Alexandra Shulman Wants You To Know That She Is Not Racist

Alexandra Shulman Wants You To Know That She Is Not Racist

I Promise I’m Not Racist. Let Me Count The Ways

“There have been all kinds of ethnicities in the magazine.”

“My son’s grandfather, was a civil rights leader” so I don’t have a racist gene

“My chief remit was not to show ethnic diversity as a policy”

But “She’s the perfect mixture of mixed race, sort of posh Notting Hill royalty”

“Relatively few came up through the pipeline, for whatever reason”

We did try to find one for the picture but there wasn’t one this season

“I’m sure you can make the numbers stack up to argue that there was an issue.”

“But as far as I’m concerned, there wasn’t”, now someone please pass me a tissue.

Not perfect iambic pentameter but I’m sure you get the gist. Alexandra Shulman’s interview with the Guardian is a series of fallbacks on stereotypical excuses for casual racism and her lack of awareness highlights her distance from contemporary conversations. If she had paid any attention during her tenure perhaps she would have recognised why her ‘sons grandfather being a civil rights activist’ i.e. her version of the ‘I have one black friend’ excuse has no bearing on her ability to be racist. It is no longer enough to not be what I call a ‘Molotov racist’, by which I mean overt racists of the spit in your face, hang you from a tree variety. You must make an effort to constantly challenge your prejudices however ingrained and unthinking they may be. As the Editor – in – Chief of a globally recognised magazine with a diverse readership, who watched the world change over a period of 25 years, it’s just not enough to say it  ‘never entered my head’.

Weruzochi Chinasa

Fashion Editor

The photograph of the Vogue team, for many, highlighted the exact problem in so many people’s current way of thinking. Of course, it’s easy to go along with things as they are and have an all-white team. It takes effort to search outside of your radius for someone of a different background, whether it be culturally or racially. “it never entered my head” and that is the exact problem that people of colour face today. People “don’t come through the pipeline” to apply for jobs because the exclusivity the brand has created has left people of other ethnicities believing that they could not possibly be accepted if they did apply. There are so many people of colour out there who are as talented and work equally, if not harder than those who come from a more well-connected background of privilege. Perhaps in the ideal future, equality and representation would be so fair that we may not need tickboxes, but the current lack of such requires positive discrimination. It is the white image we have been sold for decades (or centuries?) as an ideal that creates the problem of only including “the people [she] thought interesting” being white themselves. I also ask, how can someone be “the perfect mixture of mixed race, sort of posh Notting Hill royalty.”? This statement alone puts races into categories and hierarchy. When POCs enter an industry which has not truly recognised diversity, they are to be celebrated and supported. Not everything is going to be perfect but it is a massive step towards true diversification.

Balraj Bains

Print Assistant

When I first read the article, I didn’t think Shulman was a racist. I just thought she was blind to many things which have informed her decisions. She says she made decisions based on “merit”. I think she was ignorant and her bubble clearly very small and limited to people like her. For 25 years, you could not find a South Asian woman to be on the cover, a disabled woman who was making shapes or someone who spoke for those who weren’t white cisgendered women?

I thought many parts of the Guardian interview was problematic. For someone who basically branded a magazine for 25 years – she wasn’t doing so well in trying to get out of this hole she was digging.

Then this Guardian interview brewed in my mind and I thought how problematic Shulman’s reign and words were. And yes, racist which just not explicitly so.

Adwoa was the perfect “mixed race” was she? Why? Because she has Eurocentric features but is the right amount of brown? Thandie Newton lived two doors down from Shulman, was winning globally recognised awards in film but Shulman’s reason for not putting her on the cover was she didn’t think about it? Same with the rest of all the other people of colour who could have been placed on the cover or anyone from LGBTQ+ and disabled communities huh?

Shulman gets stressed out at one point discussing and defending herself as a racist so she makes coffee. It’s so interesting that we live in a time where being branded racist is worse than your actions being implicitly racist. Wouldn’t it all be easy if we, all people of ‘Other’, could just chill out, have a Pepsi or make ourselves a hot drink when discussing these issues?

Shulman didn’t take risks. She states black women on covers weren’t as known and wouldn’t have sold but everyone knows the more unique a cover the more it will sell especially if you just have similar people all the time. Besides, shall we count how many white names and faces have been on the cover who we all say – who’s that? Wait, what was she in? What has she done?

My last thoughts on this are that it’s done but I’m ready for the revolution. I don’t think everyone needs to look up to white spaces to feel recognised – we don’t need that recognition but I’m here for #NewVogue, the new era of it girls.

Let’s not make the same mistakes and pander to what we think will sell. Someone place a gay Afro Arab trans woman with disabilities who wears the niqab on the cover soonish please.

Tahmina Begum



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