Black or White, Grey or Pink, you really deserve every credit for your talent and need not to be apologetic about your status quo. It is no news that models of color (“models of color” as those who appear to be nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds) are not fully represented in the modeling industry like their white counterpart. “Models of Diversity believe no one with modeling talents should be excluded from the industry on arbitrary grounds. And no one should feel shut out from the modern presentation of beauty.” We can just decide to not say anything further from the last statement but we won’t.
As the years go by, the fashion industry is evolving and accepting a lot of change, we won’t disregard the fact that in the past three years, runway shows has experienced a little difference in using the Models of color than the previous years. In fact, 2017 New York fashion week saw the most diverse colors of models on the runway, but do we need to applaud these designers for making an effort in giving all models an equal opportunity? We doubt that. Black models are still severely underrepresented during fashion weeks across the globe. Less than 10 percent of models that walked the 2015 fashion week runways were black, 75 percent of models at the Autumn/winter16 shows were white, that’s more than a great percentage compared to the amount of models we have in the globe.
In 2016, there were more models of color on the runways than 2017, last February fall 2016 shows were the most racially diverse we’d seen in recent years, the only reason why 2017 seems to be the year of racial diversity is because this is the first time and first year when every single runway included at least one model of color, it did marginally improve, 31.5 percent of shows, presentations and events included models of color, placing Fall 2017 in a .4 percent dead heat with Fall 2016’s successes, also 31.9 percent were nonwhite models. NYFW wrapped with two high-profile shows that made powerful statements about diversity. Marc Jacobs’s cast was nearly half black, and also included a handful of transgender models. Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show starred Halima Aden, the first-ever hijab-wearing model to sign with a major modeling agency. (What we cannot say for a fact is if these designers have actually fully embraced the models of colors on their runway, or did they use them to make headlines?)
All this is centered on the runway shows itself, but racism subtly permeates every facet of fashion week from the runway to the headache these black models face back stage? After dealing with the stress of finally being casted, they have to also deal with creative’s who can’t style them adequately and won’t bother to learn. Almost all the hair stylists do not even have the skill in styling an “afro” hair according to these models, hence you won’t blame models for taking matters into their hands, Tyra Banks is definitely one of the few who did take matters into her hands, according to her, she would hire a stylist the day before her shoots to avoid hair disasters. “The first time I shot for Victoria’s Secret, I got sent home because my hair was a hot mess. And I didn’t work for them for a whole year,” she told Huffington Post “I remember calling my agent and saying it wasn’t my fault that my hair looked bad. This person was just not trained. I told my agent ‘please call them back and just get me another chance.’ I got the job [and] the night before, I had my hairdresser Oscar James come to my house. He washed my hair; he straightened my hair, and wrapped it up in a scarf. So when I arrived on the Victoria’s Secret set, I took that scarf down and said ‘Woosh.’ And that [led to] a 10-year contract with them.”
Well we have to give it up for Tyra banks for being lucky enough to be casted the second time, not all models get such opportunities. Asides the hair, makeup also seems to be a huge challenge, Jourdan Dunn once told Dazed Magazine that makeup artists would only have two foundations for her skin tone: one that’s too dark and another that’s too light. “You end up looking gray,” she said. “I would sneak off to the bathroom and put my own stuff on.” we can only imagine how these models feel, at the end of the day they look terrible and this those not exude their confidence, causing them one step behind their career. Black models sometimes have to get their makeup done by themselves which should not be so. In her Instagram post, Nykhor Paul pointed out that such demands are rarely placed on white models. “Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up?” she wrote. “Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet.” Not all models are as bold as she is, for they fear to lose out on job opportunities.
Tatiana Elizabeth, 22 year old MSA models, said “At this point, I don’t even say anything anymore; I’ll just go into the bathroom and fix it myself. I’ll come out and they’ll say “OMG you look amazing” and I am like “yeah because I did it myself.” It is annoying that I have to go through that and at first I was scared to make those adjustments but at the end of the day I am my own brand and I don’t want to put work out there, whether it’s with a client or for myself, because it’s me, my image—it’s not the makeup artist it’s not anyone, it’s me so I need to make sure that it’s on point.”
Kamie Crawford, 24 year old JAG model also said “Omg your afro bits I just can’t get them.” It was taking so long to do my hair, the client asked what’s going on, we are not on schedule, and she said her afro bits are too difficult for me to do them; I am trying to get them straight. Basically she was blaming it on me and making it seem like my hair and I were the problem but it wasn’t me. My hair was straight but she just didn’t know how to do it. Of course, it’s offensive but I can’t cuss her out and do my job at the same time. These micro aggression’s add up being a woman of color and others models who aren’t of women of color don’t have to face it.
Most artists won’t bother learning how to style models of color because “there’s no demand to,” says model Lillian Lightbourn. The Bermudian beauty, who walked in shows like Vivienne Westwood this season, says “Creative’s will only be as diverse and experienced as their clients demand them to be. When designers hire more models with different skin tones and hair textures,” stylists will change their ways. When designers hire more models with different skin tones and hair textures,” stylists will change their ways. Those are words from models of Color, who constantly faces challenges with the Makeup artists before walking on the runway or photo shot of any sort.
Supermodel Bethann Hardison — with the support of Iman and Naomi Campbell — penned a letter earlier this month to the governing bodies of the four largest fashion weeks: New York, Paris, London, and Milan, taking them to task for the “decision to use basically all white models” season after season.
According to teen Vogue Celebrity makeup artist A.J. Crimson echoes her sentiments. “Some creatives take the tone of ‘I never really work with black girls so why buy that make up for my kit?’ Or I hear ‘Why even make the investment? The [non-white] subject knows she requires special needs so she should bring product with her.” A.J. makes a point to hire artists who can work with models of all races. “Under Pat McGrath, I worked with diverse teams with a sense of versatility and technique,” he recalled. “When I lead teams, you can’t join if you don’t know all skin types and know them well. It personally upsets me when I see one black girl in a fashion show and her hair and makeup is less than amazing but no one cared to fix it. How is she to walk with confidence?”
Makeup artists often place blame on cosmetic companies. If brands don’t carry diverse foundation options, artists won’t have the tools to cater to models of color. It’s no excuse, A.J. notes, but it is an enduring problem. “Most companies just don’t sell products that truly work for rich complexions.” The lack of options for women of color is one of the reasons he created a foundation line that serves deeper skin tones, AJ Crimson Beauty. “[Women of color] are simply not valued as a priority. Large prestige brands aren’t looking to have a direct conversation with non-white audiences. Their thinking goes: as long as the masses are covered, they’ve done their job.”
MAC keyed several fashion week shows this season, including Monique Lhuillier and Jeremy Scott. Their diverse range of products is what drew senior artist Fatima Thomas to the brand 19 years ago. “MAC celebrates individuality and offers complexion products for every skin tone. When I started my career in the 1990s, it was rare for any one brand to have a universal offering of products for light and dark skin tones, especially foundations. But MAC did.” Fatima insists that MAC artists “stock kits with global and universal beauty in mind.” MAC also requires them to be “adept at working on all skin tones from light to dark.” But unfortunately, they’re one of the few brands that do. Celebrity hairstylist Seto McCoy has been faced with crying models so many times because they looked nothing like they ever imagined, hence she had to fix them up,
We implore all designers to be more inclusive, the challenges faced by black models, or models of color cannot described in literary terms as some of the models give up on their dreams. We constantly hope that with time the fashion industry and Modeling agencies see the need to diversify in all colors, shape and size. All models matter, black models certainly matter too.
Reference: Teen Vogue, The Fashion Spot, HuffPost, Allure, Hype, Elle.com, Fashionista, Mich,