It's puzzling—to say the least—that after the fashion industry has landed in hot water many times for stereotyping race and culture, that Heidi Klum would green light this "Native American-inspired" photo shoot for Germany's Next Top Model.
The "themed" photo shoot features non-Native women (contestants on Germany's Next Top Model) posing in elaborate feather headdresses and face paint. In one shot—a close-up—a model stares into the camera with a single tear running down her cheek.
Heidi posted images from the photo shoot on her Facebook page with the caption, "Here are my beautiful GNTM girls!" Unsurprisingly, the photos were met with outrage, criticizing Heidi and those involved in the photo shoot for racial and cultural insensitivity.
Unfortunately, this is not a new offense for the fashion industry. This past December, Chanel took heat for featuring models in headresses during the Chanel-Dallas Metiers d'Art show. Similarly, Victoria's Secret landed in hot water after Karlie Kloss wore a Native American headdress and bikini during the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
That same year, the brand Paul Frank faced backlash after holding a Fashion's Night Out party that was dubbed a "Dream Catchin' Pow Wow," encouraging guests to wear "war paint." And Urban Outfitters has been the subject of criticism for its frequent use of the word "Navajo" in product names.
These brands have since apologized, and the hope would be that others would learn from these mistakes. While Heidi Klum has not made an official statement, Christoph Korfer, a spokesperson for Germany's Next Top Model production company ProSieben, told The Independent on behalf of Klum and the show, "By no means was our intention to insult Native Americans or in any way demean their heritage. We sincerely apologize."
The images are still up on Heidi Klum's Facebook page, with over 1,000 comments, ranging from "Beautiful photos!" to "Disappointing" to "This is racist and offensive."