On the March 2012 cover of FHM Philippines, the country’s top-selling men’s mag, a light-skinned model emerges from a group of black models accompanied by the caption, “Stepping Out of the Shadows.”
According to the New York Times, the photo of swimsuit-clad Filipino actress Bela Padilla immediately met backlash from readers and social media users who argue the photo is racist and insensitive. “Seriously, did you guys not sense how racist this concept was?” writes one user on the magazine’s Facebook page.
The outrage prompted local publisher Summit Media to issue an apology, scrap the edition and promise to print a new cover featuring Padilla. “In our pursuit to come up with edgier covers, we will strive to be more sensitive,” the company, which publishes more than 20 magazines in the Philippines, wrote in its statement.
Just hours after the cover ran, Filipino Victor Bautista launched an online petition on Change.org calling for Summit to apologize for and recall the cover, ABS-CBN News reports. “People of African descent have been unjustly stigmatized as embodying darkness, ever since the era of slave trading. The cover is a modern rendition of a regressive form of discrimination, and should thus be brought to utmost scrutiny, in a day and age wherein racial equality should be universal,” he wrote.
The BBC caught up with Padilla for an interview, where she said she did not have any regrets about the photo shoot. “So they wanted me to come into a ‘coming-of-age’ sort of article — that’s why they chose that caption,’’ she told the BBC. She said some of the models in the photo included light-skinned women painted black. “Some people might think that it’s even more offensive that some people in that shoot were Filipinas who were painted black,” replied reporter Mishal Husain.
The ad sparked debate on social media and news sites. “It is said that this is about Bela emerging from her ‘inhibitions.’ But pray tell, why would a white girl’s inhibitions appear as a bevy of black girls? Why pit one woman’s white body against five women’s black bodies? Why highlight one at the expense of the others?’’ Katrina Stuart Santiago wrote in an opinion piece for GMA News Online, a news outlet in the Philippines. Why indeed?
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