the inevitable backlash over kendall jenner's 'vogue india' cover is intense

​Only a few weeks after her Pepsi ad controversy, the supermodel is back in hot water.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
05 May 2017, 1:56pm

Kendall Jenner has stumbled into yet another social media maelstrom. Only a few weeks after experiencing the internet's blazing outrage for that disastrous Pepsi ad, Jenner is being accused of cultural appropriation yet again.

This go around involves Kendall Jenner starring on the 10th anniversary cover of Vogue India. As a white woman, born and raised in California, Kendall does not exactly epitomize Indian women. 

In a country with a population of 1 billion and a rich culture that's bubbling with Bollywood stars, musicians, and models, the question of why and how Vogue India did not select a star from the country is being raised by Twitter. Shot by Mario Testino, the opulent cover spread does feature the Indian soap opera star Sushant Singh Rajput in a few of the photos — posing close to Jenner and wearing a pristine white suit by Ozwald Boateng. White, in India, is traditionally worn by women during periods of mourning. But here, with minimalist fashion, a soft color palette, and Kendall's clean, natural look, it seems like the color's Western connotation of purity is being employed.

And that's exactly where the problem lies: the shoot does not feel like a nuanced representation of Indian culture, complete with the country's symbols and modern aesthetics, but something that could just as easily be transferred over to the pages of American Vogue. The shoot does not give a platform to Indian designers, either. The brands worn by Jenner are largely Western: Jil Sander, Saint Laurent, Oscar Del Renta, Isabel Marant, etc.

It is important to note that it is common for supermodels to star on Vogue covers from all around the world. For example, Naomi Campbell has covered Vogue Turkey, Vogue Brasil, Vogue Russia, and Vogue Thailand, just to name a few of the black supermodel's 65 Vogue covers. Globalization has allowed fashion to cross boundaries both literal and figurative, sharing cultures and aesthetics. The international editions of Vogue illustrate a melting pot of nationalities — which is a good thing. The issue here is mainly that Jenner was chosen to appear on a cover meant to be a celebration of India and Vogue India's decennial.

This is not the first time an international edition of Vogue has come under fire for choosing star power over cultural representation this year. In March, Gigi Hadid elicited the same brand of confusion and bewilderment when she covered the inaugural issue of Vogue Arabia, wearing a gold encrusted hijab.

Neither Gigi Hadid or Vogue Arabia responded to the criticism of their cover, and judging from the current silence from Vogue India and Kendall Jenner — the public's questions seem likely to be ignored again.


Text André-Naquian Wheeler

Kendall Jenner