Diet Prada, the fashion watchdog that calls out copycat collaborators, stylists, designers and the original inspiration behind India’s Diet Sabya, has taken the lead in calling out big brands for their homophobic, racist and sexist behaviour towards their employees, more so ever since the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited. In it’s latest post, Diet Prada minced no words as it called out Vogue for its most controversial shoots and covers. Captioning the post, “Condé Nast is under continued scrutiny for their internal behaviours towards Black employees, but there’s always been plenty of insensitivity right there on the surface. Here’s some controversial moments from American Vogue’s history of cultural appropriation, using POC as props, and the glamorization of white privilege,” the watchdog posted a series of photos, including one where Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone is used as a ‘prop’ next to Scarlett Johansson as they pose for the cover. Here are the most controversial moments in the history of American Vogue, compiled by Diet Prada, read on:
April 2019 issue featuring Deepika Padukone
Diet Prada wrote: In celebration of global talent, the issue championed “the new center, which is everywhere and nowhere at once.” Despite Vogue’s intentions, it was glaringly obvious that in this new center, white women were still at its center. Actresses of color like Adesua Etomi and Deepika Padukone were pushed to the side, serving more as props for white actresses like Scarlett Johansson and Vanessa Kirby.
Fashion habits of a dictator’s wife: Asma Al-Assad in February 2011
Diet Prada wrote: Anna thought a profile on the fashion habits of a dictator’s wife would be appropriate. Asma al-Assad could be literally the most stylish woman in the history of time and it wouldn’t change the fact that her husband killed over 5000 civilians, including hundreds of children, the year this issue came out.
Journalist Noor Tagouris misidentified as model, actor Noor Bukhari in February 2019
The watchdog wrote: Journalist and activist Noor Tagouri was misidentified in a caption as “actor, director, and model Noor Bukhari,” who is from Pakistan. Vogue apologized, acknowledging the “painful misstep,” but the video of her excitedly opening the issue only to find the error still stings.
Hot Lives Matter in April 2016
Diet Prada explained: Steven Klein lensed this incredibly problematic shoot starring Irina Shayk and Tyson Ballou in April 2016. The shoot was leaked and made headlines— Vogue never ran it, but Klein instagrammed a NY Post article about it, hashtagged “hotlivesmatter”. Stop and frisk had been on a huge downward trend in 2016, but over 11,000 people, still mostly POC, were stopped. Stop and frisk numbers started to go back up in 2019 and are probably only down in 2020 because coronavirus has kept so many at home.
‘Destroy this mad brute’ in April of 2008
Diet Prada wrote: Lebron James was the first Black man to ever grace a Vogue cover, shot by Annie Leibovitz who posed top athletes alongside supermodels. The cover was dissected in the press, many outlets comparing it to 1917 American war propaganda poster “Destroy This Mad Brute”. In a modern context it embodies hugely problematic tropes comparing Black people to primates, something racists have done for centuries to dehumanize them. The shoot is like a f*cked up spot the difference— the team HAD to know what they were doing.
Kendal Jenner and cultural appropriation in the November 2018 issue
The Instagram page wrote: There’s a fine line before things cross into cultural appropriation territory. Kendall Jenner in a curly ‘do for example, prompted a comment flood on social media. “We… have our hair burned and chemicals because society taught us that we were not beautiful with our Afros now they copy our Afros but can’t use actual BLACK models with Afros!,” wrote a user. Others called the accusation a reach. Vogue issued a response explaining the Gibson girl inspiration said “we apologize if it came across differently than intended, and we certainly did not mean to offend anyone by it.”
Karlie Kloss and cultural appropriation circa March 2017
Phyllis Posnick styled Karlie Kloss for an on-location shoot in Japan’s Ise-Shima National Park, with photographer Mikael Jansson. Kloss is seen visiting a tea house, posing with a sumo wrester, and carrying a basket of cherry blossoms. In 1966, Diana Vreeland pulled off the legendary Avedon-lensed “The Great Fur Caravan” in Japan without appropriating the culture, yet in 2017 Vogue US somehow still manage to f*ck it up. Kloss apologized after the back-lash, saying she was “truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive”.
Honouring the first responders of Hurricane Sandy circa February 2013
Diet Prada wrote: Vogue honoured the First Responders of Hurricane Sandy by using them as props for a fashion shoot. Annie Leibovitz posed supermodels like Karlie Kloss and Chanel ‘man in gowns and other finery amongst the admirable workers that helped New York City survive the devastating storm. Why Vogue didn’t think to just feature the fire fighters, nurses, and Coast Guard members themselves is beyond us.
Racist ‘mammy jars’ circa February 2019
The watchdog wrote: Grace Coddington worked at British Vogue for 19 years and American Vogue for 28. In 2019, photographer Bryan Ferry shared pics of Coddington at home, from a shoot intended for the magazine Les Echos Serie Limitee. Instagram users were quick to point out her collection of “Mammy” figural jars amongst the expected cats. The racist caricature was very common of the Jim Crow era, which ended decades before Coddington moved to the US. Glad to know her salary was getting spent on racist homewares *eyeroll*.
Anna Wintour, Vogue and Racism
Last week the page had shared a 2011 artwork by Alex Katz showing a mock Vogue cover featuring Anna Wintour, the caption read, “No doubt Anna Wintour has been a hot topic of discussion this week. Rumors flying of an impending resignation were quickly squashed in a Condé Nast town hall meeting on Friday. CEO Roger Lynch said “there is no truth to that,” adding that she can be an “incredibly positive force for change”. Love her or hate her, sound off below.”
The fashion watchdog has been throwing light on the severe bigoted and racist behaviour towards diverse employees, and several posts have been dedicated to Vogue, when several People of Colour came forward with their stories, Anna Wintour sent out a company wide email, apologizing for ‘race related mistakes’. Highlighting some of these instances Diet Prada wrote, “With an impressive media résumé, Shelby Ivey Christie was recruited as a media planner at Vogue in 2016. She tweeted that her time at the glossy was “the most challenging and miserable” of her career, adding that bullying from white colleagues was exhausting.
“A white male exec on the digital biz team dressed up in a chicken suit, with gold chains, sagging pants + rapped to our entire biz org as a meeting ‘kickoff’”, said one tweet. HR was alerted, but nothing was done. Christie writes of Black employees being overqualified, underpaid, and overworked. She was assigned additional territories spanning the West Coast to Italy, would could stretch work days to 20 hours. Nepotism was also an issue. On Vogue’s social media team, two Black members were Ivy League grads while their white counterparts had “no prior relevant experience”.”
Black Lives Matter movement
Racism and the Black Lives Matter movement came back into the spotlight when protests sparked all over the world over the killing of African American George Floyd who was killed when white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for about 9 minutes. On May 25, 46-year-old Floyd breathed his last and video footage showed him pleading, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Floyd’s death was one of the many that have taken place in the African-American community at the hands of police violence and brutality. People protested for police reform, against racism, and some protestors even defaced and toppled over Confederate statues, statues of slave traders and colonialists, including those of Edward Colston, Winston Churchill, King Leopold II and Christopher Columbus.