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March 2011: L’Officiel Paris Takes Beyonce Back To Her African Roots in Black Face?

Ok where do I start but to say this is getting so old that there is no way anyone including Beyonce, even if she is really dumb as rocks wouldn’t have known that this would be offensive or at the very least in poor taste, particularly to Africans. The French have had such a dismal relationship these past few years with Africans in France from dragging mothers & babies on the streets to arrest them as illegal aliens, to French journalist Éric Zemmour being found guilty of inciting racial hatred after appearing on a talk show & saying that drug dealers were mostly “Blacks & Arabs”. With the plethora of issues between the French & Africans, from France to their former colonized nations like Ivory Coast being played out & up in the media, this type of continued idiocy in the name of art & fashion is just more foolish unnecessary taunting in the guise of celebration, which they have now recruited  the world’s perfect Black Barbie, Beyonce, to aid & abet them in continuing to stereotype Africans.

I am willing to give Beyonce the benefit of the doubt that she is probably clueless about the long history & recent tensions between the French & Africans even though she is technically a product of this history since her mom is of New OrleansLouisiana Creole decent; however anyone who has lived as a Black person & has been awake & aware in the world of fashion, which she makes a good amount of money from, should know that celebrating African queens by donning black face is just not a good move for anyone. Fela Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti is rolling in his grave that this is how they would choose to celebrate him,  Africa & the  true African queens who he loved in multiples. I don’t know if Beyonce was trying to make up for the fact that UK’s Daily Mail basically accused her of being part of the self hating skin bleaching brigade of Black celebrities, but come on Beyonce, why would you think this was a good idea with the last few years being nothing but Black people being outraged about black face in magazine after magazine & even Tyra Banks having to come out & apologize for doing the same on her America’s Top Model show?

I personally could careless about this overplayed card of “black face” by European magazines craving global or better yet American attention month after month, season after season..YAWN! We are bored & you can have it because it doesn’t even have the same offensive effect anymore because it is just lacking imagination, vision & creativity in its sheer unadulterated stupidity. As Black history month comes to an end in February & women’s history month begins in March, I would have loved to be celebrating my beautiful Black sister paying homage to  Fela & Africa depicted in a magazine that I actually really enjoy most of the time, but instead I am left with the disappointment of what could have been a beautiful celebratory trifecta of Beyonce, Africa & L’Officiel  ending up as a badly thought out effort choosing to opt for the go to cheap way of getting global attention instead of truly thinking out of the box in vision & creativity.

As an African & a great admirer & fan of Fela, I think it is disgraceful to try to claim that this is somehow celebratory in his honor because obviously they know very little about what Fela was about & stood for because this type of tomfoolery in depicting L’Officiel & Beyonce’s idea of what an African queen looks like would have him singing “Zombie” to Beyonce  & have him with a few choice words for L’officiel using “dem regular trademark” & letting them know “teacher don’t teach me no nonsense“! The idea that this is in anyway celebrating or paying homage to Fela’s legacy as a man who loved Africa & used music as a weapon to fight the type of injustice that is being done to African people/descendants right in France is absurd & a big fail in my book. The only reason I have any interest in speaking about this March  2011 -90th Anniversary issue of L’Officiel is specifically because they decided to say it was “deglaming” Beyonce AKA Sasha Feirce & taking her back to her African roots, while somehow paying homage to Fela by going against the exact nonsense he spoke about..this colonial mentality of what an African is & should be!

L’Officiel’s officiel response to the manufactured controversy

The designs are all reflective of the African influence on fashion this season,” the magazine says in a statement. “As for the artistic make-up, the inspiration came from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face. We find the images beautiful and inspiring.”

#FELAHOMAGE #AFRICANRITUAL #PAINTEDFACES -There’s a difference let’s be honest & not disingenuous.

It is time that we stop acting stuck on stupid & recognize the world around us & our responsibility as everyday people & specifically artists/celebrities who have a massive platform to utilize their voice & power to bring about real change. By saying they are “deglaming” Beyonce & taking her back to her African roots is ridiculously insulting in itself because it suggests that Africa isn’t glamourous & to top off the stereotype of the  so called “dark continent” they blacken Beyonce’s face as if she isn’t already Black & one of us global African Queens who come in all shades-No need to Blacken or Whiten.

The other images without black face were fine all on their own, even though they gave the same stereotypical idea of head wraps, mudd clothes, elaborate wood, gold & ivory jewelry being the staple of what Africa is to most Europeans & I guess even to African descendants of the Diaspora. The blackface was just an unnecessary edition that added nothing to the shoot except to conjure up controversy, which I am sure was the goal. Is the European or African Diasporan idea of going back to one’s African roots just donning blackface & head wraps? Big Shrugs & an Oh Please on that! If you want real examples of Diasporans going back to one’s African roots look at Rita Marley & all that she has done for Africa (Ghana in particular) & the many others who are really about honoring, respecting & giving back to the roots of humanity & their culture in a real way not just a silly superficial way. I would like to know if there were any African designers featured in the so called “African themed” fashion shoot or was Mama Knowles as African as they wanted to get? Robin Givhan said it best in addressing the fashion industry’s lack of honesty in dealing with the issue of race.

the fashion community tends to play dumb or be disingenuous. It treats race like “a paint chip,” even while benefiting from the undercurrent of racial tensions that permeate our society. Recognizing the power of race—and the accompanying stereotypes—has led to some of fashion’s most glorious images. Fashion pushes at the boundaries of political correctness in the name of creative freedom and buzz. But it often does it in a manner that is impish, sly, timid, and, at times, seemingly downright deceitful. How many times must we see a white model dressed in designer fare cavorting with the brown-skinned locals in India or Africa? Those who lead the cultural conversation about beauty, gender, and class biases can be shockingly uninterested in carrying on a dialogue about race—or simply unwilling to do so. I say, if you’re going to play with stereotypes, do it openly and honestly. After all, sometimes the culture needs to be challenged, even angered….” READ MORE

I am all for having this honest dialogue about race & how we all benefit in playing the game of race without being openly honest about it whether one is Black ,White or other. I guess Black people are even more stuck on stupid than White people on this issue of “black face” because we condone, celebrate & participate in what we say we hate. How can anyone take Black people seriously when we fall right in line with stereotypes even when we are the ones in control of defining our Blackness. Why would Beyonce, miss independent with a mind of her own that can upgrade you choose to downgrade herself & Africa by ever thinking that this would be a great idea to agree to after the past few years of backlash with this very issue ? I guess money & fame weakens the brain & principle goes out the window! Oh well congrats Beyonce on yet another cover & getting mama Knowles a high end fashion gig for her costumes & joyeux anniversaire L’officiel, but the M.O.P & African in me can’t help but to channel Cee Lo & say F$*K You!

This is our own stupidity in the fact that this shoot would have been great if someone actually stood up & said no to the Black Face- which was just unnecessary & really served no purpose other than to create controversy. They knew the hype in media attention that they would receive from the controversy -which is what they were going for & they got it with the help of Black people who should know better..sometimes our thirst to be included by any means necessary makes us our own worst enemy!

I had to add this comment that I saw on because it captured the issues of the Black community that we seem to never learn from & create for ourselves, while others who have been through the struggles of racism, genocide & injustice have managed to decipher in a clear cut no exceptions way on what is & isn’t acceptable in their representation.
Justin Says:
First of all, I agree that the editorial was more of an issue than the photograph. The language indicated an underlying notion of Africans as savage and inherently un-glamarous. Ugh….But we need to take a page from our Jewish brothers and sisters when in comes to ish like this. No Jewish person would ever tolerate someone in a Nazi costume, just because the person wearing it was Jewish. They keep it simple: all things Nazi are bad and won’t be tolerated. We, on the other hand make so many exceptions to all of our ‘rules’ that is renders them completely useless. “Don’t say the N word, unless you’re Black, or a rapper or one of the cool white cats that we grew up with who we know don’t mean it in a bad way.” “Don’t dress up in blackface unless you’re black, or in a European fashion magazine, or directing your own music video.”…We need to get our ish together and stand for something or just shut up. Consistency might not be universally respected, but at least folks will know where we stand.”

Music is a spiritual thing, u don’t play with music..if u play with music u will die young..When the higher forces give u gift of music, musicianship- it must b well used for the good of humanity..if u use it 4 ur own self by deceiving people..u will die young” Fela kept it clear & consistent


Beyonce Photos : March 2011: L’Officiel Paris

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