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The making of Vogue’s September Issue, titled “Hope,” would be the first time the magazine would feature a large selection of black artists and models. Compiled during the Black Lives Matter protest, the September issue, and the editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour were publicly called out by Black staff members from Vogue. Employees who have interacted with Wintour in the workplace critiqued her handling of race and treatment of black workers at the media company.
After a New York Times investigation, 18 anonymous black journalists spoke out against the racist culture of Vogue, and 11 of those sources insisted that Wintour step down from her position of power. Several black journalists argue that the push for diversity in the September issue is “too late,” and that Wintour set the foundation of a “thin, rich and white” beauty standard at Vogue.
The accusations against the editor-in-chief involve accounts of brushing off cultural appropriating regarding Kendal Jenner’s use of fake gold teeth in 2017. Although she was made aware that it was an example of cultural appropriation, Wintour responded in an email, “Well I honestly don’t think that’s a big deal.”
Vogue has also faced accusations in the past on using cultural appropriation in previous magazine issues. The March 2017 issue received backlash due to the white model, Karlie Kloss, who was dressed as a geisha with pale makeup and dark black hair. Readers opposed the issue because of the clear use of yellowface and appropriating of Japanese culture.
Offensive and awkward email exchanges continued between Wintour and the black staff members. In this case, it was during the Patrick Demarchelier photoshoot where Black models were wearing headscarves. Wintour was hesitant to release the pictures, questioning if might be seen as racist. However, in an attempt to ask an employee an offensive term was written in the email. “Don’t mean to use an inappropriate word, but pica ninny came to mind,” Ms. Wintour wrote.
Wintour apologized for using the offensive word in a statement, expressing that she was acting out concern for her readers. In a longer statement, she takes full responsibility for any media content that was offensive.
“I strongly believe that the most important thing any of us can do in our work is to provide opportunities for those who may not have had access to them,” Wintour wrote in an email. “Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy and I am committed to doing the work.”