Update: Glamour Magazine Apologizes for Racist Comments

By Jonathan Adams Sep 12, 2007

Tip to Ask This Black Woman. Some commenters mentioned a Glamour luncheon with Black lawyers where the women were advised against "political hairstyles," in connection to an earlier post about Beyonce. While the apology was issued in good faith by the editor of Glamour magazine, the demands of the entertainment industry that places value on the exotic remain.

I read your post about a Glamour editor’s comments on hairstyles for work, and I’d like to share with you our thoughts. First, we regret the comments were made. The employee (not a beauty editor) spoke to a small group of lawyers at a private luncheon without her supervisor’s knowledge or approval, and her comment — that Afros are not work appropriate — does not represent Glamour’s point of view. Secondly, immediately upon learning of it, we sought to rectify the situation. The editor has been dealt with in a very serious manner, and the entire staff has been reminded of the magazine’s policies and procedures for making public appearances. Glamour is proud of its diverse readership and celebrates the beauty of ALL women. We have responded directly and openly with readers to assure them of this fact. We have also apologized to the law firm, and we extend the same apology to you. Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour

Beyonce was recently named the new face of American Express. At the top of the pop music game, she has signed endorsements with L’Oreal, Pepsi, and Wal-Mart. It’s clear that America “lives” for Beyonce. But her new deal with AMEX may clue us in on why so many corporate giants are capitalizing on, “The Beyonce Experience.” Check out the casting call that SOHH.com posted for the commercial that Beyonce shot for American Express yesterday. SOHH.com immediately points out, “that the only blacks allowed in the commercial are music producers,” but it also scripts other race-d roles like “cool looking Japanese kids.” The casting call shows the critical role that media makers play in shaping the dialogue on race.

AMERICAN EXPRESS F. BEYONCE Commercial Seeking, Principles: [ BEYONCE’S ASSISTANT ] Female / Caucasian / 30-34 Real people types. Non commercial. She is smart, sharp and efficient. Rate: Sag Scale [ HAIR STYLIST ] Male / Caucasian / 28-33 Stylish. Real people types. Rate: Sag Scale [ MAKE-UP ARTIST ] Female / Asian / 25-33 Hip. Real people types. Artsy. Rate: Sag Scale [ MUSIC ENGINEER ] Male / African Am, Caucasian / 30-33 Real people types. Non commercial types. Rate: Sag Scale [ MUSIC PRODUCER #2 ] Male / African Am / 35-38 /A little bit older than Producer #1. Real people types. Should look natural working on a track board. Rate: Sag Scale [ MUSIC PRODUCER #1 ] Male / African Am / 27-33 /Real people types. Believable. Should look natural working on a track board. Rate: Sag Scale [ PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSISTANT #2 ] Female / Caucasian / 20-25 /SHE is an Italian hip and stylish Rate: Sag Scale [ PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSISTANT #1 ] Male / Caucasian / 30-33 /HE is an Italian hip and stylish. Note: Photographer #1 a bit older. Rate: Sag Scale [ ITALIAN PHOTOGRAPHER ] Male / Caucasian / 40-45 /HE is Hip and edgy. MUST know how to handle a camera. 40-45. Rate: Sag Scale [ JAPANESE PARENTS ] Male or Female / Asian / 35-40 /Real Japanese type parents for record store scene. Rate: Sag Scale [ JAPANESE FANS ] Male or Female / Asian / 15-22 /Real Japanese kids. Cool looking. Record store scene. Rate: Sag Scale [ (6) AUSTRIAN REPORTERS ] Male or Female / Caucasian / 25-45 /Interesting faces. Real people not commercial. No models. AUSTRALIAN TYPES. Rate: Sag Scale [ (6) GERMAN REPORTERS ] Male or Female / Caucasian / 25-45 /Interesting faces. Real people not commercial looking. No Models. GERMAN TYPES. Rate: Sag Scale

I never really thought of photographers or reporters or music lovers as specific races or ethnicities but this commercial seemingly attempts to define these for me. There has to be room for race in Hollywood casting, but how should it be executed? This casting call limits people of color to stereotypical roles, but there are many more casting calls that do not even call for people of color. In fact, celebrities like Beyonce have greater success because of their ability to serve as a “universal exotic” and appeal to the masses. OK! Magazine quotes an American Express insider who says, “She’s a role model for so many young people. She has tremendous cross-over appeal the same way Tiger [Woods] does. She’s an inspiration for lots of people. She’s a great fit for American Express.” The thinking appears to be that if we collapse the complexity of race into one likeable superstar (that is usually “nice,” beige hue), then consumers can connect to the product. These aesthetic antics can be seen in all aspects of media, specifically with the growing significance of celebrities that cross genres and bring their flavor to every corner of entertainment. But everybody can’t be JLo or Beyonce. Hollywood’s attempt to imitate life will continue to fall short of the real world as long as the media representations for people of color are limited to stereotypical roles. –jadams is a Communications Associate at the Applied Research Center.