Gabourey Sidibe in Elle: “Light bright and damn near White”

Elle magazine’s 25th anniversary cover features non other than Gabourey Sidibe of Precious fame now starring in The Big C with Laura Linney. But take a good look at that cover picture. Does that look like Gabourey? The very chocolate brown and proud of it young black woman who was nominated for an Academy Award in her first starring role? Some bloggers are frustrated with Elle’s attempt to whiten the very dark toned Sidibe but as Matthew Fleischer at Mediabistro.com writes, “It’s not often that an overweight black woman finds herself on the cover of a major fashion mag.” And for its part Elle magazine swears nothing was done to lighten Sidibe’sappearance or weight for the cover. “We have four separate covers this month and Gabby’s cover was not retouched any more or less than the others. We had 25 cover-worthy subjects in our portfolio and we chose Gabby because of who she is,” the magazine told Yahoo’s Shine Blog.

But take a look at how the rest of the actresses were shot in the upcoming issue–all skinny, all white, and all shown in a full body shot not a zoomed in close up with ‘forgiving’ fabric. The Womanist Musings blog points out that Sidibe has been featured on other magazine covers including Ebony and her skin tone is always shown as natural. “ I am sure that Elle felt that just having Gabby on the cover was making some statement about how progressive they are, and so I suppose that actually having a picture of Gabby in her natural skin colour was easy to deem unimportant. Light bright and damn near White, is still the standard in the media, unless they are trying to portray a POC as guilty of a crime.” And this is hardly the first time an African American’s skin color has been played up (remember O.J.’s Time magazine mug shot?) Or played down (remember Beyonce’s Loreal ads and commercials that show an oddly bright Beyonce). Thanks for attempting Elle, but a token cover that plays down the very things that make Sidibe different doesn’t serve any purpose. She is proud of who she is. Why aren’t the editors at Elle? And for the record, there’s another very famous magazine that features a talented overweight African American actress, woman who is also proud of who she is on the front cover every single month. It’s called O: The Oprah Magazine. You might want to check it out. You’ll find that O readers aren’t nearly as squeamish about whose on the front as the entirety of Elle’s staff seems to be. Get a clue, Elle.

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