A French fashion magazine is the centre of a racism row after using a white model with a black face for its 'African Queen' spread.

Numéro Magazine has been accused of being racially-insensitive after choosing blond-haired, blue-eyed Ondria Hardin, instead of a black model for its editorial.

In the images, published in the March issue of the magazine, 16-year-old Hardin sports notably darkened skin while striking various poses in a range of African inspired attire.

One unimpressed viewer said: "There's nothing new here. It's more of the in-your-face racism that has come to surface since President Obama was first elected. There's the act, then the fake apology with a wink to the original target audience."

The magazine has however defended its decision to use a white model, claiming that it was an "artistic statement" which drew on the "melting pot and the mix of cultures, the exact opposite of any skin colour-based discrimination."

"The Management of Numéro Magazine would like to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this editorial," a spokesperson for the publication reads.

"Numéro has always supported the artistic freedom of the talented photographers who work with the magazine to illustrate its pages, and has not taken part in the creation process of this editorial.

"Numéro Magazine considers that it has regularly demonstrated its deep attachment to the promotion of different skin-colored models.

"Our magazine is deeply committed to the respect for differences, tolerance and more generally to non-discrimination."

This is not the first time the publication has raised eyebrows.

In 2010, Caucasian model Constance Jablonski was put in up in an afro wig and wore darker makeup to portray a black mother in the magazine's 'Independent Woman' spread.