Italian Vogue’s Second “Black Issue” Stars … Barbie?

Vogue Italia certainly knows how to increase sales:

  1. Drum up media coverage by launching an all black issue that features only African-American models.
  2. Follow up a year later, only replace the models with inanimate black objects and simply drum up controversy.

In its second go-around, the magazine has named Barbie its cover girl of the now annual Black issue. Says editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, “Barbie has been an icon for whole generations which is why I really wanted to give a strong sign in step with the times, and dedicate the anniversary issue to Black Barbie.” Huh. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?There’s no denying Barbie’s iconic and cultural relevance, yet the question remains as to what Vogue Italia hopes to achieve with a black issue, when its point of focus isn’t about real people. It’s clear that the magazine’s underlying efforts are positive—to promote racial diversity in the fashion world—but seems to be sending a mixed message. (I can see the culture studies majors out there salivating already, planning analytical papers about Vogue Italia’s postmodern rupture.)

Our own Lily Q takes issue as well with Barbie’s role, citing the doll’s recent snowball of popularity as a factor in her rise to power.

On the other hand, is the controversy over Barbie’s cover overly inflated? Is this a situation where racial discourse creates issues that shouldn’t exist? (i.e., “It’s just a magazine cover…”) Maybe you have the answer. I’m not so sure.