It look the title 126 years to work with a Black photographer on a cover, so it's no wonder that one of its writers could refer to Beyoncé’s hair as a “hip-length afro,” or suddenly name Timberland boots a “fresh idea” because a supermodel wore them. But for activist and journalist Noor Tagouri, Vogue's most recent mistake felt incredibly hurtful.
On Thursday, Tagouri shared an Instagram video, taken by her husband, in which she sees her photo in the February issue of Vogue for the first time. Back in November, the magazine reached out to Tagouri to feature her in a shirting spread that would highlight a cross-spectrum of women in media, the arts, and fashion. At the time, Tagouri tells Refinery29, it felt like fate. "I got the email the day I moved to New York," she says. "The view from my new apartment is literally the One World Trade, where Condé Nast is. I was over the moon, what a way to kick off living in New York City."
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I’m SO heartbroken and devastated. Like my heart actually hurts. I’ve been waiting to make this announcement for MONTHS. One of my DREAMS of being featured in American @VogueMagazine came true!! We finally found the issue in JFK airport. I hadn’t seen the photo or the text. Adam wanted to film my reaction to seeing this for the first time. But, as you can see in the video, I was misidentified as a Pakistani actress named Noor Bukhari. My name is Noor Tagouri, I’m a journalist, activist, and speaker. I have been misrepresented and misidentified MULTIPLE times in media publications - to the point of putting my life in danger. I never, EVER expected this from a publication I respect SO much and have read since I was a child. Misrepresentation and misidentification is a constant problem if you are Muslim in America. And as much as I work to fight this, there are moments like this where I feel defeated.
But when she was finally got her hands on a physical copy of the new issue, the Muslim woman realized she was misrepresented on the page. "I'm so heartbroken and devastated," she wrote on Instagram, captioning the video. "I've been waiting to make this announcement for months. One of my dreams of being featured in American @VogueMagazine came true!" She continued: "We finally found the issue in JFK airport. I hadn’t seen the photo or the text. Adam wanted to film my reaction to seeing this for the first time. But, as you can see in the video, I was misidentified as a Pakistani actress named Noor Bukhari. My name is Noor Tagouri, I’m a journalist, activist, and speaker."
Tagouri says this has happened to her multiple times before. For example, another Condé Nast publication, Brides, used her wedding photos for what she called "a horribly written and misrepresentative piece" on Muslim wedding traditions. She says that two white women wrote it, and later attempts were made to retract and apologize for the piece.
"I’ve been misidentified several times in publications to the point where it put my life in danger," she explains. "Outlets were using my photo to identify Noor Salman, the Pulse nightclub shooter’s wife. A mistake that is disappointing but not surprising since Noor Salman doesn’t wear the hijab, and I do, so it’s careless to think I look 'more Muslim' for the negative narrative being spewed." The most frustrating part, she says, is that American Muslim women expect things like this to happen. "We are always misrepresented and very very little is done about correcting that narrative."
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Noor Tagouri in @GIVENCHYofficial for @VOGUEmagazine: Journalist, Activist, Speaker - and constantly, CONSTANTLY talking about the dangers of misrepresentation and misidentification of marginalized communities. May we teach, grow, build, and LISTEN WITH INTENT from all of our mistakes. It isn’t always easy, but this is why we keep fighting.
She says that while no one contacted her to fact-check the latest story prior to its publication, Vogue's executive editor has since reached out to her with an apology. Vogue has also posted a correction to its website and Instagram. In a statement to Refinery29, the magazine says: "In the February issue of Vogue the writer and activist Noor Tagouri was misidentified in a caption as 'actor, director, and model Noor Bukhari.' We are sincerely sorry for the mistake. We were thrilled at the chance to photograph Tagouri and shine a light on the important work she does, and to have misidentified her is a painful misstep. We also understand that there is a larger issue of misidentification in media — especially among nonwhite subjects. We will try to be more thoughtful and careful in our work going forward, and we apologize for any embarrassment this has caused Tagouri and Bukhari."
"I know they didn’t have bad intentions and I’m looking forward to using this as a learning lesson," Tagouri tells Refinery29. She suggests that Vogue should foster candid and open conversations about representation, culture, and intention. "When celebrating people of colour and marginalized communities — meditate on your intention in doing so. Is it to fill a diversity quota? Or is it because you truly see the light, value, and strength in the communities that are rarely passed the mic," she says. "Oh, and hire more people of colour."