white model apologizes after (unknowingly) appearing on the cover of 'blackhair'
'I believe this shoot is from when I was around 15 and didn't understand cultural appropriation or the impact it has on POC,' Emily Bador wrote on Instagram yesterday.
Models are probably used to seeing their faces pop up in unexpected places. However half-white, half-Malaysian model Emily Bador was pretty surprised to see her photo on the latest issue of Blackhair magazine, which, as the name suggests, is a glossy aimed at providing hair tips and inspiration to women of color. Turns out the photo was actually taken a few years ago and used without her knowledge, which has prompted Bador to write a lengthy, heartfelt apology about cultural appropriation and her own responsibility in agreeing to the shoot in the first place.
"I believe this shoot is from when I was around 15 and didn't understand cultural appropriation or the impact it has on POC," she wrote on Instagram yesterday. "I was uneducated, which obviously is no excuse, ignorant and immature... I didn't understand that shoots like this support the very Eurocentric beauty standard that the mainstream media focus on which reinforce the idea that black features are only ok on white women. I didn't understand that as a white passing woman I'd be praised for this hair, but if I was a black woman I'd be persecuted. I didn't understand cultural appropriation." She estimates that the photo is three or four years old, and acknowledges that has resulted in the loss of a cover opportunity for a model of color.
Many commenters have praised Bador for opening up an honest conversation about cultural appropriation - including Blackhair itself, which was apparently totally unaware that its cover model was not of black or mixed-race heritage. "At Blackhair we continuously strive to celebrate black women in all our beautiful variation of skin hues and hair textures," wrote the magazine's editor on Facebook. "We are keenly aware of how black women are underrepresented in the mainstream media and the last thing we want to do is add to our erasure. In this ever-changing world, race will surely become even more fluid and no doubt conversations around Black identity will continue to change, and we definitely welcome the dialogue."
Anyone who knows Bador probably wouldn't be too surprised at the longtime diversity advocate's attitude. "Fashion should represent everyone and just be more ethnically diverse," she told us last year. "I want models who will stand up and talk about politics, racism, mental health, poverty, and all these other things that effect so many normal people. Imagine the difference you could make if you had 39.7 million followers?" Hopefully others in the industry are equally open to learning from their past mistakes, no matter how well-intentioned - because there is still clearly plenty left to learn.
Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram