As a person who is alive, I’ve come to the conclusion that very few things in life, if any, make absolute, perfect sense. But there are some things that make you scratch your head a little harder. This is one of those things.
Wednesday, Jezebel reported that fashion blogger Rachel Nguyen had, on Jan. 27, published a post on her site, That’s Chic, depicting herself posing in a Jewish mausoleum within LA’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
“The contrast of finding myself in a place I never want to be, in an outfit that I will wear for the rest of my life is slightly disturbing. [...] And with all the changes I’m implementing in my life, curiosity is back up on the chart of mindfulness. Thank you Aaron and Karissa for reminding me what it feels like to genuinely not give a fuck,” Nguyen wrote in the now deleted post.
Setting a fashion shoot in a cemetery is always risky business (except I guess maybe if you’re Carine Roitfeld) but in Nguyen’s case, her timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate: The 27th of January just so happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day, signifying the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The 23-year-old has since posted a “big humble apology,” acknowledging her misjudgment:
“I had no idea when posting this that it was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and that’s on me. I’m ashamed of my own ignorance and insensitivity [...] As soon as the first comment criticizing the post came in, I knew I was in the wrong and went to that reader’s blog to apologize. Now I’d like to apologize to everyone and in particular anyone whose life or legacy was touched by the holocaust [sic]. While I can’t take back this offense, I promise to better educate myself and be more sensitive going forward.”
She sounds genuinely sincere (confession: I’m Jewish and also was totally unaware that Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day), though the whole looking-sexy-in-a-graveyard thing still rubs me the wrong way. Regardless of religion, a cemetery is a sacred place for the living to pay their respects to the people they’ve loved and lost. That’s not to say it needs to be a place of sadness or formalities, but to use it as a backdrop to offset your on-trend monochromatic button-down and circle skirt lewk is just plain insensitive. It’s hard to blame pure ignorance on that one.
But the strangest thing, in my mind, is that Nguyen’s misstep happened exactly a year after Spanish fashion blogger Pelayo Diaz came under fire for taking similar photos of himself at Berlin’s Holocaust remembrance site, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Clad in Balenciaga shoes and carrying a hot pink Céline bag, Diaz’s post shows him posing pigeon-toed between the cement slabs of the massive memorial.
In that instance, however, Diaz declined to see his actions as offensive — writing instead that he “[didn't] think it’s necessary to say that [he's] sickened by what the Nazis did and [he] apologize[s] if [he's] hurt anybodies [sic] feelings.”
Intentionally controversial or not, posting pictures like this is clearly one of the most effective (or at least cost effective) way to bring attention to your personal blog. (Even while gathering information for this piece, I couldn’t help but scroll through several pages of the pretty curated “mood board” pictures on Nguyen’s site.) And as long as we exist in a culture that gets off on sharing #selfiesatfunerals — hi, President Obama! — it’s unlikely the disturbing trend will wane anytime soon.