J. Crew’s latest cover is adorable
and a reporter is reminded of black love
— Audrey Washington (@AudreyWSBTV) November 23, 2016
Let’s just take a second to take in the newest J. Crew catalog. What a beautiful cover.
When it comes to what major marketers view as so-called wholesome holiday images, people of color are often not a part of the original canon. Just take a look at any movie based on this time of year, and unless it’s made specifically for us, very rarely is it about us or does it include us in any significant way. But aside from moving pictures, static adverts can have an equally if not more formative impact on views about our identities, depending on where they’re shown. Why? Because when it comes to America’s concept of family, we still haven’t accepted the basic presentation of diversity.
For J. Crew (the one-time apple of Michelle Obama’s eye), the brand that represents the WASP-iest of WASPs, every time a nonwhite person shows up in one of their pages it feels like news, even though they’ve been way better than many over the past few years. Not necessarily screaming headlines — but like, oh, that’s nice, they invited a black person to dinner this year — kind of way. Remember Armando Cabral? We like him. Liya Kebede is a favorite, too.
More specifically, though, this latest catalog feels like another addition to a collection of modern mainstream brands/publications that have taken a lens to people of color as, for lack of a better term, normal.
The first one that comes to mind is the 2012 campaign from The Gap, featuring rapper Nas and his father Olu Dara. Of course, their respective careers have made them extremely famous and well-regarded in music and the arts, but at the end of the day, they are still father and son. Those images of a black man bonding with his black father were nothing short of profoundly impactful. Everyone noticed. The message in this particular frame didn’t hurt, either.
Last summer, Los Angeles artist Kadir Nelson made waves with his cover of The New Yorker magazine that featured a black father with his three children, titled “A Day At The Beach.” At the time, Nelson pointed out that his work was not a specific response to the plague of black people being shot and killed by police officers in the U.S. It wasn’t just an attempt to humanize, it reminded him of his own childhood.
“The two were unrelated. It was not a response to what’s going on in the news,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was really just a celebration of fatherhood and particularly my experience as a father. When I was a kid, I really loved going to the beach with my family. Particularly my father was a really big swimmer. We grew up in Atlantic City, so the beach was really a big part of my upbringing. My family moved from Atlantic City to San Diego when I was a kid, about 10 years old. But the cover provides counterpoint to a lot of what’s going on in the country right now that we’re being bombarded with — these very unnecessary and tragic, heartbreaking experiences. I’m at a loss for words. These young men are losing their lives unnecessarily.”
Anyway, the December 2016 issue of J. Crew is a nice little reminder that black love and family celebration are real, and not just when we’re being hurt or otherwise discriminated against. I think I need to go see Almost Christmas now.
All Day Podcast: 11/22/16
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