It turns out that Zazzle, a site which allows anyone to design their own merch, uses stock models to sell their clothing — the graphic designs are superimposed onto a blank T-shirt to show customers what their self-created shirt will look like.
It seems that creators have very little control over which model is depicted wearing their design, which leads to car crashes like this.
First off, this typography is a little too close to Comic Sans for my taste. And secondly, why in the fresh hell would you choose THIS MODEL for a Strong Black Woman T-shirt??!!
Strong Black woman T-shirt ($18.95, Zazzle)
This tells me that Zazzle doesn't have many stock models of color in its rotation — which is why white women end up in shirts with quotes about Black womanhood on them.
This T-shirt referencing representative Maxine Waters' famous quote is DEFINITELY a miss. I believe that Maxine appreciates the shout-out, but I'm sure she'd like for it to be done in a better way. Nice try, Zazzle.
Maxine Waters strong Black woman tee ($30, Zazzle)
Yes, I agree. Black girls ARE magical. They're SO magical, it seems they can't be photographed — not even as a stock model!
Black girls are magic T-shirt ($27.30, Zazzle)
Side note: Since Zazzle used stock models, I DO NOT put the blame on them. They have zero control over the graphics placed on the shirts they're shown wearing.
While it may be unintentional, it still is cultural appropriation.
And then I thought, "Oh, maybe they don't have any stock models on their site to choose from." And then I found THIS.
One Black model.
Who seems to appear very infrequently.
Homegirl is literally holding it down FOR THE WHOLE SITE.
Black girl magic T-shirt ($27.95, Zazzle)
After intense backlash, Zazzle issued an apology. A representative tried to explain what went wrong, but also utilized the classic "sorry-not-sorry" approach. The statement also threw around the word "diversity" a lot, probably to assert how badly Zazzle needs it.
“Each designer is shown a series of pre-posed randomized 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. At Zazzle, we’re committed to diversity and are working on increasing the diversity of the pre-posed model shots and the T-shirt range itself,” Zazzle reps said in a statement to Yahoo.
TL;DR — "We photographed so many white people to sell the clothes we make. So, so many. Because we photographed just SO MANY white people, it's not our bad if a shirt promoting Black pride shows up on a white body. It's totally random! It happens! Even though our one Black model exists and seems to show up infrequently on the site, diversity is good. Still not really our problem, tho."
Since that apology is a little short-sighted, we decided to do a little designing of our own. Here's Zazzle half-assed apology on a Zazzle T-shirt.
Special thanks to Alle Connell for graphic designing this.
Would you believe that no matter what shirt we designed, Zazzle defaulted to a white model EVERY. SINGLE. TIME?
And despite their apology, as of July 26, the T-shirts in question are still being sold on the white stock models.
Seems like Zazzle *really* wants to profit off the creativity and pride of Black culture — but takes no responsibility for HOW those products will be marketed and sold.
The Black community appreciates the personalized T-shirt love, but it's insignificant if a brand sells them in such an ignorant way. If a brand as big as Zazzle, which creates MILLIONS of products a year, doesn't photograph models of color, of course your custom merch will keep showing up on white people. You had an opportunity to hit it big, but instead you've simply Zazzled yourself.
h/t Yahoo Style