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Hollywood's racial politics overshadow accomplishment

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Gabourey Sidibe took Hollywood by storm when her first on-screen appearance in a film called "Precious" earned her an Academy Award nomination. Sidibe, a young African-American actress, has since taken her talent to other projects and is quickly becoming a rising star in the entertainment business.

To highlight the young actress' accomplishments, Elle magazine chose to feature Sidibe on one of four 25th anniversary commemorative covers.  But after Elle unveiled her glamorous cover shot, a number of Hollywood observers stepped forward and accused the magazine of racism.

A feminist blog called "Womanist Musings" hopped on the bandwagon, saying "Perhaps we should not celebrate Gabourey Sidibe on the cover of Elle."

"I am sure that Elle felt that just having Gabby on the cover was making some statement about how progressive they are, and so I suppose that actually having a picture of Gabby in her natural skin colour was easy to deem unimportant. ... Photoshopping is quite common in magazines, but when they [choose] to lighten a dark skinned Black woman, it is racist no matter what the original intent was. ...

Did Black women really gain anything, or were we once again told in a very subtle way to get to the back of the bus?"

The "Musings" site joined a number of others in accusing Elle photo editors of lightening Sidibe's skin for the cover of their magazine.

While I can't speak for Elle on the allegations against them (which they flatly deny), I think it's sad that this controversy stirred up by Hollywood bloggers is overshadowing the very reason Sidibe was chosen for the cover -- her wonderful talent as an actress and the positive difference she is making in the lives of young women who look up to her as a role model.  When you look at various photos of Sidibe, it's clear there was no wrong-doing here -- so why were people so quick to accuse the mag editors of wrongdoing and so hesitant to celebrate this young woman's accomplishments?

"We had 25 cover-worthy subjects in our portfolio and we chose Gabby because of who she is," Elle editors commented.  "We shot this as a story of exuberant young women changing the world."

When asked to comment on the so-called "controversy," Sidibe's reps had only this to say: "Gabourey is absolutely thrilled to be on the cover of ELLE magazine's 25th anniversary issue."

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