As someone who aspires to work in the fashion industry, it seems like breaking into the field as a woman of color seems impossible. I ask myself daily where are the Jesse Jackson’s of the fashion industry fighting for affirmative action and equal opportunity. Recently, super model Nykhor Paul who describes her complexion as blue-black, spoke out on Instagram to tell white people in the fashion industry to get their shit right! Paulwent on a rant about unprepared makeup artist at a top fashion show who failed to accommodate for the needs of those with darker skin tones. As a model your job is to show up to be transformed. Your hair and makeup is not your responsibility to prep when you arrive on set.
The makeup artist not being prepared to beat the faces of brown and dark skin models shows the outdated product line of the makeup companies. Woman of color are modeling mainstream too. Product companies that are aware of the demographic changes in seeing woman of color modeling and getting booked for major fashion shows are going to have longevity in the fashion industry, while competitors who don’t update their products will leave clientele with unfinished work and risk being slandered. If the products in the fashion Industry don’t update their product lines this automatically disqualifies anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria thus effecting equal employment job opportunities. It is the artist and product companies' responsibility to uphold integrity to ensure everyone’s needs are being met. Makeup companies like Cover Girl’s Queen Collection, are aware that there are woman of color modeling and continue to find innovative ways to promote, produce and sell to this increasing market of women.
The lack of diversity in the fashion industry is no secret. On the runway this industry is notorious for casting majority white faced models. Since 2008, about 80% of the models casted for fashion week are white and only 3% are black designers. These numbers aren’t going unnoticed by legendary black models. Tyson Beckford made comments to Huffington Post on his personal opinion of the fashion industry he stated “out of all the industries I find—me personally and I think a lot of people will agree with me that fashion is racist.” The 43 year old star explained that diversity is certainly a problem when it comes to male models, however, it’s the woman’s side of the business that has it worse. Beckford has joined several other elite models of color including Naomi Campbell, Iman, Jourdan Dunn, and Chanel Iman who are speaking out on the issue along with Beckford manager and renowed activist, Bethann Hardison.
Hardison has been leading the change for more black models on the runway with the formation of the Diversity Coalition. The guidelines on racial diversity provided by the Diversity Coalition: Encourage the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs.
● Ask model agencies to include and send models of color when casting. Do not assume agents will automatically do so. It’s good for them to hear the interest and important to see what models of color are available.
● Request models of color every season and not be limited to Spring/Summer collections and hesitate when it becomes to Fall/Winter collections.
● When speaking to model agencies suggested to them to scout for more models of color encouraging a better selection.
● Be open-minded to models of color. Make an effort to add Diversity to your lineup. It affects how we see things globally and how we are seen as an industry.
● Our objective is to make a shift on how the model of color is viewed so it becomes natural to see them participating each season in a greater number than seasons past.
Although with much press the fashion industry receives about its lack of black models and catering to black models there still are black models that prefer to “ignore” the fashion’s racism problem. The Kenyan born, London raised Super model Malaika Firth was the first black model to land a Prada campaign in nearly 20 years. In her recent interview with The Telegraph she states, “the lack of racial diversity is a prevalent issue in modeling but I try to ignore it. If you talk about it and try to make it an issue, then it’s going to be there. I think a lot of people my age don’t see the racism, and if we can just carry on trying to do better for ourselves, then I think it will be fine,” said Firth. Even models like Jourdan Dunn and Chanel Iman whom also found great success in the fashion industry, gracing the covers of Vogue magazine, and making appearances for high end brands like Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein, still get turned down for jobs because the quota for black models have been met. This is an issue that won’t "just go away." I’m sure other black models would love to be in a position to be hired for a Prada campaign. These opportunities should occur just as much for woman of color as it does for white women.