“Haute Mess” By Steven Meisel

There has been uproar over the new spread for Vouge Italia shot by Steven Meisel. While some would regard it as fabulous, over-the-top, in-your-face-fun, others see it differently.

The spread has been accused of racial stereotyping, with the set-up and styling causing many to wonder if the shoot was intentionally poking fun at African American and Latino culture.

As Vibe magazine puts it:

Many are raising an eyebrow at the photos because the women seem to be projecting some stereotypes. For example the hair styles of the models can be seen at almost every black hair show.  It is very clear that the theme of the shoot was “ghetto”, “ghetto fabulous” to be exact. However, in trying to achieve fabulous, it wandered in to ignorance.

I will give Vogue Italia the benefit of the doubt that it was not their intention to be racist or offend anyone, but let’s keep it real for a minute: How many white girls [or any other ethnic backgrounds for that matter] do you know that dress  or look like this?  Exactly.  Racist may be a little harsh of a word to describe this editorial , but it was definitely done in poor taste and judgement.

However, when looking at what Vogue Italia had to say about the shoot on it’s website, it seems that the story was based more on the Drag Queen culture:

Haute Mess might take its inspiration from messy drags: untidy, dishevelled, counter-intuitive cross-dressers.

When the queens define themselves – as well as their clothes – as “messy”, it is a queer assertion. According to the theories of Judith Halberstam, a cross-dresser initially had to pass as either a man or a woman; people often forget that the word “drag” comes from “dressed as a girl”. The great post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler, however, has explained that gender is not so simple: it is not just a question of biology but a genuine cultural performance.

Take a look at the video above and the images below, and let us know what you think…