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  • Nicole Doswell

We Aren’t Showing Up For Black Models In Fashion

How and what can we do to change it?

Last September’s NYFW was the most diverse NYFW in reported history. 46.8% of the models on the runway were models of color (as stated in the Fashion Spot’s Diversity Report), that is surely something to celebrate…right? Representation and visibility of Models of Color on the runway is a start to the decolonization and diversification of fashion, but it is not the end of the fight for inclusion and equity.

We need to bring attention to the underrepresentation of People of Color in the media, fashion and beauty spaces due to systematic racism. As a result of built in bias (by the predominantly White Fashion Industry) Models of Color, and particularly Black and Brown models, tend to be overlooked for castings, modeling opportunities, and mistreated on sets and backstage.

Results from a study by Models of Color Matter & Own Your I Am

In a recent study conducted by Models of Color Matter in partnership with Own Your I Am, models in large felt uncared for and un-catered to behind the scenes. The Models of Color survey (of over 60 runway Models of Color — mostly Black) gave insight into how models are being treated once actually given a seat at the table. Black models are beginning to be given a seat at the proverbial table without the utensils necessary to eat at that table and flourish.

Results from a study by Models of Color Matter & Own Your I Am

66% of the models surveyed had experienced hairstylist not being able to do their hair, 45% had makeup artist not able to cater to their skin tone/complexion! This is unacceptable, unfair, and the definition of inequality. One model said when surveyed:

“I can be the first model to arrive and still be told to come back and get my hair done later…that way if they run out of time technically my hair’s ‘done’ (according to them). Not knowing how to do makeup on all ethnicities or not doing makeup on black girls according to their complexions…is not acceptable.”

Results from a study by Models of Color Matter & Own Your I Am

Why is this happening? The answer is simple there is a gap in the education of beauty professionals — they in large are simply not being trained on how to do Black hair and makeup. In addition to this educational gap, there also tends to be a lack of diversity in backstage beauty teams. The lack of diversity in skill and ethnicity leaves much room for the mistreatment and mishandling of Black Models beauty.

How to become more inclusive? This is the million dollar question brands are dying to know the answer to and the answer is: It comes from within. Diversity or lack-thereof has a trickle down effect on an entire organization. If Black Lives Matter then Black experiences, views, beauty, feelings, and representation should all MATTER as well. The “Similar-to-me” bias will have one drawn to those that are similar to themselves. What does that mean for an organization? That mean that when the executive boardroom is not diverse (in thought or in color) the chances of the natural desire to hire a model of color, a casting director of color, a photographer of color, and a beauty team of color becomes exponentially smaller. The diversity on an executive level is VERY important to the future of diversity in fashion and for brands/companies across the board.

The Black Live Matter movement has had a positive effect on the Fashion Industry by calling brands to task. With organizations like Models of Color Matter, Own Your I Am, The Black In Fashion Council, the 15 Percent Pledge, and Fashion For All Foundation in place I am hopeful for a change to come in the fashion industry. We do not have time anymore for superficial diversity, performative posts and tokenism.

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