Some cool celebrity clothing images:
The oddity of pretending to be another race - the Face Transformers, me as Afro-Carribean, White and Indian - COOL and KINDA RACIST- NO FULL-BLOWN RACIST
Image by Tricia Wang 王圣捷
I just watched Epic Fu's great episode, which included a piece on The Face Transfomer. Beyond thinking that the Face Transfomer is cool, I started thinking about the social meaning behind this exercise.
Here I am pretending to be an “Afro-Carriabean” - wtf? I mean cool yes, sure, I want to see what I look like as a manga character and am curious to see what I look like as a black person, but there was something odd about trying on different races. Literally.
What does it mean for race relations and conceptions when we feel that we can freely try on different races? Have we become so comfortable with race that we can play around with it like shopping for clothing?
I am always really sensitive when people say that a person acts like a certain race or culture. It’s almost akin to imaginatively being another race - kinda like what we are doing with Face Transfomer. And you know I actually hear this verbal exchange most often among my white and black or latino friends. I’ve heard a black person say to a white person, “you know so much about black culture that you are black or at least must have been black in a past life.” Now I find that on one end to be a compliment, that the white person is accepted as part of the black community, but on the other end I find it difficult to swallow as a form of compliment because most often it is white people who have the most latitude to be absorbed into another race or cultural group. You don’t usually hear the reverse, that a white person will say to a black person, “wow you know so much about black culture that you are actually white!” It's like you hear in the movies where they say to white people, you can always come into our part of town, but we will never be allowed to come into yours.
For dominant groups, like Caucasians in the US, race can be an after thought so it’s almost like a novelty to pretend for a moment that one is another race or ethnicity. For people who look anything other than white in Western countries, there isn’t as much freedom to forget one’s skin color because they are reminded of it (usually negatively) in their daily interactions with institutions and people.
In particular, for non-whites, being a certain race or ethnicity can be a complicated process of accepting ones skin color and coming to terms with the popular (mis)conceptions of one’s race or ethnic group. A lot of times, this entails the imagination of being white before a full embracement of one’s race or heritage. For a time period when I was a teenager raised in an all white upper-class community, I wished I was white so badly so that I wouldn't have to deal with the racist jaunts by my classmates. And so here I am, trying on a "West-Indian" face. Kinda surreal. Now do I really want to imagine what it is like to look like an Indian female, let's say in the US? or in India? and from what class? what is my migration history? or was I born here? My point is that being another race is more than just trying it on for a few seconds digitally, but some how we've reduced it down to just that and I wonder if this novelty is an indicator of that we're comfortable with race or that we're just dealing with race in a more post-modern removed and techno-mediated way.
And you know it's usually people who are more affluent who have the opportunity become the "other," to learn about another culture and to transplant themselves into another ethnic group’s cultural world. So jokes made to white people like “wow you know so much about my culture, you must be Mexican” just make me uncomfortable because there’s a certain level of privilege that comes with learning about another “culture.” The fact that I make time and spend money to learn Spanish because I find the language beautiful and useful for my academic interests in Mexican migration is a privilege. Now it is a privilege that I embrace and am not embarrassed of and make no apologies for, but at the same time I am quite aware of my social position to even be able to learn another language more out of interest and less out of need.
So back to Face Transformer - does this mean America is comfortable with race (and manga, chimps and euro painters j/k) if we can freely try on different races? And what does this say about race when we can collapse large groups of people together into general categories? In Face Transformers all the blacks, Caribbeans and Africans are grouped into the afro-caribbean category, and all Asians are collapsed into the East-Asian category and I think the West Indian group is not referring to people from the West Indies but Indians and Middle-Easterners. This is an odd form of racial reductionism. And where are the Latinos – where do they fit in this? And Inuits?
I’ve always kept a tab on these Face Transformer-like sites and I think the fun in trying these online sites out is an expression of an underlying desire to temporarily imagine another physical body without fully committing to that body/face. And the kinds of changes rendered by these online sites point to a greater cultural obsession or let’s say anxiety with that rendering. So for Face Transfomers we could say this is an obsession with race and euro paintings:) Oh and with age also – you can chose to be a young adult, baby, teenager and old person.
One of the predecessors to Face Transformers was My Heritage and I wrote about the social meaning behind that too 2 years ago when it launched. So instead of transforming into a race or chimp, like Face Transformer, you can transform yourself into a celebrity and see which one you most closely resemble. So this points to an obsession with celebrities.
Well after my social diagnosis I think I will upload another picture on Face Transformer and see what I look like as a Male. Hmmm perhaps I have an underlying anxiety with switching genders? Well did anyone have these thoughts when they uploaded a face on Face Transfomer?
oh and one thing that I definitely learned is that I don't like good as a Caucasian! Good thing that I embrace my Chinese face!
ps - after talking to henry about my summary of this excerise - cool and kinda racist, and he says no it is Full-Blown Racist - ahhh Henry is so wise I love him.
you can do your own face at their site at The Face Transfomer
Image by Jason Hargrove
Fashion Designer Mélissa Nepton specializes in modern prêt-à-porter couture aiming to the urban career women; a vision that reflects both her personality and her vision of fashion. “For me, fashion is a force of expression that impacts positively women’s life. And in return, women bring to fashion a sense of sensuality, fluidity and femininity. It’s a communication rooted in comfort, practicality and security.” Mélissa knew from a young age that fabrics were creative tools she wanted to explore as she watched her mother make theater costumes and children’s clothes.
Mélissa quickly embraced a steadfast road to fashion perfection. She completed her prep school years attending the renowned Marie-Victorin College’s fashion program before entering Montreal’s l’École supérieure de mode. Mélissa’s talent was already noticeable and attracted the interest of famed teacher Esther Trépanier (now director of Musée des beaux-arts du Québec). Under her guidance, she set sail for Paris to complete her academic education at L’école nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs de Paris, a formative year where she presented her first runway show.
Back in Montreal, Mélissa furthered her understanding of the industry’s business side working as a buyer-designer for the Marie-Claire Group. Her dream of creating her own label came true in the unique form of a reality TV show when she was cast in La Collection, Québec’s version of Project Runway. Mélissa soon after established her hyponym label and followed with a first collection at Montreal’s Fashion Week in 2009. Since then, Mélissa Neption has quickly established herself among top designers in Québec and enjoys a strong following amid Québec celebrities.
World MasterCard Fashion Week or WMCFW, formerly known as LG Fashion Week is an event held in Toronto, Canada in March (for fall/winter collections) and in October (for spring/summer collections). It is the biggest fashion week held in Canada and it is the second largest fashion week in North America after New York.
Photography by Jason Hargrove
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