Allure Afro Controversy

Allure

A white woman wearing an Afro has caused another Internet firestorm—and nope, it's not Rachel Dolezal.

Allure's August 2015 issue included a massive hair feature highlighting key looks from the '70s, which sounds OK, right? Well maybe not so much.

The Afro, a style that black women wore as a symbol of freedom and empowerment during that decade, is being modeled by a white woman, actress Marissa Neitling. "An Afro is not an introvert's hairstyle," reads the teaser for the tutorial (because, you know, no black women in history have ever been both introverted and worn an Afro). Further, the get-your-own-Afro instructions fail to address the historical significance of the style.

The step-by-step's awkwardly tone-deaf headline, meanwhile, announces, "You (Yes, You) Can Have an Afro, Even If You Have Straight Hair"—which begs the question: Does the emphatic "Yes, You" indicate the feature is only meant for white women? Angry social media users seem to think so.

Allure Afro Controversy

Allure

"The Afro has a rich cultural and aesthetic history," Allure said in a statement released to E! News. "In this story, we show women using different hairstyles as an individual expression of style. Using beauty and hair as a form of self-expression is a mirror of what's happening in our country today. The creativity is limitless—and pretty wonderful."

All well and good, except the magazine seems to be mistaking appropriation for inclusivity. (So all not good and not well.) The statement also tip-toes around the backlash and neglects to fully explain the piece, which is problematic.

This latest controversy mirrors similar flak that Teen Vogue received for an editorial using a fair-skinned woman to model Senegalese braids. Beauty Editor Elaine Welteroth fiercely defended the feature, however, explaining that the model was mixed race and questioning social media critics over their definitions of blackness.

Salma Hayek, Allure Magazine

Allure Magazine

The August 2015 issue of Allure features Salma Hayek on the cover. Here's to hoping that future issues not only promote inclusive representations of beauty, but acknowledge the cultures being represented.
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UPDATE: Allure offered an additional statement regarding the controversy via Facebook: "Hi all, We wanted this story to be a celebration of individual beauty and self-expression and the boundless creativity of our contributors. We hear your feedback loud and clear, and we're working to make sure our future stories reflect all perspectives."

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