Lorraine Henry King
PhD Student, London College of Fashion, UAL
This practice-led research challenges contemporary Hollywood’s overrepresentation of active muscled Black masculinities as bestial and dangerous (Bogle 1979, Snead 1993) whilst offering the equivalent White body as the metonym for heroism. The study interrogates the construction and representation of heroic identities through costume practices and the agency of corporeal skin within action films. The practice introduces a unique interdisciplinary framework for supporting practitioners and academics in presenting equitable portrayals of Black masculinities by introducing the new terminology of Black skin as costume, White skin as costume and heroic skin.
Oscar winning American actor Will Smith is the exemplar for heroic skin that offers the antithesis to the restrictive iterations that The Birth of a Nation’s (D.W. Griffith:1915) contemporary legacy places on Black masculinities. Smith’s skin, muscles, torso, and body in motion begin to disrupt film’s embedded systemic racism. The practice un-frames the Black body and corporeal skin away from colourism, negative narratives centred on slavery and low life ‘hood’ dramas. It challenges the tsunami of negative media imagery by framing Black skin as a costume device to support multi-faceted characters (Smith: 2018), as surface to be costumed that creates and communicates status, embeds majesty and heralds heroic potential to audiences.
Lorraine Henry King is an academic support and cultural studies lecturer at London College of Fashion (UK). She is a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE who leads institutional initiatives for equity. As a multimedia artist, researcher, and broadcaster her practice-based research uses film analysis and textile practices to focus on positioning black skin as heroic. It uses the agency of skin as costume and as a surface to be costumed alongside superhero costumes and action hero tropes to counterbalance, reframe and make precious, black skin.
As part of her research Lorraine has presented at several international conferences including Critical Costume (2022, 2020, 2000), EUPOP 2023 and The Superhero Project Vii (2023). She is a member of Fashion Academics Creating Equality (FACE) and her international research presentations include Critical Costume and the European Popular Culture Association conferences.
Publications include Black Skin as Costume in Black Panther in Film, Fashion and Consumption (April 2021) and Heroic Skin: Superheroes, Excess and Black Skin as Costume in Superheroes and Excess: A Philosophical Inquiry (2022).
Supervisors: Sandy Black, Agnes Treplin and Michael McMillian