was left off a Vanity Fair cover of nine young actresses for the magazine’s “Young Hollywood 2010!” spread. The women who made the cut were, you guessed it, all white.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=alek+wek&iid=9075355″ src=”″ width=”234″ height=”356″ /]

Whoopi Goldberg, as loose-lipped as she is, was nearly a casualty of this kind of thinking in Hollywood as well. That’s why she’s hustled enough to get a gig at The View and do occasional films or short-term roles in musicals that don’t get in the way of gig one. Why? Check her list of films, and the kinds of roles they offered her, and you get a big reason why. She’s been ignored in the list of the black women who have received Academy Awards at the time Halle Berry won her Best Actress award, and in other instances as well.

And Alek Wek is still modeling. She almost has the same “skillet blonde” skin color as Gabby. She’s been in mostly all of the fashion mags, including Elle. Just what the freak were they thinking? Because Wek is thin, she gets to slide? Please. Many black women who model come up repeatedly against these racist, unreasonable standards. (Their mouths and lips may be “too big,” but damn, why are white women–including models–still getting collagen injections in their lips?) Eventually, such stupidity comes back on those who maintain it. This is one of those times. It’s an embarrassment for the magazine, not for Gabourey Sidibe, who’s already hip to these people.

Um, I’d say don’t pick up this issue, which comes out for October, and is probably on sale now.

~ by blksista on September 14, 2010.

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