How Blackhair Magazine Successfully Dealt With a PR Disaster

“A Black Hair Magazine Said They Accidentally Used A White Model On Their Cover”! When I first scrolled past this headline I thought that perhaps it was one of Buzzfeed‘s attempts at racial satire, until I recognised the reporter who I admire, and so I bookmarked it to read later. It wasn’t until I logged into facebook I saw a heartfelt and honest statement from Keysha Davis, the Editor of Blackhair Magazine on behalf of the publication addressing a PR disaster which came close to completely damaging their reputation:

What struck me immediately was the manner in which the publication dealt with this faux pas so quickly across all of it’s social media platforms (not their website yet unfortunately but hopefully that can be resolved soon). Whilst it is unrealistic to expect the magazine to republish the issue they did not ignore this highly sensitive matter or try to silence their critics. As you can see from many of the facebook comments they have been faced with, they have been responsive or at least created a space for debate and engagement. This, to me, is highly commendable; this error had the potential to cause irreversible damage to the magazine’s brand but I believe this will strengthen their credibility. Why? Because they have been open, honest and respectful to their readership and followers. How many times have black women had to deal with major mainstream publications who misuse their platforms to offend (even if in their eyes it is for banter)?

What I found most disturbing were the calls for the magazine to implement a “Colour Code” system/Dark models only, which I personally find offensive and regressive given that blackness comes in all shades. To adopt a system of colourism in an industry which is already inherently racist would be like upholding the values of erasure that many of the major magazines on our high streets currently practice on a regular basis.  There is also something else to be mindful of in this instance and that is the nature of the industry which this publication is doing business in. As far as I am aware Blackhair magazine fills the gap that most magazines which are considered to be mainstream do not cater to. In 2016 we still find that the acceptance of black women as beautiful is still up for debate, it is not a question, Black women are beautiful. Full stop.

Credit: BlackHair Magazine

This mistake does not in any way shape or form take away from the quality of the content. The photographer/modelling agency/stylist clearly went for a look which one can only be described as the cultural appropriation of Afro-Caribbean hair and beauty. I  seriously doubt that many of us upon looking at this front cover questioned that she did not have some African/Caribbean genes in her DNA. Honestly I  would not have even known if this had not been flagged. Those who styled the shoot are clearly responsible for trying to recreate what they deemed to be an “ethnic look” and it shows that the infiltration of black beauty for mainstream consumption but not mainstream celebration within the mainstream media and modelling industry runs deep. The responsibility of the PR agency and Image bank which provided the photograph must also be flagged, full disclosure should have been made but Blackhair also dropped the ball by not thoroughly assessing full background details, which again they acknowledged.

Kudos also goes to Emily Bador who wrote a sensitive and well thought out statement on her instagram page. I wish more high profile individuals who would apologise just as gracefully…*side-eyes* Marc Jacobs.

I would deeply and sincerely like to apologise to every one for this, and black women especially. I would like to clarify, I believe this shoot is from when I was around 15 and didn’t understand cultural appropriation or the impact it has on POC. I was uneducated, which obviously is no excuse, ignorant and immature. Growing up in a very very white city, I had no idea the struggles black women face and how often they were persecuted for their hair. I didn’t understand how black women are constantly told their natural hair is inappropriate/unprofessional for the work place, or how young girls are told they can’t go to school with natural hair. I didn’t understand that shoots like this support the very Eurocentric beauty standard that the mainstream media focus on which reinforce the idea that black features are only ok on white women. I didn’t understand that as a white passing woman I’d be praised for this hair, but if I was a black woman I’d be persecuted. I didn’t understand cultural appropriation. ✨ I do regret doing this. I hold up my hands, I’m so so so sorry and I’m very sorry this cover was taken away from a black woman. This image is (I think, although I’m not 100% sure) about 3/4 years old, it was never intended to be on the cover of this magazine. If I had known it was going to be published, I would never have condoned it. I’m upset and angry I was never asked by the photographer/hair salon/anyone if this image could be used for the cover Black Hair. ✨ I’m so glad I’ve educated myself and surrounded my self with people to teach me what is right and wrong. I constantly am learning and becoming more and more informed. It’s important to come forward and be honest with ourselves about our past mistakes, otherwise we will never learn. Again, I’m truly, deeply sorry to anyone I’ve offended and I hope if nothing else this post can educated others so they don’t make similar mistakes. (also please let me know if I’ve said anything wrong or offensive in this post!!! or anything i can add!!!! i love u all sm and the last thing i want to do is offend or hurt any one, i really hope you don’t all think im a massive twat 😔)

A photo posted by e m i l y bador (@darth_bador) on

We can all learn something from how Black Hair Magazine handled this potential PR disaster. Not only was it handled with grace, they were accountable and responsive. I hope that their readership does not decline because of this mistake, any anger directed towards the magazine should be redirected into finding solutions to the problems of low representation of Black models (of all shades) within fashion and the media. We need magazines like Black Hair Magazine to thrive so that we can continue to see the beauty of diversity in a world that seems intent on hiding it.

For more information on how I can help with your crisis comms and PR disasters get in touch.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. November 22, 2016 / 6:16 pm

    Really well put! I can understand readers outrage but I felt that it was handled well because as you pointed out most mainstream media are dismissive and avoid engaging with the issue. I think we have to be kinder to each other when someone makes a mistake and a sincere apology is given.

    • November 22, 2016 / 8:37 pm

      Thanks for reading and you are 100% right. We have to be kinder!

  2. Jacalyn Belgrave
    December 5, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Well put Aderonke. It really was unfortunate and could be deemed as insulting to the black woman yet again in so many ways. However to learn from this and move on we all need to be” kinder” as previously stated and ensure that as a whole our media houses, beauty, fashion halls, cuisine, total lifestyle all reflect the true diversity of the nation, being careful not to exclude one from the other. Black people come in many beautiful tones and shapes, which should be portrayed in no uncertain terms wherever we go.

    • December 5, 2016 / 6:20 pm

      Thanks for reading and the great comment.