Carine Roitfeld has publicly apologized after receiving backlash for posting a “tone deaf” Instagram photo in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota law enforcement.
Earlier this week, as millions voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter on social media — speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality — the CR Fashion Book founder, 65, chose to post a photo of herself embracing black model Anok Yai, 22, with the caption, “Miss you."
According to the Instagram account Diet Prada, Roitfeld also replied to a comment on the post writing, "Anok is not a black woman, she is my friend."
On Wednesday, Roitfeld posted a lengthy apology, claiming she intended to "express love and support" for Yai but understands that her photo only caused "further pain and hurt" in the Black community.
"I am learning from this experience and will continue to use my platform and voice to create opportunities for change," Roitfeld said. "Anok you are a beautiful, strong and talented Black woman and I meant absolutely no harm. I only meant to send a message of support to you and your family. I vow to continue to focus my efforts and stand up to these injustices to support and further create opportunities that amplify the black community and their voices in the fight against systemic racism."
"Please know that I have read all of your comments and I hear you," she continued. "I made a grave error and ask not to be judged by my words, but by my actions now and going forward."
Roitfeld also gave a statement to PEOPLE. "I was devastated by my misjudgment and the comments, but completely understand my mistake and why it was inappropriate," she said. "I apologized personally to Anok and then afterwards to the world on social media. I learned a lot from the comments and they will help me to keep fighting for opportunities to support the Black community, both immediately in fashion and our greater world moving forward."
The statement continued: "As a mother, grandmother, sister and fashion editor, I have been proud of my efforts in celebrating the beauty and importance of Black voices through past shows, covers, campaigns and stories, but I now realize that’s not enough. I am taking this experience very personally and thinking of more meaningful ways I can further support and create opportunities to amplify the Black community and their voices in the fight against systemic oppression, racism and police brutality. The fashion world is fueled by the creativity and culture of the Black community and credit needs to be given where it has always been deserved. I have platforms I can use for this and it must be done. I hope that people can judge me by my actions and not my words. My language was wrong, but my heart knows what is right."
Venturelli/WireImage Yai on the Prada runway in 2018
Yai, an Egyptian-born American fashion model of South Sudanese decent, grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and made history in 2018 when she became the first black model to open a Prada show in 20 years. (Before Yai, Naomi Campbell opened the runway in 1997.) At the time she called it an "honor" and a moment "bigger" than herself.
"Me opening for one of the top fashion houses is a statement to the world - especially for black women - that their beauty is something that deserves to be celebrated," she told British Vogue. Since then she's modeled for Tom Ford, Burberry and Estée Lauder among others.
Yai commented on Roitfeld's apology Instagram post with a prayer hand and two heart emojis. PEOPLE has reached out to Yai’s agency, Next Model Management, for comment.
Diet Prada, an anonymous Instagram account acting as the fashion industry’s watchdog, shared Roitfeld's now-deleted post alongside a video compilation of protesters flooding the streets of the French fashion icon's home city.
“BLM in Paris: 2 perspectives,” Diet Prada captioned the post on Wednesday.
Diet Prada/Instagram Carine Roitfeld and Anok Yai
Social media users called out the former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief, writing that the post was "tone deaf," "deeply offensive" and "self-serving."
“It is this kind of detachment, denial & privilege,” one person said according to Diet Prada, adding a face palm emoji. “It’s cool you have a black friend & all & you don’t need to point it out as the sole reason…but she is INDEED a [Black woman]. That is what the world will see…”
A second added, "You accepting her doesn’t erase her heritage, and doesn’t change her experience. Also, during everything happening you post a picture of you with your black friend? Seems self serving."
After posting her apology, some social media users were seemingly not ready to forgive Roitfeld, while others applauded her for owning up to her mistakes and promising to do better in the future.
"We all are in this together," one person said in the comment section. "As a person of color who works in 'runway' fashion, at least I can say for myself, that I have always appreciated your support of black designers and models. ❤️"
"This is what support is about. Not being perfect but trying to fix it to help make the change that’s needed," another Instagram user wrote.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
•Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.