Fellow white female creatives? Step up your game. Time to start actually making stuff that isn’t stolen from people of color, built on their backs or ripped from their psychological hides. This shit, for example? Not cool.
Peggy Noland, a white designer from Kansas City who’s worked with stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, has a deeply problematic new project out: a ridiculous line of t-shirts and dresses featuring Oprah’s head photoshopped onto nude bodies.
The dress is anything but “lighthearted.” She chose to use Oprah’s image — as the most powerful black woman in entertainment who’s waged a very public battle over her weight throughout her career— instead of, say, an actual designer, because it’s something that will create a spectacle.
Yeah, that designer called her Naked Oprah line “light-hearted.”
Visit that link, look at the pictures of some of the dresses, and ask yourself: What is really being held up for ridicule, here? How does using Oprah’s face on nude bodies nod to the ridiculousness of the fashion industry? How is Oprah even a part of the fashion industry, beyond the ways that all celebrities help designers sell overpriced clothes?
I don’t even give Peggy Noland the benefit of assuming she actually believes she’s doing anything edgy and subversive at the fashion industry. She’s appropriating the image of an extremely (possibly uniquely) successful black woman for a ridiculous thing we can wear on t-shirts and turtleneck dresses. There’s plenty to criticize about Oprah, but this is freaking juvenile.
We need to push ourselves, find our voices, take risks, and generally build our own shit. Do not use exploitation as a substitute for edginess, do not use “ally” as a shield, and do not rely on prepackaged coolness as a crutch against the hard work of artistic integrity. Never assume you should be exempt from criticism because you’ve done enough. If you want to be subversive, be strong enough to punch up. It doesn’t need to be brilliant right away, but fucking make it yours.