Updated on November 11, 2017 at 4pm EST:
An Le, the photographer who shot the photo in question, offered a more detailed statement, calling his edit a “mistake” that doesn’t reflect his advocacy for diversity in the beauty industry. Read it in full below:
“I’ve had some time to reflect on my part in the incident involving Grazia and Ms. Nyong’o. I realize now what an incredibly monumental mistake I have made and I would like to take this time to apologize to Ms. Nyong’o and everyone else that I did offend. Though it was not my intention to hurt anyone, I can see now that altering the image of her hair was an unbelievably damaging and hurtful act. As an immigrant myself, it is my duty to be an advocate for the representation of diversity of beauty in this industry. I will demonstrate this in my work even more going forward. My altering of her image was not born out of any hate but instead out of my own ignorance and insensitivity to the constant slighting of women of color throughout the different media platforms. There is no excuse for my actions. I deeply regret the pain I’ve caused Ms. Nyong’o, a woman I’ve admired for quite some time now. Again, I would like to say I’m deeply sorry to everyone I did offend. I want to thank Lupita for addressing this important issue.”
Original story published November 10, 2017 at 5PM:
Last night, Lupita Nyong’o shared her latest magazine cover, but not without expressing her disappointment in the final product. In a lengthy caption under side-by-side photos of the original photos and final cover, the Academy Award winner called out Grazia UK for smoothing out her natural texture in exchange for a look that more closely resembles Eurocentric beauty standards.
“As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too,” she said.
“Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like.
“Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.”
In an official statement to The Fader, Grazia UK offered an apology, but didn’t take full responsibility for the alterations.
“Grazia is committed to representing diversity throughout its pages and apologizes unreservedly to Lupita Nyong’o. Grazia magazine would like to make it clear that at no point did they make any editorial request to the photographer for Lupita Nyong’o’s hair to be altered on this week’s cover, nor did we alter it ourselves,” they said. “But we apologize unreservedly for not upholding the highest of editorial standards in ensuring that that we were aware of all alterations that had been made.”
It’s also worth noting that Nyong’o ended her post, which has since garnered over 200,000 likes, with the hashtag “#dtmh,” a subtle ode to “Don’t Touch My Hair,” the empowering anthem written by Solange Knowles to celebrate black womanhood.
Knowles used the same hashtag last month when another British publication, The Evening Standard, chose to photoshop her braided hairstyle for its eventual cover. They also offered an apology, saying that “the decision to amend the photograph was taken for layout purposes but plainly we made the wrong call.”
This isn’t the first time celebrity women have called out magazines for altering their physical features, but there’s certainly been an uptick in frequency this year. Just two months ago, Emily Ratajkowski called out Madame Figaro for making her lips look smaller and breasts bigger, and asked that the fashion industry would “stop trying to stifle the things that make us unique.”
It seems magazines rather ask forgiveness than simply do what’s right. Let’s hope those devoted to celebrating diversity and individuality can demonstrate how to do the opposite.