Heidi Klum, the 40-year-old German-born supermodel, is under attack for promoting a “redface” photo shoot on the German version of the Top Model reality competition show. Heidi Klum hosts the show, and on her Facebook page, posted photos from the shoot, with a number of skinny, gorgeous and mostly white models dressed up in stereotypical Native American garb such as feather head dresses and face paint.
Klum has hosted Germany’s Next Top Model for the entire nine-season run of the show.
Apparently, the photo shoot was a “challenge” for the models, none of whom are Native American or of Native descent. The models were posed on horseback and in front of tepees, wearing what appears to be a Hollywood western version of traditional Native American garb.
The response on Klum’s own Facebook page — from presumably her own fans — was largely disapproving. “Disgusting,” “wrong,” “Simply tacky and exploitative to not only Native Americans but women in general!” “cultural appropriation on some next level crap.,” were just a sample of the comments Heidi Klum received on her posts of the photos.
Blogger Ruth Hopkins on her “Last Real Indians” site, declared herself a fan of Heidi Klum, but her fandom went only so far.
“Heidi Klum, I’m so disgusted with you. I can’t even look at you right now,” Hopkins wrote. “Natives are not costumes one can take on and off. When people dress up in stereotypical ‘Indian’ garb, they’re not only denying the existence of 566 distinct Tribal Nations, they’re mocking an entire group of human beings based solely on their race and heritage.”
She went on to deem the “redface” photos — that is, photos in which white people or others dress up as Native Americans — “some of the most stereotypical, patently offensive photographs of pouty, half-naked white women posing ever-so seductively in war paint and headdresses that I’ve seen in well, months (what can I say, we’re currently plodding through an epidemic of society fetishizing Native women).”
As E! Online pointed out, exploiting stereotypes of Native American people is rather common in the fashion world. In December, Chanel dressed its models in feather head dresses. That was after a 2012 Victoria’s Secret show when one of that company’s models wore a similar head dress with a bikini.
Nor is it only Native Americans who find themselves stereotyped for the benefit of fashionistas. A wealthy Russian fashion editor posed for a photo published on the Martin Luther King holiday of herself sitting a chair in the shape of a half-naked black woman.
So far Heidi Klum has made no public comment on the “redface” racism allegations.