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Are Black People Allowed To Wear Lingerie?

Updated on June 12, 2010

Put down your pickaxes, wipe away the foam that frothed the moment you saw this article and at least read the first paragraph before you start typing in all caps. This isn't some half witted racist rant, it's an observation I made after reading a reader's comment about the fact that a certain piece of lingerie that I accused of being beige was probably yellow but because the model wasn't quite tanned enough, it didn't look yellow in the picture.

It was then that I realized almost every lingerie model I've ever seen used in online commercial lingerie shoots appears to be exactly the same shade of tan. Now either the online world has one very busy lingerie model, or consumers are biased towards buying lingerie when it is modeled by tanned Caucasian ladies and not men, or indeed, black people.

Flicking through my favorite lingerie websites I spied not a single woman with a skin tone darker than what lingerie manufacturers would probably call 'Cafe' or some other silly euphemism for 'pretty much white, but not really'. That's interesting. That's very interesting. It's even more interesting that I myself never noticed the inequality before I stumbled over a comment that mentioned the model's skin tone.

We could blame the lingerie marketers for this apparent inequality, but I don't think we should because marketers only give us what we want them to give us, indeed, the job of a marketer is to package a product in the most appealing way to the majority of purchasers of lingerie, and apparently, the most appealing way to package lingerie is on the body of a mostly white woman.

It reminds me somewhat of an experiment aired on Oprah where little black girl was shown two dolls, one black, one white, and asked which one was good and which one was bad. The little girl pointed out the white one as being good and the black one as being bad. She was then asked which one she looked like. She picked up the white one before sadly putting it down and picking up the black one in one of the most heart rending displays of racial awareness I've ever seen.

So although we could argue that lingerie is aimed at the majority of the market, and that in most markets the majority is largely Caucasian, the total lack of dark skinned models makes that too facile an explanation. After all, black people undoubtedly do buy and wear lingerie too and they are hardly an insignificant proportion of the population and yet very little of it seems to be marketed to them at all.

At the end of the day, I have to return to the fact that marketers reflect society's ideals back at them, that's why we don't often see advertising featuring overweight people with acne and bad haircuts. Those aren't images we aspire to, and apparently, when it comes to lingerie, we aspire to being trim, toned white ladies with tans. 

Whilst researching this piece I came across this picture of Victoria's Secret models and marveled at the fact that by some act of magic trickery Tyra Banks, possibly the worlds most famous beautiful black woman, is actually not as dark as the blonde standing next to her, thus proving that every rule has an exception or that high end fashion models are not bound by the laws of ordinary men and women.

This image censored because the internet must be sanitized for the sake of the children, who are allowed to watch pop stars gyrating and singing explicit lyrics on tv, but who must never see an uncovered woman online.
This image censored because the internet must be sanitized for the sake of the children, who are allowed to watch pop stars gyrating and singing explicit lyrics on tv, but who must never see an uncovered woman online.


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    • profile image

      African Queen 6 years ago

      It is not just about the colour of the model it is the principle of the matter. We as black women deserve better we spend millions a year on fashion and beauty products! Is it too much to ask to have some things targed just to us. I saw the Oprah show i was very sad.

      Our daughters should be proud of who they are!

      Modelling Contest for Black Women Lingerie Announced

    • profile image

      franku 6 years ago

      If you don't feel too much time has passed, from the 'Great-Minds' school of thought:

      I also posted a link to this story in that blog's comments.

    • Hope Alexander profile image

      Hope Alexander 7 years ago

      I was super slow in approving all these comments, sorry about that everyone. (I have a backlog of about 700 I am trying to clear :)

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 7 years ago from Atlanta

      I never thought about it before, and after thinking about you are certainly right. Out of all the ads and commercials I can only think of 1 girl that models lingerie for Victoria Secret who is Black. Interesting point you have made here.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      I'd say it's slowly getting better. Years ago, you'd never see an inter-racial couple in an ad. It's still rare, but they exist.

      I haven't noticed a Victoria's secret ad or catalog in a while, but don't they have some darker models?

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      I'm ashamed that I never noticed!

      Now that you mention it, nobody old or fat is allowed to wear underwear either.

    • lxd35 profile image

      lxd35 7 years ago

      It's a very interesting point, and I honestly hadn't noticed til just now. Thanks for the hub!

    • True Blue Tips profile image

      True Blue Tips 7 years ago

      How very interesting. Now when I'm looking through my fashion magazines I'll be looking more closely at the women who model undies!

    • Hope Alexander profile image

      Hope Alexander 7 years ago

      It's weird how you never really notice it until you notice it, isn't it?

    • WE5 profile image

      WE5 7 years ago

      You know what? You're right! There are very few ads for 'undies' that feature people of colour! That's terrible! I believe that women of all races and walks of life are lovely in their intimate attire so there's no hang up here!