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Monday, 30 June 2008

ESSAY: Italian Vogue: Black Is Beautiful?

Italian Vogue is celebrating black beauty in July.

Or so they say.

Whilst many across the country felt joy at the news, I was still questioning their decision.

According to Vogue's editor, Franca Sozzani, her decision is based on the discrimination that black models face within the fashion industry (as well as the whole Obama phenomenon).

Though I cannot speak for everyone, I have never been in denial of the beauty that exists within my race. I do not need a book, a magazine, or anyone else to tell me what I see every day: in my family, in friends and in black women across the globe.

So I question the need for such a grand display from those who are usually hell bent on making the aesthetics of the black woman appear grotesque, to the rest of the world. For some this moment has been a long time coming, whereas I cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Is it just me or does this reek of the Oscars black out: Denzel, Sydney, Halle anyone?

Is this July issue seriously going to change anything? I doubt it. The fact that Sozzani is reported as having said this will be ‘the worse selling issue’ is not dampening my reservations.

By making a standalone issue the highlight of the debate, ironically takes away from the wider discussion. This should be about a racist institution that makes millions every year from the same women it rejects. This should be about a racist institution that has been allowed to perpetuate its racism without being severely challenged and taken to task. Instead, this is about one magazine doing one good deed for the year, and yet black women are not a charity case. It is not just about the models either, what about the racism amongst the designers, fashion buyers and editors of these fashion magazines?

If it continues to be about the one issue, will this mean fashion no longer has to dole out another pity issue for, oh let’s say, another forty years? If ever again. Maybe I am being a bit too cynical - but can you blame me? This is what the Football Association does when there are cries against racism – they dole out fines that can easily be paid by the clubs and everybody moves on. This is what the (previously mentioned) Oscars did when there were murmurs about the lack of black actors and actresses winning the accolade – they doled out three for the price of one. So now it is the turn of the fashion industry.

Tell me, once the month is out and the sales figures are in, which point will be proven: that black is truly beautiful or that black girls ‘do not sell’?

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

Interview: GINUWINE

He was the sex symbol of the '90s. Creating a whole new meaning for the word pony with his debut single of the same name, Ginuwine graced our screens and ears with his silky smooth vocals, pretty boy looks and candid sex appeal.

Twelve years on and a couple of double-platinum albums later, the former bachelor is older, as handsome as ever and ready for 2008.

Considering his previous success one would think he had a complex about recreating work of the same calibre. But there are no pressure bars set-it's not his style, 'You can't go back and say I want to top Pony because Pony might not have worked now. You've got to deal with today's time and work around that and just try to come up with something for that time.'

It was in 1996, to be exact, when Ginuwine and the prolific producer Timbaland gave us Ginuwine...The Bachelor, his debut album. Back then, both the artist and the producer had been a part of former Jodeci member DeVante Swing's Swing Mob group (which also included Missy Elliott and Tweet at the time) before the group folded. The dynamite combination of Ginuwine's vocal talent and Timbaland's production skills is what made the album explode into double-platinum status.

Following on from his instant success, Ginuwine has gone on to release four more albums. His sophomore album 100% Ginuwine (also reaching double-platinum) in 1999; The Life (a platinum selling album) in 2001; Senior in 2003 and Back II Da Basics in 2005. Spawning numerous hit tracks from each release.

Judging from gaps in release dates it is clear he is not an artist who feels compelled to saturate the airwaves with his sound. His recipe for r n b: a dash of gentleman and a pinch of thug is what keeps his fan base solid. His declaration of, 'I just feel like I've got to make good music' and releasing a catalogue of substantial material when necessary, is what maintains the (level of) respect he receives within the music industry.

Speaking about the industry Ginuwine points out the major difference between the time he came out and now, 'You can do it all over the internet. It's all about promoting and marketing on the net.' Though he is quick to add, 'Make sure you've got a hit though because that's the key to opening any door.'

For 2008 Ginuwine is working on his sixth album, A New Beginning. His disillusionment with the current state of r n b, 'When we were making music it had more substance to it. You can't really knock what's going on right now, but it's not something I care too much for' and the decision, in 2007, to join forces with r n b hit-makers Tyrese and Tank to form the r n b supergroup TGT, one wonders if the title refers more to the genre than the artist.

Speaking of the new material he says, 'More sexy, smooth and laidback. I'm a little older now so I don't do the jumping around – been there, done that. I'm moving on to the Marvin Gaye feel.' For an artist who is known as much for his energetic moves as he is for his music, it is hard to picture a dance-free Ginuwine. Even he admits, 'When you come to a show though I'm a slave to the rhythm, so I'm gonna move.'

Proof that Ginuwine still has love for the occasional club banger is his current collaboration with UK producer Shayal, on the track Baby. The collaboration is the think tank of British-Asian producer Khiza for his 'culture meets culture' project, on the independent label Utopia Records. At a first glance the pairing of a US r n b star and an up and coming UK producer seems unusual. But with Shayal making quality r n b music and receiving support from other US artists, such as Rickey Rush (who has shared the stage with R. Kelly, KC & JoJo and Ginuwine himself), the duo make perfect sense.

Although some things may have changed for the man who brought us hits like In Those Jeans and Differences, one thing remains constant – his motto for success. 'You've got to work to achieve whatever you want in life. You can't lay back and hope it will come to you; you've got to get up and work.'

© Rachelle Hull
Published at www.originsmag.com


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