It’s only natural that an influencer might show off their personal handwritten invitation to a fashion show from the designer herself on social media—especially if they have over a million followers. What completely isn’t natural, though is for that note to include a racial slur.
Such was the case on Monday night, when the street-style star Miroslava Duma posted an Instagram Story of a bouquet of perfectly lovely roses—most of which were obscured by a note with the letterhead of Ulyana Sergeenko, beneath which the Russian couture designer had scrawled, “To my n***as” in Paris,” with a smiley face. Rather than being horrified, Duma seemed to think it was an opportunity to show off her close bond to, and love for, her friend—perhaps thinking she was giving her some good PR in the process, since she has more than half a million more followers than Sergeenko.
But those followers, it turns out, were quite flummoxed between the casual use of the racial slur. Many of them expressed incredulity that Duma was praising rather than condemning the designer, which in turn led to her post spreading far beyond her 1.6 million followers. The outrage, of course, came quickly, and has only grown since she deleted her story. Three hours after Duma’s post, for example, the fashion blogger Bryanboy posted an Instagram that’s so far gotten over 5,000 likes, with a scathing caption that drags Lena Dunham into the mess and points out that “Racism and ignorance is real. Just sayin’! It’s 2018, people!” and ends with the hashtags “#ToneDeaf,” #Ignorance,” and “#Horrible.”
His post came on the heels of the street style photographer Adam Katz Sinding, who posted a Story of his own with a screenshot of Duma’s post for his nearly 500,000 followers to take a look at—with his addition of the text “Seriously!? Why would you a) write this b) post this…”
Before long, none other than Naomi Campbell—a video of whom Duma posted to her grid just a day ago—reposted the fashion watchdog Diet Prada‘s repost of Sinding’s post to her own Story, adding her own caption: “This better not be real!”
Sergeenko then posted a series of apologies, though many of them were quickly deleted. After waking up to a “phone full of insulting messages” like “you deserve the worst in life” and “die white trash die,” she explained that her note was, as most people had already picked up on, a reference to a song by Jay-Z and Kanye West. Unfortunately, any sympathy she might have been generating pretty much evaporated when it was followed by the lines: “Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians and NP is one of my most favorite songs. And yes, [Duma and I] call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it.” You can see a repost of the now deleted apology below:
It’s worth noting that Sergeenko also blames Duma, at the same time using what she calls her naïveté as a defense. “Mira is a dear friend and even the fact that she so naively posted my private card to her on her social means that we meant nothing wrong and didn’t realised [sic] the consequences.” Duma then wrote her own apology, which reads in part: “The phrase referenced is from a Kanye West and Jay-Z song by the same title. The word is utterly offensive, and I regret promoting it and am very sorry. I deeply respect people of all backgrounds and detest racism or discrimination of any kind.”
If it seems a bit random that Duma ended her apology by saying that not only she, but also her “organizations” are “committed to our core values of inclusion and diversity,” that might be because this isn’t the first time that Duma has had to issue a racism-related apology. In 2014, her website Buro 24/7 caused an outrage when it published a photo of the then-editor-in-chief of Garage magazine, Dasha Zhukova, who was at the time married to the billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, sitting fully clothed atop a chair made out of the strikingly realistic figure of a largely naked black woman. It was eventually cropped so that only her heels are visible, though you can see the full photo here, and Duma’s apology below:
This time around, however, Duma’s apology appears to have been too late. On Tuesday, Duma was removed from the board of The Tot, the children’s company that she founded with Nasiba Adilova in 2015. “I stand by @thetot’s decision, and hope this inspires people to consider how their actions and words affect others,” Adilova wrote in her own Instagram statement.
Sure, Sergeenko may have been telling the truth in saying that the pair meant no harm by the note, and certainly in saying that Duma’s post was naïve, but at this point, having already landed herself in this type of mess before, if Duma truly does detest racism, one would think she would know better by now. As Adilova put it, “power and influence is a privilege and it needs to be carried with humility.”