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Black Models In The Fashion Industry: It’s Time For Change

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CAU chapter.

Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. With that being said there’s a multitude of women whose true beauty isn’t being displayed as regularly as it should. I am here to discuss the issues that black models face in the modeling industry. The trials and tribulations they go through on an everyday basis can become draining and reduce anyone’s self-esteem despite how beautiful they may be.

In Black Like Me, a documentary that captures the beauty of African American women in the industry, dark skin models speak on the struggles they face. The models discuss issues in regards to getting their hair done, inaccuracy of makeup, the appalling comments individuals make to them regarding their skin, and how some agencies just blatantly do not cast African American models.

Leomie Anderson, 25, describes being a black model as “a whole different experience”. When it comes to getting their hair done a lot of stylists are unsure and not properly trained on how to style African-American hair. They use the wrong products, they make cruel comments or sometimes leaving models to do their hair themselves. Makeup artists are also known to use inaccurate approaches when doing the models’ makeup. Normally they do not have the proper matches regarding foundation, concealer and things of that nature. This normally leaves the model looking discolored, too shiny, and ill-favored compared to the other women they are surrounded by.

Sometimes during shoots models will get together and help each other out by sharing products and exchanging tips, but sometimes women don’t have that luxury. Black models are looked at as aggressors or divas when things need to be corrected such as hair, makeup, lighting. But they are surrounded by “professionals” that come unprepared and need to be revised. It’s no disrespect, but they know their body better than anyone and if harm is being brought unto their hair, skin, or body than they have a right to speak up.

Ajak Dang, 27, tells a story about a man asking her if he were to lick her would she tastes like chocolate. She responded by saying, “Lick your hand and tell me what it tastes like”, the man complied and said, “ It tastes like skin”, she then said, “ That’s what mine tastes like. Have a good day”.

The ignorance that dwells within the minds of uncultured individuals is truly shameful. Women go through these experiences every day just because of the color of their skin. They are there to do the same thing that everyone else is there to do. Black women never hesitate to incorporate their culture, personality, character traits, and swagger into modeling, and it is something that the industry needs. The same blonde hair, skinny nose, blue-eyed women are getting repetitive especially when there is so much more to offer. They are beautiful women nonetheless I just feel as if everyone should be given the same chance.

According to Allure magazine, some of the most diverse runways shows last year consisted of Marc Jacobs, Yeezy, Tracy Reese, Christian Siriano, Gypsy Sport, Brandon Maxwell, and Tome to name a few. These shows included diversity within the age range, race, as well as size.

The amount of effort it takes to get booked being an African-American woman compared to other models who get booked effortlessly because they have a generic look is disheartening. A lot of models think about giving up due to such constant disappointment. Other models get pushed to conform to what is seen to be the “true reflection of beauty” or in other words, lighter.

We live in a time were bleaching skin is occasionally looked at as normal. It is more prevalent in other countries more so than the Americas, but when the universal sign of beauty is constantly portrayed as light skin with caucasian features that’s who people wish to resemble. Khoudia Diop states, “I grew up in Senegal, where more than 50 percent of the women bleach their skin, and skin bleaching is a huge deal” in Lisa a la mode. Women should be able to happily embrace their skin no matter how dark, or how light. Beauty is beauty, and no one should conform to someone else’s ideas of how they believe beautiful women look.

There are three top models particular who are using their voice to embark on change. Naomi Campbell, Iman Abdulmajid, and Bethann Hardison. Bethann Hardison was one of the first Black women to walk a European runway. Hardison now uses her voice and has dedicated her career to the progression of Black models in the industry.

Naomi Campbell also classified as the catwalk queen, was the first black supermodel to bless the cover of Paris Vogue in 1988. In the early ’90s, Campbell booked the most desired ads and the fiercest runway shows. Some may conceivably say she is one of the greatest supermodels of all time.

Iman Abdulmajid better known as Iman moved to America in the ’70s and spent the next two decades rocking the runway and becoming a great memorable face amongst the industry. Iman later transformed and became a businesswoman. Today these three women stand up and fight for the exposure we deserve as African American women. Their voices together have taken the world by storm as they exposed particular designers that had little to no Black models on their runway. It is a problem that people need to acknowledge.

Black models have the same drive as any other model, and it’s about time that their voice is heard. There are a lot of complications that need to be fixed, and throughout the years we gradually improve as a culture. We are currently in the midst of NYFW Spring 2019 and our demands are beginning to be met. Diversity continues to expand, but the fight will not stop until we are looked at as equals amongst all women. Size doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter, RACE doesn’t matter. If you are passionate and know how to work the runway than you deserve a chance to do so.

Greetings, my name is Kayla Martinez. I am a freshman at Clark Atlanta University, and I'm a speech communications major. I moved to Atlanta Georgia after graduating high school in Auburn New York. I am excited for this journey and it is a pleasure to be able to say I'm apart of HerCampus CAU.