Throwback with a Twist – Amber Rose: the Exploitation of Exoticism

I wrote this two years ago for another blog and I thought I’d share it here with a few twists.  It raises some questions that are still relevant.

Adapted from a November 1, 2009 post by “Doctor” Lane

This evening I was looking for videos and pictures concerning Black women’s sexuality, and was initially assaulted by a series of images and commentary where Black women were being discussed, but where we weren’t in the conversation.  In fact, our voices were no where to be found except where they were doing the police work of keeping Black women “in line.”  Very few voices other than those concerned with propriety seemed to exist, and I have problem with that.

I was on this search because I’m preparing a short lecture on the topic of Black women and our racist and sexist depiction.  After typing the first few names of pop cultural figures that came to mind, I came across photos of Amber Rose.  For the purposes of this post, I decided against reproducing  one of the many images of her in the nude or nearly nude in mostly men’s magazines, opting instead for the above photo where she dons more masculine attire.

For the October 2009 issue of Elle magazine Kanye West produced a photo with: Amber Rose.  I wasn’t impressed.  There are a couple back-shots reminiscent of King Magazine; territory I didn’t know Elle dabbled in, but which take on a particular (racist) character in the context of a predominately white, female readership of Elle. So what are the implications behind Elle producing these dramatically sexualized images of a Black woman?  The implications seem quite clear in the reader comments made on article that Elle writes about her.

Umm excuse does anybody know exactly what Ms. Rose if famous for other than her body and ability to wear anything that will draw stares or gasps from the world???? Pls tell me that she’s actually doing something worth talking about other than herself and advancing off of Kanye’s back. No one knew her or put her on a run-way or magazine to this extreme before she got with Kanye.. Can you say user!!! He is so lost, blind and must I dare say dumb to not see it for himself, lord get that man therapy for his mom has to be shaking her head.. I wish him all the best, but Ms. Rose your style is lets say differnent but no different from a high priced street walker with over exposure. America’s standards have lowered and ELLE I would’ve expected better!!” Posted by: t.p. 10/2/2009

although I did not care to notice at first, Amber has a really nice physique. Nice round, shapely butt cheeks, sensational handful (mouth full) of breast, and a style all her own. She is one lovely brownin’.” Posted by: Avtomat Kalas 10/21/2009

Even without knowing the race/ethnicity of the authors of the post, they reproduce the underlying racist/sexist assumptions concerning Black women’s sexuality, particularly its uncontrollable nature and its inappropriate uses.  The co-option of Black women’s bodies is systemic.

She’s a beautiful woman.  She’s mixed.  She dated Kanye West.  Why is there any doubt that she would be famous?   And would Kanye’s standards be higher if Rose hadn’t been out about previously dating women?  There’s something contradictory and problematic about the way that women can be used by men to elevate their status (Kanye) and then be damned for getting paid for their services.  Don’t blame the “street walkers”… instead think about the individuals and structures which make their services un/acceptable, possible, and necessary for their survival (Elle, Kanye West, racism, sexism, etc.).

3 replies
  1. kala says:

    This is an interesting post, but I think you overlooked Amber Rose's past a an exotic dancer. I think a lot of doubt or outrage or what have you about her being with a high profile celebrity has to do with the America's stigmas and stereotypes about the type of women that have had such an occupation. She is a beautiful women. But her past as an exotic dancer combined with her sexy clothing in general, I think, makes many female consumers of media feel entitled to turn their noses up at her and question her intensions with a successful hip-hop star.

  2. "Doctor" Lane says:

    True, true. I think we have a lot of assumptions about women, as women, and don't realize that when we police the life and pleasure of any woman, we justify the policing of our own.

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