After all the hullabaloo French magazine Numero created yesterday following the discovery of their African Queen shoot which featured 16-year-old model Ondria Hardin (who is white) portraying an African woman, we contacted their Paris office today to find some answers.

After being transferred about eight times we finally spoke, at length, to one of their sub-editors who explained that the entire team are on lock down and not allowed to say a word about it.

Shortly after we received an email with the following apology from photographer Sebastian Kim, who shot the controversial cover:

I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France.  It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story.  Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60’s characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot.

It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race.  I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images.  It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended.


Sebastian Kim

The photoshoot has created a massive stir in the online community.


Whilst some are upset that a black model could’ve easily done the job as posing as an ‘African Queen’, others were simply offended by the apparent use of black face – which has since been described by the publication and photographer as heavily bronzed make up.

It’s Black Current covered the story saying:

…They are trying to say that there are no black models that could portray this “African Queen” image that they were going for. Of course there are white Africans but when you hear that term African Queen it does not conjure up the image of a white blond 16-year-old in black face…

It’s actually disgusting and sad. You have the mainstream magazines that are lightening up celebs that they think are “too dark” for their front covers and then, when they do want a black person, they now decide to use a white person. What are little black kids meant to think?

Urban News also had their say on the issue:

Well, this gives new meaning to the term “whitewashed.” Apparently, someone on the staff of Numéro magazine thought it would be just fine to hire a model, not of African descent, for their fashion spread titled “African Queen.” That’s right, folks!

And, to make matters even worse, they instead employed a 16-year-old. Barely a princess, blond haired, blue eyed Ondria Hardin from North Carolina was enlisted to play the part.

After dousing her with thick layers of bronzer, the teen model posed in a number of African-inspired looks for the French magazine.

And as usual, Twitter users had something to say about the photoshoot, with singer V V Brown tweeting:


Other Twitter users also had an opinion on the cover:

numero-tweet1 numero-tweet2 numero-tweet3

What are your thoughts?

Was the cover simply an expression of art and fashion? Or is it offensive as well as ignorant?

And is the apology accepted?


Let us know in the comments below.