Michael Crawford

Will Gay Media Get the "Obama Effect" Memo?

Filed By Michael Crawford | February 17, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: male models, Obama Effect, race and gay community, racism in the gay community

Editor's Note: I wrote this post for the upcoming Bilerico-DC and want to share it here as well.

There's an interesting article in the New York Times about how the "Obama Effect" has opened the eyes of fashion designers to the beauty of male models of color.

Thumbnail image for Duckie Brown Models.jpg

"Some casting sheets actually said 'No Blacks,"' the 19-year-old model Shawn Sutton was saying on Friday, backstage at the Duckie Brown show in the Bryant Park tent. He was referring to the model castings at the recent men's wear shows in Milan.

"It was pretty brutal and, yeah, it was racist," he added. "But things opened up a lot by Paris, so I paid it no mind."

As a gay man of color, I am thrilled that designers are discovering that beautiful men come in 31 flavors and then some, but I do wonder if the "Obama Effect" will reach gay media outlets.

Looking at virtually any media for gay men that is not specifically aimed at men of color, you'd think that you were watching an endless pictorial set in a Scandinavian country where Asian, Black and Latino men were non-existent. This holds true even when the layout is set in "majority minority" cities like Los Angeles, New York or D.C.

When a site like Queerty ups its melanin content by featuring models of color in its Morning Goods section, there are comments like these about Black model Shawn Sutton:

Another one? Is it February already?

No offence (and by this, I mean with all offence possible), but big lips are kind of a turn-off.

I get that gay mags and sites are about the fantasy of (white) gay perfection not reality and that being gay doesn't in any way preclude one from being racially clueless. But, I would think that at the very least demographic data showing American becoming increasingly diverse and the associated economic possibilities would jolt gay media producers out of their monochromatic stupor.

Just as the symbolically gay rainbow isn't composed solely of varying shades of white neither is the gay community. Only time will tell whether the recent popularity of male models of color will continue and if gay media will get the multi-hued memo. I hope so.

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I hope so too but I highly doubt it.

Thanks for this, and I agree. I went to that Queerty link and realized that there are always going to be a$$holes across the spectrum of issues.

Those two idiots are canceled out by the numerous commentors who noted exactly how idiotic and racist they are, and how they are no different than the many 'phobes we rail against.

So, yeah, I agree with this perspective. After the election & Prop 8 dust up, LGBT racism washed up on the shores of public consciousness -- delivering the ugly flotsam embodied in those two Queerty commentors.

But like racial supremacists, they're a minority. Hopefully a dying one.

As I said on B-DC, God I hope so. I'd get tired of vanilla ice cream every day. I feel the same way about my men. :)

Anthony in Nashville | February 18, 2009 12:32 PM

I agree that the whitewashing of gay media has been a problem for decades, however I do not see it changing for two main reasons:

1. The beauty standard is still "white is right."

2. The perception that black gay men in particular don't read so it doesn't make sense to feature them and alienate white readers.

While not a beauty issue, I think you see this attitude in effect with the current Advocate. There was an excellent interview with Wanda Sykes yet Matthew Mitcham was the cover subject. Maybe it's me but I thought the Sykes piece was much more substantial and deserved top billing. I wrote a column about it for the local gay paper here.

Is it the model industry or closeted men being oppressed by black culture ?

I'm afraid I have great disdain for the entire gay fashion scene (and you could guess that by the way I dress) --- it is so based on the latest trend, the rav, the cool, the White Party circuit (does that name tell you anything?) and, so often, drugs, booze, partying, and a studied disregard for consciousness, whether that consciousness be social, political or merely rational. (However, call any subject "gay culture" and you will get a few to pay attention ... for a few seconds, maybe.)

I would say:

(1) Michelle Obama has already done more, and will continue to impact, the world of women's fashions more than Prez Obama will impact men's fashions --- after all, a blood-red Armani evening gown will always be more exciting than another dark blue business suit, even if eyebrows rise when the wearer takes the jacket off in the course of getting some serious work done. BTW, who does Obama's suits? YSL? Paco Rabanne? Sean John? J.C. Penny's?

(2) I doubt the self-centered, uppity, honky(*) fashion queers in the gay world will get the memo, or if they do they will fail to read it before reaching for their next apple-raspberry martini. White gay men with such values tend to be extremely resistant when it comes to letting other people, or rational social forces, monkey around with their sexual fantasies --- after two decades of gay men dropping like flies, many of them still reject condoms in order to stay alive: Do you think they will broaden their sense of racial aesthetics just because of some historical blip on a political radar screen that they never pay much attention to anyway?

* I can use the word "honky" as an insult, Michael, because I'm white.


Surprisingly, I don't think I've ever seen the H-word in print. And the last person I heard utter it aloud was George Jefferson.

Thanx for the flashback, AJ. ;-)

The eyes of some of us have never been closed to the beauty of those men.

steve tabarez | February 19, 2009 12:01 AM

I read this yesterday and had to take a day to comment. Growing up in a small, working class town with a significant population of black, brown and white men, I learned early to appreciate the beauty of all that nature had to offer ime. But, still, not everyone could appreciate that. And yet, it still galls me to no end. Gay ANYTHING, still mirrors straight society. And overwhelmingly, it is still about marketing. Those who own the wealth, still get the images they want and that reflects them. Same as in politics, same in business, and same as in academia, etc. On the other hand, I agree that many gay males of color may be absent in certain industries such as fashion and modeling because of the stigma of being considered gay. Especially in avenues that cater to gay markets. Sadly, that makes it easier to keep us out. That in no way excuses the blatant example cited though. Tho some of us already kno that need not apply sign is there, sometimes. Even if it is not posted. That said, I definitely don't want to be someone's flavor of the week either. That's just as repulsive to me.