Michelle Williams has found herself at the center of controversy for a photo spread.
The "Oz: The Great and Powerful" star struck a pose for the British biannual fashion and cultural publication AnOther, a seemingly innocuous task for the 32-year-old, who often graces beauty mags. However, within the multi-page layout is a photo of the actress dressed as what appears to be a Native American — and the controversial photo is causing a huge stir.
The picture, snapped by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo, features Williams wearing a dark braided wig, feathers, and a flannel shirt.
Jezebel.com was one of the first sites to take note, criticizing it in a piece entitled, "Why Is Michelle Williams in Redface?"
"Are they endeavoring to capture the spirit of the American Indian Movement (AIM) circa 1973?" asks Native American writer Ruth Hopkins. "Is this an ad for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) or the American Indian College Fund (AICF)? Nope. It's a 33-year-old white actress hyping her latest Hollywood project by wearing a cheap costume designed to make her look like she's the member of another race."
TheNation.com’s Aura Bogado, who is also Native American, posted an open letter to Williams, noting, “Playing Indian not only promotes stereotypes, but violates profound spiritual significances, is tantamount to wearing blackface and prolongs a violent history of genocide and colonialism. You’ve done all of that with your photo-shoot costume.”
And website Refinery29.com also expressed disdain over the photo.
"Before you jump the gun and say this isn't an imitation of Native American dress and physicality, let us point out a few things. Michelle Williams currently has a blond pixie cut,” writes Lexi Nisita. “So it's not like they just braided her hair coincidentally. They added super-long, thick, black extensions and braided them – and darkened her eyebrows … [the look] appears to mimic the stark relief of facial features often seen in early portraits of Native American women."
The site also called out the fact that the words "There's no place like home," appear next to Williams' photo. While they are a vague reference to her latest film, the writer notes they are "actually very pointed in this instance, given the fact that thousands of Native Americans were forcefully ousted from their homes (not to mention slaughtered and denied full rights of citizenship)."
When omg! reached out to Williams' rep for a comment on Wednesday, we received no comment from the actress herself, but were given the following statement from AnOther magazine:
"While we recognize the seriousness of this debate, the image in question in no way intends to mimic, trivialise or stereotype any particular ethnic group or culture, as recent reports suggest. The image (which is not, in fact, the cover of the magazine) is one of a suite of images taken from inside the magazine, presenting Ms. Williams in a series of eight different imaginary characters. All the characters in the story were inspired by multiple fashion and cultural references, characters and eras, as well as by our admiration of Ms. Williams as one of the most respected and talented actresses of her generation. While we dispute the suggestion that the image has a racist subtext in the strongest possible terms, we're mortified to think that anyone would interpret it in this way. The cover image and a full description of the story and accompanying article can be found here.
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