I never want to click on an Instagram Story and see any kind of racism being framed as banter.
In the midst of Couture Fashion Week, Russian entrepreneur and editor Miroslava Duma shared a photograph of an invitation and card sent from her dear friend, couture designer Ulyana Sergeenko, with the words “To my n***** in Paris”, quoting the Kanye West and Jay-Z song.
Duma added a heart emoji to the Instagram story just to put the cherry on top of the prejudice cake. However, both were seemingly completely unaware of how racist they were being. It wasn’t just the card that was irritatingly problematic but also how both women’s, especially Sergeenko’s, apology fell so short compared to her actions.
Sergeenko’s apology (since deleted - is another one coming?) has been rightfully critiqued. She penned a post that was screaming for a good PR to take over.
The tone of the apology was ultimately “woe is me”. It included a mention of the fact that her daughter is half-Armenian and said: “Kanye West is one of my favourite musicians, and NP is one of my favourite songs. And yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it.”
She continued to say she and Duma did not realise how “naive” their actions were and though she’s grateful for the lesson, she pleads “there is enough anger in the world out there, please, can we stop it here? <3”.
I agree that there is enough anger in the world however some, such as this, is rightfully placed - Sergeenko hasn’t taken ownership of her actions or understood why it caused upset.
Also, it seems Duma has a history of making ‘prejudiced mistakes’ then apologising, only to repeat them again.
In 2014, Duma published on her website, Buro 24/7, a global fashion and culture platform she founded in several countries, a photo of a conservatively dressed Dasha Zhukova, (who is a white woman) using a black woman as a chair, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In addition to her racist actions, a video has resurfaced revealing Duma held some transphobic beliefs. In the video, Duma says blogger Bryanboy and transgender model Andreja Pejić should be “censored” for wearing women’s clothing.
Duma has since apologised for the person she was six years ago and said that she has changed. This situation just emphasises how the internet is a place of receipts, where everything is recorded. The good and especially, the bad.
Duma has since been removed from her co-founded company The Tot, her co-founder standing behind this decision as she was disappointed by Duma’s actions.
In the midst of all this, Sergeenko held her couture show - which was the reason she sent Duma the invitation with the racist joke inside.
Rachel Tashjian, fashion features editor at Garage Magazine asked the designer how she felt about the recent events and Sergeenko simply replied with: “I’m so upset that I spoiled it” - it being her show. Her design partner Frol Burimskiy additionally quipped with “C’est la vie” about the situation.
All this shows how Sergeenko appears mostly concerned with only how her show has been overshadowed by the criticism. She is worried about her brand and not her actions and that makes her apology ring hollow. There is no evidence she has taken steps to understand the impact her words have had.
Both women have shown their lack of concern for their actions by framing what they have done as merely a joke: but it really wasn’t funny.