Accidental Appropriation: White Model on Cover of Black-Hair Magazine Has Readers Wigging Out

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley
The December/January 2017 cover of Blackhair magazine

In today’s “Well, ain’t that about a bitch” news …

Early Monday morning, the editors of Blackhair magazine issued a statement apologizing to readers for a mistake they made on the cover of their December/January 2017 cover. No, it wasn’t a spelling error. The publication, aimed at black women and, as the magazine’s name implies, showcasing the hair textures of black women, features a nonblack model on its most recent cover. Editor Keysha Davis issued the apology via the publication’s Facebook page and attempted to explain, sort of, how the mix-up happened:

We often ask PR companies/salons to submit images for the magazine, specifically stating that models must be black or mixed race. We can only take their word for it, and of course, try to use our own judgment. At Blackhair, we continuously strive to celebrate black women in all our beautiful variation of skin hues and hair textures. We are keenly aware of how black women are underrepresented in the mainstream media and the last thing we want to do is add to our erasure. In this ever-changing world, race will surely become even more fluid and no doubt conversations around black identity will continue to change, and we definitely welcome the dialogue.


The publication was informed of the mix-up not by fans, who were stunned that a white person had appeared on the cover of a black publication—more on that in a second—but by the model, who alerted Blackhair that she was, indeed, not black.

On her Instagram page, cover model Emily Bador—who identifies as white, English and Malaysian—posted a picture of the issue with her face (and hair). In the heartfelt caption, she explained that the cover image was taken three or four years ago, when she 15, and that the image was never intended to be for a magazine cover.

“If I had known it was going to be published, I would never have condoned it,” Bador wrote. “I’m upset and angry I was never asked by the photographer/hair salon/anyone if this image could be used for the cover [of] Black Hair.”

Bador added that she didn’t understand cultural appropriation at the time, and she is “deeply and sincerely” apologetic to everyone, “and black women especially.”


It’s hard to be mad at Bador. Yeah, she culturally appropriated. Bador’s natural hair texture is bone straight. Her hair in the cover image is either a great wig or one of those ridiculous methods advocated by Allure magazine to help white women achieve “not an introvert’s hairstyle.” But again, she didn’t know better as a teenager. She does now. And her apology needs to be taught in a master class. There are celebrities who keep publicists on five-figure monthly retainers who haven’t figured out how to offer a sincere apology like Bador’s.

As expected, many Blackhair readers were pissed at the publication.

“This is a slap in the face to the countless struggling black models in the industry,” commenter Careen Dean Balfour wrote in response to the apology letter on Blackhair’s Facebook page. “Even more so, a slap in the face to your readers who pay a lot of money each publication to see hairstyles that represent them, being modeled by women who look like them.”


Reader Melissa Obi was equally upset: “Anyone who is buying into this lame-ass PR by the magazine is clearly an apologist. The magazine is called Black hair! Black hair! Black hair! … We are being poisoned against ourselves.”

Reader Aderonke Lawal’s was the only comment I saw that stated what was obvious, to me, at least: “I doubt many of us would have known if this had not been flagged by the model.”


Real talk: That girl looks black. Far blacker than Rachel Dolezal, who didn’t really look all that black but wound up running an NAACP chapter. Those puffy lips? That button nose? The freckles? Even the kinky red hair. The running joke when I shared her image on social media was that she needs to call Maury, or log on to, and her mother had some explaining to do. Bador looks like some women who show up at my family reunion, and I’m sure they pass the one-drop rule. I would have seen this Blackhair cover in the CVS aisle and never would have questioned whether the cover model qualified for the one-drop rule.

This cover mistake is gigantic freak accident. I can only imagine how mortified the editors at Blackhair must be. But really, folks can only be but so mad at them. Wouldn’t you have thought Bador was black, too?


Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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