Donna Karan, whose name is synonymous with fashion royalty, needs no introduction. Recently titles that are from royalty have been attached to her name, most notably with her spring 2012 ads that were inspired by her ongoing work in Haiti, which is also where the campaign was shot.

The ads were photographed by Russell James, one image in particular illustrates Brazilian model Adriana Lima, whose has been dubbed by Donna Karan herself as ” showing the heart and soul of Haiti.” sitting in the front as the focus while two Haitian men sit behind her in the shadows of her limelight. While the quality of the picture and campaigned cannot be questioned, the message that this picture portrays has raised many questions and concerns.

Some spectators have taken offense to the campaign and to the preceding picture in particular, since it depicts Haitian men hidden in the backgrounds while Lima alluringly reclines in her expensive clothes. Some have directly pointed out the obvious contrast between the white supermodel, who is draped in expensive high-fashion clothing and the extreme poverty that Haitians are facing. And other are praising Donna Karan for being in Haiti and trying to help the Haitian people. I guess it all in one’s perspective of the situation. What are your thoughts?

-Nikia Pope



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  • Dee

    Great question! Not sure how to think on this one. Another question could be asked:If the model had been Chanel Iman or Joan Small or any other model of color, would there had been concerns?

  • Naomi

    No this is not offensive. I think this is a case of people looking for something to offend them.

  • Bronze

    If people don’t have a problem with the 1% exploiting their wealth in front a nation who lack water, food, education, sanitation, housing and infrastructure. Sure…WHY THE HELL NOT?

  • Nnaattaayy

    Exactly!! That ad is just awful. And why does it have to be so dark and jungle themed just because it was shot in Haiti? Not classy at all. But whatever, I don’t think the people care too much for her or her fashion, so I won’t trip either.

  • ash

    I agree ppl are looking for something to be offended by, I have seen Tyra do shoots similiar to this one on ANTM. The model in the front and background models, it is Adriana job to stand out. Also, how can Donna Karan bring awareness to Haiti and its crisis? By doing shoots like these, bringing attention to the problems there, and she has to do it in a way that will attract the attention of her audience. I would be offended if she wasn’t there trying to help out. Lets be grateful, and think about what we are doing to help Haiti’s progression.

  • r

    Adriana Lima is not white. She is Afro-Brazilian mixed with a little Japanese and West Indian.

  • esmagnifique

    Answer me this: What exactly is the purpose of not only shooting in an impoverished country that is STILL recovering from a venomous earthquake but verbally letting observers know that it’s being shot in Haiti as well as featuring two individuals from Haiti? Forgive me for assuming but this seems like a safe assumption seeing as they have been intentionally juxtaposed to the glamourized Adriana Lima, who is just selling us merchandised………………And I’m expected not to be offended? The things fashion ads will do for attention.

  • LemonNLime

    She is a mix of Portuguese, French, Amerindian, Japanese, Caribbean, African, and Afro-Brazilian. So she isn’t “white” but she isn’t “black” either. She most DEF doesn’t “showing the heart and soul of Haiti”. That is an insult to Haitians.

  • Nicole

    Hmmmm looks fine to me.

  • Joanne_

    I think it’s fine…I would like to see more honestly.

  • Samantha Ramakers

    Is it how she wants to help Haiti by degrading people ? Showing how black people are poor and amazed in front of white people ( the same old song again )?
    That’s the shoot’ message. This is purely a paternalistic commercial and it is disgusting.

    Now i know that i won’t buy Karan any more.

  • Samantha Ramakers

    Maybe, but look at her again and you’ll notice that she looks white baby!

  • LesBoom

    I don’t understand how this is offensive. Karen’s spring 2012 show was inspired by Haiti so this does not come as a surprise for people who actually follow fashion (the shows). I will argue that she is a major philanthropist, though I do not know if she has contributed to rebuilding Haiti or if she has done anything to aid the country at all. BUT I’m sure her crew stayed in local hotels, ate, and paid for the shoot location and the gentlemen were compensated…

  • Helene

    As an Haitian, I find this ad offensive. I didn’t even notice the black men in the background. Why are they there? To make Adriana stand out? They seem not important. The collection was inspired by Haiti but the ad doesn’t represent or give justice to our beautiful culture. Donna Karan could have easily cast a Caribbean model and find beautiful beaches and nice places where they could have shot the pictures. It looks like they shot in Cuba. They could have included Philippe Dodard and his work. It was poorly executed!

  • Maximilian

    To be honest, me too!

  • Bianca Murphy

    Why is it that we so easily find fault everywhere? Does everything have to make a political statement? I would like for each naysayer to consider reigning in his or her own frame of reference and seeing this for what it really is…a model with men in the background. Who’s to say that the men are not models as well and who’s to say that they were not compensated? How do we know that these gentlemen were not fully apprised of the shot and knew exactly what they were doing? Are we assuming that Donna Karan and her team just happened upon some “witless victims” and started snapping shots? I am willing to bet that these men were not “taken advantage of” in this photo. Really people? Really!!!! As for the theme “Showing tThe Hear and Soul of Haiti”….how do we know that it is not just one group of people’s opinion based on the concept they were intending to shoot….why does it have to be “blasphemous” at worst and “tasteless” at best? Can’t it JUST be somebody’s idea for a campaign? GEESH!

  • GeGe

    I’m Haitian, and I don’t really see anything too offensive. It’s cool that she is kinda bringing some attention to Haiti. What I don’t understand is how on earth does Adriana Lima show the “heart & soul of Haiti” even though she herself is not Haitian? And Donna Karan dubbed her with this title? It just doesn’t make any sense…

  • Stephon

    There is no insult att alllll !!! I don’t think haitian people see this as an insult. Stop finding stuff to be offended by. And If you know Haiti you’ll know that between Haiti and Brazil there is a mutual respect that Brazil help at many occasion this country and that haitian people are fan of brazilian football, I think that advert is just tryin to point something that everybody as forgot and Donna Karan is a designer so she finds HER way to help out and point something that we all forgot…. STOP all that bullshit and be Happy about it …

  • AlesiaMichelle

    Think about how much money they could have put into the economy while they were there. The could have hired locals as PAs. They could have bought food at local markets or eateries. I look at it that way as opposed to exploitation.

  • dom

    This pic is highly offensive to me. Promoting a luxury brand by displaying poverty is insensitive, distasteful and kind of stupid. And whatever are the model origins, she’s phenotypically white and the contrast between this white, beautiful and wealthy woman in the front and the too poor and dirty black men in her back is pretty shocking. Can’t they come with other ideas to sell their sh..t ? Help people in Haïti don’t exploit them !

  • LemonNLime

    GTFOH… you mean to tell me that with all the beautiful Haitian women there are they couldn’t find one Haitian to show “the heart and soul of Haiti”? So they had to go get a white Brazilian to be “the heart and sou” of the first free black country in the Western hemisphere?!? PLEASE.

    OH but they like Brazilian football? Really that is your justification proving that she is the heart and soul of Haiti? Because I would assume it would be someone who came from and understands the plight of the people there. If you are ignorant enough to think that liking football and getting aid makes you a representative of a country’s complex history, culture, language, future, past, and present then that foolishness is on you.

    And guess what? Just because it isn’t on the news or MTV doesn’t mean some of us have forgotten about what the Haitian people have gone through and continue to go through. And I know the Haitians there and abroad don’t need Donna Karen’s help to be reminded.

    But hey whatever you have to tell yourself to make you feel better about buying that crap.

  • courtney johnson

    Does it really matter I just wonder t miself sumtimes why r sum ppl still focused on color get over Ur Damn self, and live Ur own life mayb thn they wnt b so Damn worried about sumthing thts sooo petty.

  • Ash

    Simply beautiful! It’s always something isn’t it? Sit down and take a chill pill people. You don’t have to like EVERYTHING.

  • Lena’s Blend

    I don’t think it’s a huge deal but the campaign does show a lack of common sense by those that created it. Considering Haiti’s circumstances of disaster and suffering it’s kind of gross to shoot an ad showcasing a caparison between lavishly expensive clothes of all things and people suffering and living among ruins . Again I don’t think it’s a huge deal but I just don’t see the purpose of going that route.

  • Mahogany Rose

    What a gross contrast between luxury and destitution. I totally miss the beauty of this ad and see, nothing but exploitation.