“I’m better because I’m whiter”: Top Model

Australia’s Next Top Model is on again. These models were put on the spot, asked to name name five things that made them a better model than the woman standing next to them.

topmodelwhiter

Alexandra identifies her strengths:

“I’m taller, I’m whiter…” [silence] “uhh….. I have longer legs, I have better style.”

Samantha responds by answering the question herself:

“I have a darker skin colour; I have a nationality that comes out of me; my eyes stand out; my hair’s prettier, and I have a great smile.”

Career-ending move by Alexandra, or easily-overlooked gaffe?

[h/t to baroquestar for the tip, and to lignamorren for the video editing]



Categories: Miscellaneous

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13 replies

  1. Modeling is inherently shallow; it’s about looks by nature. So I wouldn’t read much into the comment beyond “I have fairer skin.” That and the fact that Alexandra wasn’t quick enough on her feet to realize that was something not to say.

  2. Modeling is inherently shallow; it’s about looks by nature. So I wouldn’t read much into the comment beyond “I have fairer skin.”

    The only way this statement can make sense is if there is an underlying assumption that “fairer” = “better looking”.
    That’s the entire point: Western[1] beauty culture has racism very deeply embedded into it. Women of colour are exoticised as temporary non-mainstream fads and fetishes, aberrations from the “normal”, default pale skin. This is a well-established enough idea within feminist circles that I took it for granted and didn’t spell it out in the post.
    And when WOC are “in fashion” as models, they tend to be valued when their features and grooming conform to White norms (see the links in this comment for a start).
    [1] And, ?increasingly, non-Western (cf: skin lightening cream marketing).

  3. I don’t think it will end her career, frankly. People would have to be calling for her head before it would be brushed off as anything more than “shallow”.
    If she’d meant fairer, she would have *said* fairer. She meant “I’m white”.

  4. Major points to Samantha for grace under extreme conditions.

  5. ‘Boy, did that come across as offensive,’ says the judge. And it was an offensive and revealing gaffe which I, like Anna, don’t think will turn out to be a career-wrecker. It’s fashion… What’s also offensive here is the unabashedly superficial, vicious competition encouraged between women, these norms that have been so thoroughly internalised. ‘Tell me why you are better than her?’ Maybe I just don’t watch enough TV.

  6. In a similar vein, John Fahey -former Premier of NSW and current President of the World Antidoping Agency, made the white=good, black =evil association in a recent speech, saying:

    In that battle with the scientists, there’s little doubt that the scientists who are actually working for the white knights are getting better all the time and, I believe, countering those that may be working for the other side

  7. What an ugly little game — ask the girls a question set up to make them sound arrogant, then blame them for whatever crap comes out of their seventeen-year-old mouths. The producers must have drooled when they realised she’d actually been racist. Now they have a villain.
    My fervent hope is that she learns why her remark was racist — I don’t think she really knows. She needs an eduction — or a re-education, perhaps. She needs someone to explain to her that white is always in fashion, and black models are generally only used when there’s a need for something exotic and other, often complete with palm trees and gentle surf.
    The other wannabe did acquit herself beautifully, but the whole idea of these two young women standing their in their undies paying out on each other on request is just vile.

  8. Regarding white knights,”white=good, black=evil” does not always have racist subtext. Day and night have been around a lot longer than varied skin tones.
    Hg

  9. Hg, while there may be some truth to the idea that people associate night/the unknown with evil, I think it’s overly naive to suggest that the configuration of good with light and evil with dark never has a racial subtext– in fact, I would think that in Western texts that subtext is present more often than not, simply insofar as “good” people are typically fair skinned and haired, while their counterparts tend to be darker in complexion.

  10. I would think that in Western texts that subtext is present more often than not, simply insofar as “good” people are typically fair skinned and haired, while their counterparts tend to be darker in complexion.

    And/or sporting a noticeable disability – albinism, a limp, a missing limb, breathing apparatus, mental illness, burn scars, Mad Evil Wheelchair Scientist, and so on.

  11. Aaargh! Editing, Helen, editing! Let’s try that again:
    A cliche that’s beautifully mocked in Carl Hiassen’s Skinny Dip, where the ultra-villain loses a hand and decides to have a Weed Whacker surgically attached as um, a kind of ultraviolent prosthetic.
    We call them Whipper Snippers here, but somehow Weed Whacker sounds more ridiculous.
    That is slightly more comprehensible 🙂
    [I think I fixed it how you wanted it – is that ok? ~lauredhel]

  12. Ha! I was thinking of one of Dave Allen’s running gags where a man in a built-up shoe limps down a dark cobbled alleyway. The punchline always deflated the carefully constructed horror theme in some ridiculous way.

  13. Oh Lauredhel, that was way beyond the call of duty.
    THank you 🙂

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