NEW DELHI — Barely a month after Kendall Jenner appeared in a Pepsi commercial that drew such a concerted backlash that it was withdrawn, she’s again at the center of controversy.
Vogue India has been blasted online for its decision to feature Jenner, a white American, instead of an Indian model on the cover of its 10th anniversary issue.
Many people have said it’s yet another example of a missed opportunity to celebrate women of color.
Vogue India released a statement Friday offering a “few clarifications” about the cover.
“In the last 10 years, Vogue India has had only 12 international covers, including Kendall Jenner, in 2017,” the statement said. “Therefore, statistically, 90 percent of our covers are Indian! And we are proud of that.”
The magazine said that it wants to feature “some of the best international celebrities on our covers. Occasionally!”
Representatives for Jenner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A post by Vogue announcing the cover has attracted hundreds of negative comments, many of them expressing disappointment that the magazine did not hire a local model.
“Yes, it’s pretty, but we’re not celebrating white/European beauty standards…we’re trying to celebrate Indian women of color,” wrote Instagram user Sabrina Martinez, 17, adding that as a woman of color, seeing the image hurt.
“It says that’s the beauty standard, it says that you can’t be the epitome of beauty if you’re not white,” she told CNN. “Even this magazine that’s supposed to be celebrating another culture, another type of beauty is not recognizing even what it’s supposed to be standing for.”
For some Indians, the cover was an insulting reminder of the country’s obsession with whitening creams and light skin. But 22-year-old Harnidh Kaur, from Mumbai, thought that if anything, Jenner had been made to appear darker.
“If you compare it to her past covers, you look at them and she’s definitely (been) bronzed into an Indian face,” she said.
“In a country where you’re struggling with colorism and shade discrimination, to see that — it’s very insulting.”
The photo spreads inside the magazine did feature some Indian faces, including Bollywood actors Sushant Singh Rajput and Hong Kong-born Katrina Kaif. The piece was shot by Italian photographer Mario Testino in India’s pink city, Jaipur.
But the decision to choose Jenner for a cover celebrating India still left many upset. Jenner’s photos appear on all of Vogue India’s social media handles.