The recently surfaced images show Donata Meirelles sitting on a throne-like seat, flanked by models who resemble slaves.
People have been witnessing a staggering number of controversies involving racist undertones emerge one after the other, and the apparent ignorance is not being taken lightly - given the time of the year that they are surfacing at.
While the fashion world has not even begun recovering from the style missteps that major fashion brands ended up with, there is one more name that is being embroiled in a row over racial and cultural insensitivity.
Vogue Brazil was embroiled in a row over racial and cultural sensitivity after controversial photos surfaced from style director Donata Meirelles' birthday party. https://t.co/feFYVUILQL pic.twitter.com/kOFih8p0pO— CNN Style (@CNNStyle) 12 February 2019
Vogue Brazil's style director Donata Meirelles just celebrated her 50th birthday in a star-studded party in Salvador de Bahia, northeast Brazil. The photos that emerged from that party have sparked a major fury online.
According to The Guardian, the photos appear to be referring to Brazil's history of slavery and autocracy - where black people were serving the white during colonial times. Following the outrage, Meirelles has resigned.
An uproar in Brazil arose after the fashion director of Vogue magazine's Brazil edition posted photographs of herself with two black women wearing dresses that evoked Brazil's slavery era. The fashion director, Donata Meirelles, who is white, resigned. https://t.co/Q1g0gKwj3D— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) 15 February 2019
The images that have emerged show Donata Meirelles, who is white, sitting on a throne-like seat flanked by four black women dressed in white at the celebration in Bahia, the Brazilian state with the largest black population.
What critics are calling a slavery-themed party, they compared the women’s clothes to the white uniforms worn by house slaves and pointed out the chair’s similarity to a cadeira de sinhá, an ornate chair for slave masters.
Director Donata Meirelles resigned from @VogueBRoficial yesterday, less than a week after her birthday party, when she posed with black women in a portrait that evoked Brazil's slavery period. After leaving, Meirelles said she was "sad, but feeling brave and with her head high." pic.twitter.com/G0pfyOj0dm— The Brazilian Report (@BrazilianReport) 15 February 2019
Critics on social media have accused her of being racially insensitive. Meirelles has apologized and denies the images were linked with slavery. The image first emerged in a now-deleted Instagram post by Brazilian journalist Fabio Bernardo.
Some of the social media users are also saying that Meirelles has used black models as props for the photo.
Donata Meirelles, the fashion director of the Brazilian edition of Vogue, has resigned after photos from her 50th birthday party drew criticism for evoking colonial depictions of slavery. pic.twitter.com/Poah3ooHJq— Star Media Development Centre (@SMDCMedia) 15 February 2019
“The black women were used as objects to create an exotic scene,” said Stephanie Ribeiro, the author of the #BlackGirlMagic column in the Brazilian edition of Marie Claire. “It’s reminiscent of colonialism and romanticizes those times. She was recreating the image where whites are superior and blacks are dehumanized.”
A famous Brazilian singer, Elza Soares, wrote on Instagram: “Think about how much you can hurt people, their memories, the plight of their people, when you choose a theme to ‘spice up’ a happy moment in your life.”
One Instagram user juxtaposed the image of Meirelles with an archival photo of a woman from the Costa Carvalho family on a sedan chair with two slaves.
“The first one is from 1860,” she wrote. “The second one is actually from 2019.”
The day after the party, Meirelles responded on Instagram, saying that the chair was actually an artifact from the Afro-Brazilian folk religion candomblé, and the clothes were traditional Bahian party attire. “Even so, if I caused any different impressions, I am sorry,” she said.
On Wednesday, Meirelles announced that she would resign from her position at Vogue.
Vogue Brazil’s Style Director Donata Meirelles had a very disgusting 50th birthday party theme last night— Shelby Ivey Christie (@bronze_bombSHEL) 9 February 2019
There appears to be a Brazilian slave + master theme. Mucamas (house slaves), who were very clearly darker complexioned, were posed as props alongside guests #DoShow50 pic.twitter.com/NrEY4nJuF8
In a statement on Instagram, the magazine said: “Vogue Brasil profoundly regrets what happened and hopes that the debate that has been generated serves as a learning experience.” Vogue said it was creating a panel of activists and academics to help create content to combat inequalities.
Vogue Brasil's parent company Condé Nast also released a statement to TheWrap: "Condé Nast International is aware of the hurt and dismay caused by images of the private birthday party of Donata Meirelles, Style Director of Vogue Brazil."
Donata Meirelles has resigned from Vogue Brasil! This is the power of Black voices calling out racism via social media! Our pains will not be used as props! I hope this will be a lesson for all... https://t.co/WyJSpulsFG pic.twitter.com/liwkaQawwg— TravelmakerKai | The Soho Girl (@makingkai) 14 February 2019
“Vogue Brazil is going to set up a working group of scholars and activists that will help the team to more deeply understand the history of slavery and the lasting pain it has left behind,” they added.
“As a company, we have zero tolerance for racism and images evoking racism. Condé Nast International is a force for positive societal change and stands for diversity and inclusiveness.”
A statement from Condé Nast International: Condé Nast International is aware of the hurt and dismay caused by images of the private birthday party of Donata Meirelles, Style Director of Vogue Brazil...— Condé Nast International (@condenastint) 15 February 2019
"The photo clearly and unfortunately refers to a Brazil of autocracy and slavery, where black people were serving and white people tended to," wrote Instagram user Roberto Sakiyama. "I don't see any praise to Afro-Brazilian culture."
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Rita Batista, a black female television presenter from Salvador de Bahia, attempted to explain the historical context that had upset many people.
Batista posted a shot from the party next to an image of two 19th-century slaves flanking their owner, with a caption explaining how in those days "the slave herself was a luxury object to be shown publicly."