What is whitewash, why controversy over Kamala Harris’ cover photo?

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There is a lot of uproar over the picture of Kamala Harris on the upcoming cover page of Lifestyle Magazine Vogue, a popular fashion and lifestyle magazine. Harris is the first Indian American and the first African American woman to have been elected as Vice President of the US in the cabinet of newly elected President Joe Biden. To underline this feat, Vogue has printed an exclusive Kamala Harris photo on the cover page for its February edition, which is facing all-round criticism.

As soon as two photos of the cover page of the upcoming issue of February were released from Vogue’s Twitter handle on Sunday, questions were raised about the thinking behind the photo editing. Controversy deepened and allegations of racism also began. The allegations were denied by Vogue, but until the latest news, there was no official comment from the Biden administration.

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What is the dispute and why?One of the photos that Vogue proposed for the cover was shared on social media, in which Harris is seen wearing a Converse snicker and a black Donald Deal jacket and standing in front of a pink and green background. In the second picture, Harris is seen in a nearly sky-blue Michael Course suit in front of a golden background.

Now there is a ruckus about these pictures because on January 20, the pictures of the first black woman who is going to become the Vice President of America were edited in such a way that they look ‘fair’. Vogue’s photography and editing team are constantly being criticized for targeting such thinking.

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On the other hand, Vogue’s editor in chief, Dame Ana Wintour, has dismissed all the allegations, saying that Harris’ skin tone has not been changed in the photo. However, earlier last year at the time of the Black Lives Matter movement, Vintur admitted that his journal had missed its sensitivity towards minorities.

What is whitewashing?
In the fashion industry, the term is used when a person’s skin tone is cleaned in a picture. In general terms, when the dark or dark skin is presented in a white or white tone, it is called whitewash. It is also considered as a ‘European centric beauty scale’ in the fashion world.

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Clearly, this is indicative of fair skin ie racist thinking. According to their standards of beauty, manipulating a person’s natural skin tone and changing it is called whitewashing, the charges related to which are appearing on Vogue in the case of Harris picture. It is also a fact that in the fashion world, it has often happened that photo editing whitewashed the skin tone.

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Stories related to whitewashing
Earlier in 2011, there were allegations for the cover page of British Vogue that the photo of famous artist Rihanna was also whitewashed. Even then the magazine denied the charge. In addition to Vogue, Elle, another well-known magazine, was also accused of whitewashing a photo of Gabor Sidibe, an Oscar-nominated artist in 2016.

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Not only this, in 2018, celebrity magazine Halo was put in the dock for a similar tampering with photos of famous black model and actress Naomi Campbell.

Apartheid and the fashion industry
Not only magazines or famous celebrities, this issue also dominated the advertising world. Whitewashing accusations have been made in 2008 of Laurel’s ed, whether it was a picture of singer Beyonce Knowles or a photo of actress Freida Pinto for the same brand in 2011. In 2017, there was a lot of hue and cry about a black woman being blonde in Dove’s Ed. Dove also had to apologize.

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In the photo of model and businesswoman Naomi Campbell, magazines have been in controversy before for changing the skin tone.

From Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka to the film industry, such cases have been reported many times. Critics believe that the roots of apartheid are so deep that at the time of casting, there is discrimination on the selection of white and black artists. Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone were cast for characters who were not from the white community.

What is Harris’s team’s reaction?
There is no response from the team of Harris on the controversy that has arisen over the photo of Kamala Harris for the cover of Vogue. But in a report, it was definitely told that the picture of the sky suit was finalized by Team Harris for the cover page. While another report said that Harris’s team had approved both the photos for cover.

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