By LINH NGUYEN | November 16, 2019
Cover photo by Charisse Kenion / Unsplash
Magazine articles and covers undergo different layers of editing before getting published – yet, mistakes are still unavoidable. In fact, look no further than Elle Germany’s November 2019 issue. Faulty editing and the nod of approval from their Editor-in-Chief, Sabine Nedelchev, has generated major headlines with its problematic theme: Back to Black.
At first glance, the theme might have appeared as generic and harmless. But, Elle Germany’s approach ended up being extremely controversial. Nedelchev published a statement in which she explained the theme, noting that Elle Germany’s aim was to explore the color black from different angles; one of the ways was to feature “strong black women who work as fashion models.”
With this explanation, it makes their intentions quite straightforward. So, at this point, what is so problematic about the November issue? One can argue that featuring black models in the magazine was a way to increase inclusivity. Do not get me wrong, I am all for inclusivity in the fashion industry, and realize that Elle Germany probably had good intentions behind their decisions.
I would also argue that this issue could have been successful in attempting to celebrate the increase of diversity in the fashion industry. That is, if it had not misidentified Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman, labelled Joan Smalls as an upcoming model and featured a white model on the cover. After reading it, I could not help but wonder: how will this do any favours for their supposed cause?
Elle Germany essentially romanticized women with darker skin tones by labelling them as trendy and in demand. While in fact, models such as Joan Smalls have been in demand for quite some time now, being awarded ‘Model of the Year’ back in 2012. Elle Germany was incredibly wrong for promoting black models as a trend and using these women to gain attention. Instead, they should have tried to further educate readers on inclusivity.
Misidentifying a black model with another black model demonstrates the insensitivity that is present behind the scenes at Elle Germany. While the magazine did apologize, this is not a mistake that can be overlooked since it brought attention to existing and ongoing racial issues.
Having been produced by Elle, this was unacceptable. Being a writer myself, I understand that mistakes do happen in publication – but, I still cannot forgive how they blatantly misidentified already underrepresented models. While the issue’s purpose was to highlight the achievements of models with darker skin, the main takeaways were instead about Elle’s unprofessional and misleading screwups.
As a reader, I was incredibly disappointed with this November issue.
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