The #VogueChallenge began the rounds on social media following Vogue UK‘s July cover of frontline workers. Photographer Jamie Hawkesworth’s informal approach of capturing train driver Narguis Horsford, NHS midwife Rachel Millar and supermarket assistant Anisa Omar inspired others to create portraits.
However, spurred by the #blacklivesmatter movement and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s apology the hashtag has taken a new direction. Following claims of racial inequality at Vogue, editor-in-chief Anna Wintour spoke out, saying: “I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
The resulting posts are a stunning exclamation of black pride, creativity and talent at home in Africa and across the world.
“We’re saying here is our talent, here’s who we are, here’s what we can do”, says ICE model and broadcast journalism and politics grad Sisipho Ntsabo, “and here’s what you’re missing out on frankly”. We chat to Sisipho on her #voguechallenge cover.
What was the concept behind the original shoot?
The shoot came about last year with Lauren Nenz. The concept behind the shoot was vulnerability- showing a different side to black women. I really resonated with that because we’ve been painted as these strong, fierce women – which we are and that is totally an accurate description. But there’s another side to us. A softer, vulnerable [side].
I think what was important was that, yes, black women are magic but we’re also vulnerable. We’re also kind, we’re also gentle, we also cry. Our vulnerability is an integral part of us we’re often afraid to show because it’s used against us. In the very same breathe, it’s a weapon that humanizes us in this world where we’ve been objectified and de-humanised.
Why did you decide to join the #voguechallenge?
I decided to join the vogue challenge because I think representation is important. We’re not asking for much, were asking for a seat at the table – but we’re also not begging for a seat at the table .
We’re saying here is our talent, here’s who we are, here’s what we can do and here’s what you’re missing out on frankly, tbh.
What are your thoughts on representation?
I think to be quite honest, as someone in the modeling industry, we NEED representation. We need the world to see what we have. We need people to stop seeing black culture through their own lens and framing it by themselves when we have our own voices.
[We] have our own talents, [and] we can speak for us. We don’t need a voice through other people, we don’t need to be watered down or whitewashed. We can do it ourselves. I think this is the time right now and it’s been coming so if we’re moving onto greener pastures, be on the right side of history and actually use black talent to portray black talent. How about that?
Words: Zoya Pon