After having white models sport blackface in the past, Vogue appears to have committed another racial faux pas. For their latest issue, the magazine is “celebrating diversity” by featuring a Caucasian female in “yellowface” dressed as a Japanese Geisha.
American supermodel Karlie Kloss got a huge Asian “makeover” for Vogue magazine’s March issue via a photo spread with an accompanying article titled, “Spirited Away”.
In the issue, shot on location in Japan’s Ise-Shima National Park, Kloss’ skin was made to look more pale than usual while her originally blonde hair was turned black and done in the shimada hairstyle. She was dressed in various Japanese-style wardrobe.
According to Vogue’s promotional blog, the upcoming issue, which features a cast of multiracial and body-positive models, was intended as a celebration of diversity and inclusion.
However, Kloss’ leaked photos, reportedly captured by Mikael Jansson with styling by Phyllis Posnick, seemed to suggest otherwise.
When the images surfaced online, the magazine and the model were heavily criticized on social media for the spread’s cultural insensitivity.
— The Cut (@TheCut) February 14, 2017
I was gonna ask why vogue decided to put karlie kloss in geisha makeup & clothing when there are amazing japanese models but i know why
— ㅤ (@honobonoIog) February 14, 2017
Has Vogue lost it? Karlie Kloss as a geisha.
“What look should we go for this March?”
“How about yellowface and assorted Orientalism?” pic.twitter.com/bXZfiKzpe1
— Suzanne Enzerink (@suzanneenzerink) February 15, 2017
*logs in to Twitter*
Karlie Kloss as a geisha for Vogue
Betsy DeVos as Ruby Bridges in a Glenn McCoy cartoon
— Miya Tokumitsu 🗽 (@MiyaTokumitsu) February 14, 2017
BREAKING: Vogue dressed Karlie Kloss up as a geisha for their diversity issue because people don’t learn. https://t.co/oNgPeor0D6
— Stephanie Resendes (@resendesteph) February 15, 2017
Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, and Tilda Swinton turn to Karlie Kloss. “Your turn, girl.”
Karlie on phone: “Hello, Vogue? Make me Asian.” pic.twitter.com/zgUWIB022Q
— Ira Madison III (@ira) February 14, 2017
Many were quick to point out the absurdity of the concept, citing the photoshoot’s apparent cultural appropriation.
yellowface is real and racist and karlie kloss just did it in vogue!!!!!
— simone (@balloonbreath) February 15, 2017
IDAF this was an homage to a 1966 Vogue shoot. Sure, take the visual inspiration—Don’t copy the dusty cultural insensitivty from 50 yrs ago https://t.co/gBOKbRugEq
— Chin Lu 呂錦華 (@ChinHuaLu) February 14, 2017
SHE DID YELLOW FACE IN THE DIVERSITY ISSUE 🙃🙃🙃 https://t.co/E5J1isp4GF
— Ainee Athar (@AineeWrites) February 14, 2017
— morgan 🌿 (@lookiemp3) February 14, 2017
University of Hawaii professor of women’s studies and an affiliate of the Center for Japanese Studies Mire Koikari noted that the images raise some serious questions on racism.
“It strikes me as an example of ‘Asian face’ or ‘Yellow Face,’ a problematic practice long existent in the history of racism in the U.S., where white men and women alter their facial features to ‘pass’ as ‘Orientals,’” Koikari told The Huffington Post.
“The images also recirculate the overly sexualized understandings of ‘Asian women.’” she explained.
Karlie Kloss addressed the issue via an apology posted on Twitter on Wednesday:
“These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive.”
— Karlie Kloss (@karliekloss) February 15, 2017