JET Magazine Does Owe Fantasia An Apology

February 26, 2013  |  

According to published reports, Fantasia Barrino is not feeling very much like a JET’s Beauty of the Week:

The singer erupted on Instagram, chastising the magazine for using an old photograph of her: ‘This saddens Me!!! It is clear that this picture is 10 Years Old and JET Magazine puts it on the Cover!! After I send them the NEW LOOK AND DIRECTION. . SAD!!! I WANT A PUBLIC APOLOGY FROM JET. Now im not sure if the interview is correct. SEE!! America they and use me as they crash Dummy BUT NO MORE. IF I DONT STAND FOR SOMETHING ILL FALL FOR ANYTHING.’ “

According to Richard Prince, of Journal-isms, Mitzi Miller, JET’s editor-in-chief, issued a statement in defense of the black magazine using the 10 year old picture for its cover:

“JET magazine is honored to have Fantasia grace the cover of its March issue,” her statement began. “It is unfortunate that Fantasia is displeased with the cover selection, however JET stands by its decision,” Miller wrote. “As standard editorial practice, JET consulted with Fantasia’s team, but reserves the right to select the image we deem as most appropriate for JET’s brand and reflective of the cover story sentiment. “JET continues to root for Fantasia’s success and encourages her fans to pick up the new issue.”

Also noted in Journal-isms Miller’s Facebook message to friends, in which she expressed her frustrations over the cover photo matter: “The fact that I wasted an hour of my workday writing a press release to address an issue created by a person who cannot even read it is just… “

…ugly – there, I finished that for her.

Seriously, making fun of Fantasia’s history with illiteracy just seems a tad bit condescending, which makes this entire situation feel worse because it kind of implies how little concern the magazine might have had over its subject. According to various published reports, Fantasia used this interview to open up about about not only her new project but all of her “public woes and embarrassments,” including her financial problems, Twitter faux paus and scandalous relationship with her baby father. The excerpts from the interview I’d read indicate that this was a story of trial and triumph. And that Fantasia is making some changes in her life, for the better. And while the general rule is that a publication maintains editorial discretion, why should Fantasia not be upset over pictures that no longer represent who she is? Sort of like the illiterate joke. I, for one, always thought it was heroic and brave that she spoke so candidly about an affliction, which affects about 14 percent of the U.S. population. Sometimes we forget that not everybody’s trials in life are the same and neither are their heroes.

And as noted by Prince, for a magazine, whose reputation is primarily built upon its stellar photo documentation of black life and culture, including being the single black publication to run photos of the lynched body of Emmett Till, it’s a wonder why it is not shooting its own covers, like other publications. Perhaps it is just a matter of economics from slumping readership. But we all know that Fantasia has been everyone’s favorite whipping girl for a very long time.

And sure, she does make it easy, right? I mean with the married baby father and her most recent rant about being “judged” in a world, which is more accepting of legalized same-sex marriage and marijuana than her. The delivery was wrong – and the equivalency was false – but the overall point, is very much valid. Folks really do judge Fanny much harsher, and through a much more constrictive lens, than they do other celebrities. I don’t recall anyone having their suicide attempt scrutinized, dismissed and mocked more than what happened to Fantasia. Not even Mariah Carey. In an old interview, Fanny speculated it was because of her dark skin. I think that is part of it. I also think that being from the wrong side of the tracks is the other part of it. Let’s be honest here: Fantasia is, for a lack of a better word, ghetto. A product of a single mother, reared in the projects in the real South, only to become a young single mother herself, Fantasia is really not that far removed from many of the other women, whom folks might see in the [neighbor]hood or on WorldStarHipHip – other than the fact that she had noticeable and undeniable talent. That was once part of Fantasia’s appeal. Folks loved being able to cheer for the underdog when she was doing riffs and runs and bawling her eyes out across the “American Idol” stage. However when she stopped being the underdog and actually started appearing, for real, on real platforms like Billboard and at the Grammys, Fantasia stopped being the Disney fairytale story and instead gravitated to the crucial sphere of “nope, she’s not representing us.” When that happened, her story was no longer valued.

When it comes to Fantasia, the general gist I get from folks is that she should forever be humbled. Even though she was the rightful season 2 winner of “American Idol,” some folks, particularly our folks, respond to her as if she should be grateful to be on the stage; grateful to have a career; grateful to be mentioned at all. But despite all her personal misgivings and lack of social “grace” Fantasia has a right to have her name and her image respected just like any other celebrity in her position.  And when folks fail to honor that, then as any other person, she has a right to demand her honor.

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