Fifty Shades of Black

 

Whether you’re light skin or dark skin or any other shades in between, you’re beautiful. Black beauty comes in various shades.

Although black models are told differently, when it comes to working with professional make up artists many are unprepared to work with models of colour, its a cycle of struggle for the models. Make up artists aren’t trained to work with black models, they end up wearing make up that doesn’t suit their skin tone. The artists try to put the blame on cosmetic companies, although there are many companies that carter to women of colour such as Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever and etc. There’s a subtle underlined message that black models don’t matter — at least not enough for the make up artists to learn to work with their complexion and style them adequately. They should put more of an effort into learning how to style black models. In comparison to black make up artists and hair stylists, they have mastered the ability to style a model no matter what colour her skin is or her hair texture, but white stylists can’t be bothered to learn. The blame is on the industry itself, most artists won’t bother learning how to style models of colour because there’s no demand to. Black models aren’t hired as often as white model therefore they have no reason to want to learn. Until the designers hire more models with different skin tones and hair textures, stylists won’t be able to change their ways. Celebrity make up artist A.J Crimson, has heard many different excuses while working in the industry such as “I never really work with black girls so why buy that makeup for my kit?” or “Why even make the investment? The non-white subject knows she requires special needs so she should bring product with her.” Why should a model have to bring in her own make up because an artist is inexperience to working with her skin tone? Why must women of colour continue to be treated as if they don’t matter, as if they aren’t as beautiful as the rest of the models representing the brand, why should they be made to feel less than. It’s upsetting to see black girls in a shows with their hair and make up less than amazing, but no one cared to fix it. How is she suppose to walk with confidence?

 

South Sudanese model Nykhor Paul took to instagram to express her frustrating with working with unprepared make-up artists, who failed to accommodate for those with darker skin tones. She stated that “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? A good makeup artist would come prepare and do there research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! Stop apologizing it’s insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn’t help, seriously! Make an effort at least!” It’s 2017, and there are many more shades available for women of colour. It will just take a change in the industry in order for stylists to be more experienced in dealing with black models. Until then models will have to continue to take matters into their own hands, such as bringing in their own products on set. We’ve come a long way, in order to truly effect change, models must continue to speak out!

A Call For Diversity

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“We wanted to show the world that whatever she can do, I can do the exact same thing.”

The modelling industry has come a long way when it comes to diversity, but it still has miles to go..

In 1921 Paris, there was Josephine Baker she was the first black burlesquer dancer/performer, her audience consisted of rich white folks. She had set a standard for others to follow and opened the door for other black women. She was adored, praised and lusted after by both men and women. At the time Paris was more open to different races, there were black models who graced the runways in 1940’s and 1950’s. Although we saw a change in the fashion industry and how accepting there were of different races in Paris, yet young black women were still subjected to racism etc.

This shows that beauty was and still is subjected when it comes to women of colour. A black women could be considered completely beautiful, have flawless skin, great bone structure but if her skin was too dark and she didn’t fit the European standard of beauty, making it unacceptable. Black women had and continue to break down barriers within the fashion industry, from British icon Donyale Luna becoming the first black model to feature on the cover of UK Vogue in 1966. To Beverly Johnson becoming the first black model to feature on the cover of US Vogue in 1974, and Tyra Banks being on the cover of the best selling Sports Illustrated issue in 1997. There has been many first before and after these models and black women will continue to fight for a spot within the industry.

African model Deddeh Howard relocated to Los Angeles for her career. It wasn’t an easy process for her to break into the modelling world. Several agencies would not hire her because “They already had enough black models on their rosters” as if one or two black models was enough to represent all the black models in the world. Being constantly told no, and compared to one or two other black models that designers and agencies already had on their roster. Because of this, Deddeh created a campaign called Black Mirrors Project in hopes to draw awareness to the lack of diversity in the modelling and fashion industry. Where she reacted some of today’s biggest ad campaigns to show that black women are capable of selling just like white women. For each photo she reacted, the pose, the outfits, make-up, facial expressions and stances. The campaign wasn’t meant to discredit the white women who appeared in the original ads. But it was more to illustrate that models of colour are just as beautiful and just as capable as models who are white. It’s time for people of colour to be represent in the media in a positive light, hopefully with the exposure of Deddeh’s black mirror project. Agencies and designer use more than one black model within their campaigns and on the runway etc. But more importantly it is crucial that black models are seen as beautiful models and not just beautiful “black models”.

Phresh Off The Runway

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We have one black girl, we don’t need you..

In an industry that is dominated by white models, it shouldn’t come to you as a surprise that women of colour get the short end of the stick. They must work twice as hard than white models, in older to secure their jobs.

Being a Victoria Secret model is an honour for any model in the industry, the title isn’t given to just any model, they must work for it and represent the brand. Since 1995 there has been 25 black models to walk the runway, most shows consist of 50 models for each show, 14 of them being Victoria Secret models and 37 of the world’s best known runway starts. The current roster of Victoria Secret models only has two black woman out of 14 models. In 2015, British model Jourdan Dunn who had walked the show 3 times between 2012-2014. She was scheduled to appear on the 2015 runway show but she was replaced by Kendall Jenner, Jourdan had taken to twitter to express her outrage. Moments after Rihanna cancelled her scheduled performance because Victoria Secret decided to drop Jourdan for Kendall. Kendall Jenner who was new to the model scene hadn’t even auditioned for the job, but just like that she was able to take Jourdan’s place. Here we have black model who has walked in the show and represented the brand for 2 years. Where she had auditioned each time and worked hard to prove she deserve the title of an angel, get replaced by a white model because of her name? The only reason Kendall got the job was because she was a Jenner/Kardashian not because of her modelling ability, no way was she a better model than Jourdan. This is why black model have to work harder their spot can be easily taken from them with just a blink of the eye.

Within the same year Vogue Italy hired Gigi Hadid for a shoot where she was black faced and wore an afro and had fuller lips. This shoot caused major backlash from fans on twitter, wondering why they hadn’t hired a black model in the first place who has those natural features? Again, cultural apportion comes into play and those apportion see no issue with it. This is one of the many covers that a black model could have been hired for, but they aren’t given the same opportunities, using black culture as a prop is never ok but companies continue to do it. Making it hard for black models to speak out against it with the fear of being black listed in the industry. Where as casting agents only hire one or two black models and advertising companies believe that black models don’t “sell”. They only hire black model so they don’t face backlash in the media, not because they believe black women should be on the runway. Their lack of diversity comes from seeking a certain kind of beauty, the typical western standard of beauty; tall, white, thin and blonde.

One Less Black Woman on the Cover

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We are all aware of what year were in, yes?

It’s been 50 years since Donyale Luna was the first black model to appear on the cover of Harper Bazaar, which years later she became the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue. Although we’ve come a long way since then little has changed. It is 2017 and there is still a lack of women of colour on magazine covers.

The September issue of any magazine is a major deal because it sets the tone for the trends and upcoming colours that will be in style for the season. “It’s the end of the summertime and evokes a fresh start, star of a new fashion season after months of warm weather clothes ruling the scene” – Marc Jacobs

There are many different aspect that are important about the September issue such as the time of year, advertising and pop culture but the most important one is the cover.It’s the first thing the readers see, it’s an attention gabber. It can make or break the overall perception of the issue and the likelihood that consumers will buy it. Magazines usually strive to out do their previous September issue and land stars/models who are extremely popular and have a huge fan base.

The issue itself is planned six to eight month in advance to ensure everything is well executed and exceeds expectations. With that being said, you can understand why its kinda of a big deal for any model to grace the cover of a September issue.

There was a period from the 80’s-90’s that black women weren’t featured on covers because “We hit this moment where suddenly it was decided that black women were not doing well on covers.” – Charles Whitaker This became the conventional reasoning as to why no black models were featured on magazine’s cover during this era.

In 2002, we believed that the drought was over when Halle Berry had appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan, her cover had shown that black women could attract readers across racial and demographic lines. But boy were we wrong.. Even today there are more “first” to come for black covers. There have been multiple black women who have dominated the fashion industry such as Naomi Sims, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Iman to Jordan Dunn. It wasn’t until the 2015 February issue that Jordan Dunn was the first black model on the cover of Vogue UK in 12 years. Black women and women of colour have to work twice as hard in the industry in order to be considered for a solo cover.

In 2016, we saw a shift and covers had become more diverse but it wasn’t enough. Out of 679 magazine issues; 197 covers were non white model in comparison to 482 white models. Women of colour represented 29% of the covers, although it was an increase of 6.2% from last year’s numbers. Which in reality was a big difference from 2014, whereas women of colour were featured 17.4% of the time. For a world that is dominated by white people, women of colour are constantly fighting for a chance to get the recognition they deserve.

Cultural Appropriation within the Fashion Industry

kim“What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”  – Amandla Stenberg

Black hair has always been an essential component within black culture. It requires up keeping in order to grow and remain healthy, therefore black people use multiple protective styles such as locks, twists, cornrows, weaves, dreadlocks etc. In order to keep their hair unknotted and neat. Since the early 2000’s to now you can see these protective styles on high fashion runways. Such as cornrows and dreadlocks and even bantu knots.. It has become a trend among the fashion industry from the likes of Alexander McQueen to Valentino and Marc Jacobs and many more designers are incorporating these styles within their shows, while 90% of the models are white. To magazine editorial campaigns claiming cornrows to be “new urban hairstyle” black women and men have worn these hairstyles for years and have been labelled “ghetto”, “ratchet” when describing these exact hairstyle on them. In 2016, Kim Kardashian – a fashion influencer/icon was seen wearing cornrows but the white media was attempting to rebrand them as “boxer braids”. Which caused outrage amongst many black people who responded to the media on multiple social media outlets. This goes to show how the media and the fashion industry only praise  black features and culture if it’s not on a black women/men. As if white people only adopt black culture as a way to edgy and different. When black people have worn these hairstyles for centuries, dating back to 3000BC it’s a traditional way to style their hair. The hairstyles are portrayed in the industry as more “chic” when it is seen on a white model or celebrity instead of the culture in which it derives from. The reason why it is such an issue it’s because black men and women are getting reprimanded in America for having these hairstyles. They are being told that their hair is inappropriate for the work place and being sent home from school etc. But then you turn around and see in the media models and celebrities being praised for wearing these hairstyles and being called “trendsetters”. When the question of appropriation comes up people like to claim its just hair, but it is much more bigger than hair. It’s part of black people’s identity and they are being ridiculed for wearing these hairstyles and being called ghetto and inappropriate, losing their jobs etc. It’s like culture smudge, white people taking someone else’s culture and making it “cool” when in the same context black people are being looked down for. People don’t understand that ” Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.” – Amandla Stenberg  It is an issue that we will continue to see in the fashion industry because those who are at the top of the industry are white, and they will continue to use other people’s culture as a “trend” as long as it benefits them.