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Pin-Up Week: Celebrating Pin-Ups of Color

We’re closing Pin-Up Week with a subject very close to my heart–the rather remarkable and often ignored absence of women of color in the pin-up genre. We don’t see pin-ups of color in magazines. We don’t see them on pin-up tribute sites. We don’t see them in pin-up contests.  Long-time readers of my blog know that this issue is one I’ve talked about before, most notably in the article “Why Doesn’t the Lingerie Industry Like Women of Color?”

In the eight months or so since that piece was published, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with lots of other people… from photographers to models to fellow lingerie fans about this issue, and the results have been… well, depressing is the only word I can think of to describe it.

Common excuses for not using women of color include them “not having the right look,” photographers “not knowing how to shoot women of color,” women of color being “uninterested in modeling,” or (and this is my all-time favorite), “women of color look too sexual in lingerie.” Because seriously, what does that mean?

As a woman of color who is proud of my ethnic identity, that is unacceptable. And it’s hurtful. No one wants to feel like they’re automatically less attractive because of the color of their skin.

I know how things were back in the day. I know that Black women and Asian women and Hispanic women and Native American women were not most photographer’s first choice for models, but since when did past segregation become an excuse for present discrimination? After all, there weren’t many tattooed pin-up models back in the day either, but they’re everywhere now… and that’s a good thing.

Furthermore, the notion that there weren’t any pin-ups of color back in the day is false. There were plenty of pin-ups of color in the past. And there are heaps of pin-ups of color now. So today, I’m going to celebrate them… because I truly believe that beauty comes in every color.

I’ve posted a few of my favorite pin-up photos in this article. You’ll find lots more on The Lingerie Addict Tumblr, where I’ll be posting images of pin-ups of color, both past and present, all day long.

Got something to say about the absence of pin-ups of color in the industry? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

22 Comments on this post

  1. […] You Need to Know About Pin-Up Lingerie Celebrating Pin-Ups of Color 7 Must Haves for Every Pin-Up Lovers […]

  2. […] Unattractive?“, a sentiment that’s been reflected in some of my own conversations about women of color within the lingerie industry. ©Katrinka's Secret ©Katrinka's […]

  3. Jenn says:

    Thank you for this post! Sadly, Pinup is another niche that doesn't reflect "real life."I hope discussions like this will make a difference :)

  4. Desiree says:

    Thank you! I'm so glad to see this. It's so hard to find good photos, both old and new, of pin-ups of color. And in the wake of that ridiculous Psychology Today article that tried to prove that black women are unattractive, we need stuff like this. Jesus, take the wheel. What's wrong with people?

    -Desiree, Pop-o-matic Deluxe

  5. Rooster Q. Redghost says:

    I want to photograph, and display photographs of, and display artwork of strong, beautiful, powerful women. The tone of their skin is as irrelevant to me.

    To the polite excuse of some, I do think the lack of diversity comes from sheer ignorance. A very, "Oh, I hadn't thought of that." Which is why I so highly celebrate this article and others like it.

    Open your eyes, brothers and sisters. The world is a beautiful, colorful place.

  6. hosiery says:

    The second one from the top has awesome makeup on

  7. schmenkee says:

    I'm glad I am not alone in my thinking. Hello. I am a Pin-up artist specializing in the "full crayola box of color" on vintage beauty.

    Forgive the art spam but I am about to post a youtube clip on african american/ black vintage pin -up/glamour, all from the 1950's later on this week. Stay tuned.


    Keep up the great work.


  8. sparklewren says:

    Moving from the pin-up towards the product modeling side of things, I always get the impression that larger companies feel it is a risk. As though using a model outside of a prescribed set of "safe" notions of beauty will cost them sales. After all, those companies are generally trying to attract the widest number of customers as opposed to a niche following, so they perhaps have to be in some ways bland and non-threatening.

    But I think that is in this presumption they are not only behaving *very* questionably but also giving their audience less credit than they're due… Modern women are perfectly capable of appreciating all kinds of beauty and perfectly capable of accepting difference. As you've said, the whole notion of "alternative" has already changed drastically, and perhaps more variation in skintone will be the next step. When I approach models I do so because their own particular beauty is distinct to them. They may be shorter, darker, softer or harder than the accepted lingerie model prototype, but they are beautiful. They have a presence in front of the camera. They express themselves through their bodies in a confident way. They give something special to the garment. I see the woman almost before I see the corset, which I think is a more positive message to send. For me, that's all that matters and I hope other small/niche brands feel the same.

  9. Treacle says:

    @Gaby, @Layla–Thanks for weighing in from a designer's perspective.

    I agree with what you've said, Gaby, about there being no excuse for U.S. designers to not use more women of color.

    And I absolutely agree with you Layla, when you say that it's about promoting positive messages and diversity.

  10. Zahira Kelly says:

    I love this post. I am a pin up artist who focuses on women of color for all the reasons you've noted…

  11. Layla says:

    Since I began following your blog I've always appreciated you fostering these discussions and I mentioned in the last post you did on this that as a designer I felt really strongly that we should send positive messages about age/race/bodytype, happy to say we're making a huge effort to continue to diversify the models whom we photograph our product on, and happy to see you continuing to raise the issue and awareness! xo

  12. Beau Dame says:

    here at Beau Dame lingerie, we focus on the model. If they are great lingerie models, they are great lingerie models. We feature all types of models with all types of curves as we think that is what the world is made from!
    What has gone before has gone before and we can't excuse our ancestors for what they though or acted on, just what we can put in place now.
    As long as all women have the chance to progress, be it in modelling or other pursuits, then it should be down to the individual, simple.
    If a certain look, type, is always shown the public, then that is what the norm becomes – pushed by marketing and advertising. If a variety is shown, then the public see the variations available in the world and that becomes the norm.
    To see some great models (hate even saying the label – colour!), please see Beau Dame Lingerie

    • Cece says:

      Beau Dame Lingerie, I am sadly disappointed. I clicked on your website and all I see is the exact same I see at every other lingerie shop. White models page after page….. Your comment lead me to believe otherwise.

  13. Kayla @ TheEclecticElement says:

    ALL woman, no matter what their skin color, no matter what their background, no matter their size, beliefs, and everything else that makes them different are ALL beautiful and I think it's morally and ethically wrong to discriminate against everyone because of those differences.

    ESPECIALLY when we are talking about sexuality-We are all born with sexual identities and who's to say that one personal is sexier then another.

    Yes, we all are different, but that's what makes beauty so beautiful!

  14. Gaby says:

    I would LOVE to shoot a woman of colour in Hopeless Lingerie – sadly in Melbourne they are very hard to come by – obviously a very different case in USA – which is why I find it hard to understand that the modelling/fashion world is so dominated by the same type of look. Its not like there is an absence of long limbed beauties with stunning features in the US, I would really like to know why we don't see more too!

    Gaby Hopeless Lingerie xo

  15. Wilde Hunt Corsetry says:

    Your pinup post makes me think of this: http://coilhouse.net/2010/12/red-alert-lt-uhura-models-thigh-high-ballet-boots/

    And how awesome those photos are. :)

  16. DawnPhotography says:

    All women are beautiful!! I've shot some gorgeous pinups with women of color. :)

  17. ValGalArt says:

    very beautiful :)

  18. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you're raising this issue, Treacle. For me the absence of women in color is not only felt in the pin-up genre, but in the fashion industry and in soft pornography.

    Honey Baby

  19. Luna Raven says:

    It has been my experience that other women of color feel like as though they will not be appreciated by males who are not of color.

    I think that this perception permeates the popular culture and is still strong because the standard of beauty still appears to be the slender white female.

    I would love to see more pinups of color and I am so glad you shared this!

  20. Tsu-Bam says:

    The idea that pinups were what Playboy pushed and their blond and blue fetish I always found limiting. I am not a blonde guy.The beauty of a pinup is the capturing of the models captivating sensuality for all time in that one photographed moment. The fact that too many photographers go to the lowest common denominator in using the blond and blue and not realizing the sexiness of a woman of color wether the color be black brown or what ever does a disservice to the photographers audience. The photos you used as an example above show that a great pinup is a great pinup. Hourglass shape smoldering look scantily clad but not nude. Posed to emphasize the beauty and just well done.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think coloured women are gorgeous! Not more so or less so than white women, but the fact that there seems to be less of them in the pinup genre makes them even more unique and hot. :)

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