It's widely known that fashion magazines and designers revel in provocative runway shows and editorial spreads. All that envelope-pushing undoubtedly garners press attention, but when stylists and photographers attempt to represent a model in a different race than his or her own, it tends to generate indignation. In the fashion world, blackface controversies have become an old hat, but this time it's all in the eye.

The current Vogue Nippon features the extremely beautiful, plus-sized model Crystal Renn resplendent in Dolce and Gabbana's Fall 2011 collection. Oddly, stylist Anna Dello Russo taped Renn's eyes back using scotch tape, creating an upward slanting eye. What's especially strange is that the rest of the spread is styled in a very straightforward manner. It's just a pretty model wearing normal make-up, wearing outfits that cost six months' rent, but with this weird, stretched eye. But perhaps this is what makes it more acceptable.

The spread isn't exploiting racial stereotypes; Renn isn't dressed in a kimono or as a harajuku girl. It could be argued that the stretched eye's purpose isn't even to denote race, but is to tip a very straightforward shoot into the surreal with a small, unexpected detail. What do you think? Does Crystal Renn's styling strike you as racist, or is eye-stretching acceptable?

Commentarium (27 Comments)

Sep 01 11 - 7:30pm
eva

Um, no, don't be stupid. You can't call plastic surgery acceptable and this not. We routinely accept models with unnaturally enlarged breasts, fake Nordic noses, straightened kinky hair, and on and on. This is tape.

Sep 01 11 - 7:40pm
Ryan

The human capacity for being offended has exceeded my wildest dreams. It's really unbelievable.

Sep 03 11 - 1:21am
eva

I've decided to be randomly offended by the following groups: Nurses, bike riders, those with dyed hair, people who say shed-you-al instead of sked-you-ul, and anyone with moles. Who's with me!?

Sep 01 11 - 7:42pm
pop

That woman is a plus-size model?? There is no hope.

Sep 01 11 - 7:56pm
eva

Gah, when are people going to stop getting upset about the words plus sized. It's only offensive if you think it's a bad thing, and then you're the jerk.

Sep 01 11 - 8:12pm
Minus Size

Oh OK. Because plus size does not at all imply that you're bigger than expected, and it's not applied here to a person who's certainly bigger than Kate Moss, but likely no one else.

Sep 02 11 - 2:42am
Ryan

You're absolutely right. Plus-Size may only mean compared to other models, but let's go ahead and get offended by it. Let's force all models to be the average weight of an American. That way we'll always be ahead of the curve!

Sep 02 11 - 10:28am
Squirrel

She doesn't look plus sized at all! She looks like what, a size 8 at most?!

Sep 01 11 - 8:17pm
eva

Expected? And yes, it is here used to describe someone who is a size that's not zero. But it's only negative if you let it be negative. Crystal Renn is what, a 10? So why can't that be plus size, and an 18 can too? Is one bad and not the other, or are they both okay, or are the different kinds of okay? See? It doesn't make sense. Plus size denotes "other than straight size" which is 0-4.

Sep 01 11 - 8:23pm
pop

Excuse me, eva? "plus-size" is hardly offensive to me. But if the woman in this video is considered "plus-size" (which, to me means a beautiful model who wears a size 12 or above) that is just more evidence that the fashion industry harms culture in general by screwing with people's perceptions of "normal" body size. I'm not at all upset by the term; I'm upset when a woman who looks to me to be, at most, a size 6 or 8 (long-legged edtion) is called "plus size". Sorry I had to spell that out for you, darlin', but better me explaining something to you than you explaining anything to me, what with your stellar logic.

Sep 01 11 - 9:23pm
nope

Crystal Renn is actually the subject of a lot of controversy over exactly what you guys are debating. When she first became an iconic plus-sized model she was bigger than she is now--as she keeps shrinking, yes, the 'plus size' label gets sillier and sillier. At this point, if she wasn't Crystal Renn, she wouldn't get work as a plus size model. She'd be too small for plus size and too big for regular modeling--a lot of models have that problem.

In other news--the idea that this is racist is laughable. Call me when thousands of Asian girls don't glue their eyelids round every morning. Is that racist?

Sep 01 11 - 10:15pm
Jinna

It's racist to those who are offended and not to those who aren't. But the moment it becomes acceptable as "costume" is when it enters blackface realm.

Sep 03 11 - 1:16am
eva

nope, I like that you recognize that this is a debate. Anytime somebody draws a hard line about what "this" is and "that" isn't, chances are they're making a mistake. But there is a lot of room for argument here. Is Crystal Renn plus sized now? Was she then? And most importantly to me, is it a distinction without a difference? Is it something we are calling "other", without paying careful attention to the ramifications of doing that? It's good convo, and worth having. Even if I am explaining it poorly.

Sep 01 11 - 11:00pm
Kl

How is this racist at all? She's not in some sort of East Asian equivalent of blackface, she has her skin pulled taut, the same thing that would be done in a face/eye lift. How people are managing to make this about race is beyond me. There are far worse things that we can all be worrying about.

Sep 01 11 - 11:52pm
equidae

How the fuck can anyone give enough of a shit to debate anything, anyone involved fashion does. How the fuck can anyone give the slightest iota of a shit about the opinions, or doing of some Veblen rags peddler. Especially when this menagerie of glorified layabouts and mannequins seemingly only put forth effort to arouse controversy in some vainglorious gambit to appear relevant without ever actually coming close to it. That I've paid enough attention to it to write this comment is more than enough to make me a less worthwhile person by extension. Fucks this I'm gonna do something more productive and take a fat stinking shit and read marmaduke strips, and not the good ones either.

Sep 02 11 - 1:33am
Gold dress is neat

First: Writing shit all the time is really boring. (3 shits, 3 fucks, 1 vainglorious)

It's good to talk about this kind of thing all the time in different contexts because culture is everywhere. Do I think it's racist? Not really. Do I think implying racial facial features for an interesting aesthetic is not riddled with fun little conundrums. Absolutely not. We must be wary and delight in the political world around us. This is an innocuous fashion shoot which obviously caught but sometimes it isn't as banal or even as noticeable (I'm not talking smack about the fashion people. I like fashion people.) We shouldn't be offended but we should be aware of where we feel it is on our own gradients.

Mainly I want to say is that you shouldn't dismiss other peoples conversations on the internet. It's rude.

Sep 02 11 - 1:26pm
equidae

I don't have a problem with internet conversations, I have a problem with people paying attention to fashion, or the hype machine that peddles it to be more precise. How many times do I have to hear some bullshit about some Vogue photo shoot, or an advertising campaign for some corporation, before people stop feeding it attention. Black face, overtly sexualized minors, and the routine pushing of a not only unrealistic but often unrealizable and unhealthy standard of beauty, and all of this in service to what? Clothes which at times cost as much or more than what I owe for my student loans. All while there is shit actually going on in the world, shit that doesn't have a damn thing to do with some cloistered anorexic airhead's pantomimed conspicuous consumption and the effete hack photographer documenting the whole aggressively ostentatious affair. Every girl who becomes a model is another doctor, scientist, engineer, or some other useful member of society we've lost, while creating someone whose capabilities extend little past, 1. wear clothes 2. strike pose 3. repeat. I'm not dismissing anyone's conversations, I'm dismissing and demonizing an entire subculture and the veblen goods it peddles. I'm not rude, I'm an asshole on the verge of being a bigot. The thing is though, there are few things in this world more worthy of derision and bile than this "industry".

Sep 02 11 - 10:15pm
eva

Hey gold dress? You're awesome.

Sep 02 11 - 1:21am
Julia

Renn looks totally gorgeous here. The taping of her eyes doesn't bother me at all (I'm Asian, if that matters at all). I loved seeing the shoot, she's giving a modelling master class!

I also don't care whether she is considered plus-size or not. She's beautiful at any size. What does it matter if she's a size 6, 8, 10, 16 or 00 and called a plus-size? The fashion industry is its own weird little world. Leave them to it.

Sep 02 11 - 5:09am
S

Wow, what an interesting-looking woman to begin with. She looks so multi-racial to begin with. Seems to me they were just playing with a new shape for the photographs, not making racial-charged statements about certain eye shapes being superior to others.

I find it more troublesome that it's so common in some Asian cultures to widen eyes, surgically or otherwise, along with skin bleaching and nose narrowing. Not that they're all trying to look caucasian, but it's creepy, as a white person, that some of it could be considered preferable just because it's how white people look. It's like, we're not that great. You're great, your race is great, why change that?

Sep 02 11 - 7:21am
GroovyRose

I don't think that it's racist.
1. Asians have beautiful eyes, especially for their shape, so if that is what they were going for, I don't see it as insulting.
2. Her slanted eyes make her look more like Audrey Hepburn than any Asian I know anyway... That look of beautiful sharp eyes is attractive and does not have to be something Asian only.

Sep 02 11 - 9:55am
Ditto

Oh look, it's the Spanish basketball photo again. Sort of.

Sep 02 11 - 10:18am
Randy

One of my friends had that lazer eye surgery, and now he has xray vision. Sometimes we watch people on the subway, and he can tell exactly what colour underwear the girls are wearing.

Sep 02 11 - 10:57am
thinkywritey

Drag queens do it all the time.

Sep 02 11 - 6:29pm
BrosephofArimathea

If it's racist it's the other way around since it's glamorizing a stereotypically Asian structure. But it's not racist so we can all go back to figuring out our Netflix subscription.

Sep 02 11 - 10:10pm
kd

why do writers need to identify "larger" models, as plus sized? why don't they just call them models?

Sep 03 11 - 9:18pm
Hmmm.

Why is Boy George in this video?