Company in trouble for using white models to sell 'black girl magic' T-shirts

Alice Sholl
Cringe [Photo: Twitter/La Bronze James/]
Cringe [Photo: Twitter/La Bronze James/]

The last person you expect to see wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘black girl magic’ on it is a white woman.

Yet that’s how one company appears to have decided to sell its t-shirts and, understandably, people aren’t happy about it. has come under fire after a Twitter user pointed out that their ‘black girl magic’ tee was most definitely being modelled by blonde, white women.

Various models who were most-certainly-not women of colour – and sometimes even men – appeared to be selling clothes featuring various slogans celebrating being a different race.

Which lead many people to question how on earth this was allowed to happen.

Until finally, an explanation: The models never physically wore the t-shirts.

The website actually uses a platform that superimposes images onto default stock models, meaning that any design can go onto any model.

And after a quick skim, yes, Zazzle’s models are predominantly white (though not exclusively so).

Which serves as a reminder that websites must be very careful of suggesting that ‘white’ is ‘default’ in some way.

A Zazzle shirt modelled by a woman of colour [Photo: Zazzle]
A Zazzle shirt modelled by a woman of colour [Photo: Zazzle]

“Zazzle is largely a community of designers and makers – individual members who have opened Zazzle accounts to promote and sell their designs and products,” a Zazzle spokesperson said.

“We are an open user-generated content marketplace where designers and users can freely upload any design as long as it complies with the terms of our User Agreement.

“Our designers and customers have a diverse set of views and convictions; we provide a digital platform where they can upload a wide variety of products, whether they are satirical, funny, whimsical, political so long as they observe the aforementioned guidelines.

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A post shared by Zazzle (@zazzle) on Apr 14, 2017 at 8:14am PDT

“In the case of ‘Black Girl Magic’ t-shirts on the Zazzle website, each designer is shown a series of pre-posed randomised model shots upon which their design is placed.

“It’s always possible that gender, race and other attributes of the model do not match up to the specifics of the design, given the ratio of our millions of designs to the 100 or so t-shirt styles we offer.

“We’re working on an interim fix that doesn’t mismatch out-of-context content to models.

“At Zazzle, we’re committed to diversity and are working on increasing the diversity of the pre-posed model shots within the t-shirt range itself.”

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