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What It’s Like Being Black In The Modeling Industry

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

Being new to the modeling industry, my eyes have been opened to various things that people outside the industry would never really notice. I started out in January of 2019, with a local agency in Philadelphia, and my first show ever was New York Fashion Week (NYFW). Since NYFW, I definitely gained more and more insight into what it meant to be black and in the modeling industry. 

The days leading up to NYFW we had a checklist of things that we needed to bring with us whether to castings, fittings, or the actual shows themselves. This is when we created our model bags, this is also when I had the WORST STRESS EVER. Included in our model bags were various heels, sneakers, pasties, fabric tape, makeup, hair products, and most importantly skin tone undergarments. As a black model, especially of darker skin tone, it is crucial to have your skin tone undergarments. Believe it or not, I had the hardest time searching for my undergarments because they simply just didn’t create any of them in my skin tone, and if they did they were CRAZY expensive. I literally asked my agent for help and other models just used black undergarments since our color was nowhere to be found. It sucked, I had so much anxiety and for the first show of my modeling career, I hated that it started with not feeling included, you know. And that was just ONE incident. Here’s a photo from NYFW when I was featured in Elle. 

Image Courtesy of  Elle España

I’m continuing my modeling career, booking shows and shoots, and I’ve come to the realization that some makeup artists and hairstylists just don’t know how to work with the texture of natural hair, nor know how to do makeup on our skin. You become more and more aware that you are different from everyone else because sometimes a makeup artist will tell you, “Oh, the lighting in here isn’t the best for your skin, so I’ll do your makeup outside,” while your white fellow models are inside of the modeling van getting their makeup done. Or sometimes, the hairstylist literally CANNOT do your hair, and you just opt to do it yourself. Of course, I think that its a requirement that makeup artists and hairstylists can work on different hair types and skin types, but that’s not always the case. I know that a lot of black models have spoken upon this issue, especially regarding makeup artists because it’s unfair for us to go out not feeling our best just because someone who is paid to make us look good, failed to do it. 

Image courtesy of Mercury Management 

Finally, I feel a bit insecure sometimes when I’m the ONLY black model on set. It’s never fun to be the only one. Sometimes you feel like you can’t relate to your fellow models, sometimes like stated before they can’t do your hair and makeup and there’s nothing to do about it. This is something that I deal with a lot when I’m the only black girl on set, but I’ve also learned to just use it to my advantage. I want there to be more representation for black women in the modeling industry, so if it takes for me to be the only black girl at a shoot, I’m gonna kill it and try to encourage other black girls to continue to pursue modeling if that is something they see themselves doing. 

I love modeling with all my heart, and I have no idea how long I’ll be doing it, but I’m nowhere done yet. Being black has been my biggest asset, and it may have it’s highs and lows when being in the industry, but I would never give the color of my skin up for anything in the world. :)

Sandra is a junior in the BS/MS Communications program at Drexel University. She is studying Public Relations and Marketing. She plans to work within the sports industry either behind the scenes, or in front of the camera. She loves modeling, content creating, relaxing with a good face mask, and of course arguing over sports with the ENTIRE family. She's your go to girl for any sporting event, and will always keep you updates with what's going on in the sports world! She loves to write and is not afraid to speak her knowledge and opinions. Who gon check her? No one.
Her Campus Drexel contributor.