Late Pass: LeBron and Gisele on the Cover of Vogue.

Stacia and I disagree on the hullabaloo surrounding the cover for this month’s cover of Vogue.

She gets the King Kong undertones and said it’s not a battle she cares to get all up in arms about; I think the cover and the fallout encapsulates the kind of thoughtlessness about racial imagery that are endemic to so many media outlets (someone in an editorial board meeting could have assumed that this would get under people’s skin, even if they didn’t personally didn’t see the big deal).

What say you?



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • kaya

    i too don’t think it’s much of a battle that i want to fight. but with that said, i do think that the cover is irresponsible. i agree that it was definitely thoughtless, but there is also just a general lack of understanding on how this would “get under people’s skin.” i’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people who would be bothered by this cover are not vogue purchasers/subscribers. i think that many white people might look at this cover and think it’s provacative or controversial but not understand the offense that black people are taking to it. i also think that it’s a stupid cover and i’m sure that there were plenty of better photos in the bunch. then again provacative controversial covers sell better…

  • L-Boogs

    I agree! I mean, what was a prime opportunity for Vogue to present LeBron GQed out in this spring’s fashion buffet of cardigans (gasp!), plaid (shocker!), or even a tongue-in-cheek-basketball play on short shorts for men (my word!), they haphazardly splashed this King Kong monstrosity across the cover…as for Gisele? She’s so 2001…lol. But seriously, I guess Liya was too much chocolate for ’em…

  • Big Word

    King Kong, King James? I can see the comparison. They defintely knew it would spark some kinda controversy and probably sell a few more mags. I just can’t get offended by stuff like this anymore. I just can’t be bothered.

  • 7579esq

    The truth is that this is an accurate portrayal of the successful black man’s abandonment and betrayal of his mothers and sisters — and his continued repudiation of the black woman as a mate worthy of being a part of his success. We’re good enough in the ghetto when they’re unemployed and have no options, but not good enough for Beverly Hills or to share in their riches.

  • Um, what?

  • slb

    I think what’s most telling about the reactions to this cover is that they really do reflect our personal self-images. I haven’t seen this much projecting since the last time I went to the cinema.

  • projecting?

  • I rank this at about the level of the golf journalists who routinely invoke Yellow Peril and Model Minority discourses when writing about the 45+ South Koreans on the LPGA (usually en masse). Whether it comes out of racism, carelessness, an attempt to get people’s attention, a lack of creativity, an attempt at humor, a lack of foresight, or an attempt at irony toward or parody of racial stereotyping is beyond my ability to parse. At best, they provoke some values clarification among people who stop to really think about their own and others’ reactions, but they usually devolve into predictable and stale debates between already-established positions on the standard issues. It’s more than just projection, that is.

  • slb

    I meant projecting in the sense that people are superimposing very specific intent and messages on this magazine cover. Above, 7579esq asserts that the cover represents the black man’s abandonment of his “mothers and sisters” after reaching a certain level of status. Regardless of how careless the decision to choose this image as the cover (and I do agree that it was careless), I doubt anyone–the editors, Lebron, Gisele, either party’s agents, Annie Liebowitz–wanted to make *that* point here. I don’t even think anyone involved thought, “Hey, he kind of looks like King Kong here–especially since she’s blonde and he’s holding her. Let’s shake things up!”

    That people are associating the two (this cover and old King Kong posters) is understandable. I see it, too, now that everyone’s been pointing it out to me for over a week now—and I may have anyway, even without the outside commentary. But I’m not so sure this came from a racial place (and I’m not really looking for yet another empty apology from the magazine for “not realizing what they were doing”).

    But then, I also don’t think King Kong (the film) is about the white woman’s fear of the black man. And perhaps, that’s my bigger problem.

  • Ah, thanks. But of course KK isn’t about white women’s fear–it’s about the fear of white women’s desires for non-white men.

  • LH

    In itself the image is innocuous. The problem is Vogue’s context or lack thereof.

    James is the first black man to appear on the cover of the magazine, which does make the photo a curious choice.

    It seems to me that whenever the media casts a black person in an arguably less then flattering light, the knee jerk reaction is to attribute it to racial insensitivity or flat out racism. Maybe, just maybe, the thought was to have some fun.

  • Buk

    “the knee jerk reaction is to attribute it to racial insensitivity or flat out racism. Maybe, just maybe, the thought was to have some fun.”

    Yeah, ‘cuz aiming for fun precludes insensitivity, right?

  • LH

    Buk: In turn, aiming for fun is necessarily tantamount to being insensitive?

  • Big Word

    Well, LeBron is a beast. As in a beast of a player. Ever since dude was in high school commentators have gone on and on about how nobody has ever had combination of size, strength and athleticism. I can see the comparison to a King Kong.

  • LH

    Big Word: Do you think that’s what Liebowitz and the editors of Vogue were thinking?

  • Big Word

    LH: Nope. I think they wanted to be provacative a get their own little bit of press out of race issue. It seems like racial controversies come in bunches. If true, I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that they do.

  • This seems to happen every 5 years or so, a young black athlete will be put on a cover of a magazine and will seem to be totally unaware of the racial overtones or implications.

  • There are a thousand magazines out there every day of every week and the mere fact that this one sparks so much controversy is telling enough. The Black male image as a brute ( reference to Fredrick Douglass 19th century ) is tarnished enough and for so long that NOTHING should go unchallenged.

    This particular stereotype carries over into mainstream society in so many real,. racial profiling, discrimination, etc that there is nothing funny or benign about it. I blame no one else but Le Bron for this because the ape, jungle bunny, beast portrayal/imagery is so well understood in our culture and evokes such pain that he shouldn’t have even chanced it. Youthful exuberance.. ok fine, fun.. ok fine, but at this level of the game he and his agent, friends and family should know better. .. no need to lighten up we still have too far to go.

    To think one brother is running for the top office in the land while the other is aping …. ironic