Tuesday, June 9, 2020

(BLACK OUT) Exposing racism silently allowed in the fashion industry - Model Talk Tuesday

With so much happening with racial injustice becoming more relevant, it's about time to open the wound and have one of the most uncomfortable conversation of known facts. Racism in the fashion industry is often passed off silently as “tradition”, but they are very well known and often ignored. Black models on the daily are left feeling like they are inferior to their white counterparts, and often give up because of the blatant racism they face. On average, 78% of advertisements are of all white models. These are the harsh realities the majority of Black models can relate to or have personally experienced. #TheChanelleReneeProject breaks down each individual discrepancy, one by one.

We can no longer be silent. For as long as fashion has been around, Black Models have always had a more difficult time than their white counterparts. The longer we choose to not acknowledge this, the more often it will happen. Change starts with acknowledging the issue first, and educating yourself can also be a good start. 

The question is...how do we move forward from here?

Here are the top silent known facts of racism allowed in the fashion industry.

There is an age old unspoken, yet well known truth that some agencies simply do not sign a Black model if they may resemble another Black model on their board... whereas they will sign 50 blondes & brunettes with the same beautiful features. Not to single out, but why is that? What can be done for Black models to be seen as their own individual, instead of lumped in a group? Each individual Black model has her own skill set, personality, professionalism, etc & should definitely be acknowledged and not compared to someone else.

Black skin tones come in a wide range of beautiful, rich & diverse shades produced by a substance called melanin. In fact, there are 32 melanin skin tones. Unfortunately, there is a very slim chance you would find this range represented in agencies or fashion brands. Within the last two years or so, makeup brands just started including the full range of melanin tones (thanks in part to @badgalriri’s innovated makeup brand @fentybeauty releasing a full scale of tones for brown skin.) Remember when makeup brands only had a max of 4“brown” shades available, if that. Often times, you’ll see either super light skin or very “African features” dark skin models in campaigns, runway shows etc...but what about all of the beautiful tones in between? They are often left unrepresented.

This is an example done that models may not be completely aware of, because it’s done behind the scenes or indirectly sometimes. It’s very rare now a days that a casting director will excuse a Black model directly to her face, but they may not acknowledge their audition for a runway show or casting submission if they feel they have “too many Black models” or have already cast their “Token Black Model”. See next post to see what that means... It’s the ugly & sad truth too many times. Black models are often undervalued in the industry across the board.

This holds true to the entertainment industry as well. Far too often, Black models will be faced with a mua / hair stylists that normally do not work with black models. Brands deliberately hire “beauty professionals” that are not a person of color, OR is not well diversified to work with Black models features. Often times Black models feel a bit of anxiety when placed in the chair of non- POC muas & hair stylists because we subconsciously know from experience that they may not know what their doing. With the first initial encounter on set being an ethnically untrained beauty professional, this can through the Black model off their game while performing. Somethings got to change.

If I could be completely honest and transparent, I’ve definitely seen this happen. Most of you know that I post castings frequently...and I’ve also worked as a casting & runway director with a wide range of fashion show productions, designers & brands. I have definitely witnessed and have been told of the limit of black models allowed to be booked. Of course when working in casting, I have to appease the clients needs, after all, they have the final decision on who is being booked. Although I have been advised of this limit, as a Black woman, I felt it my duty to still have as many Black models at castings I am aware of as possible. Behind the scenes, I find myself always promoting and pushing for Black models to have the same equal opportunities as their white or non Black counterparts. 

On average, black models make up SIX percent (6 %) of models used on the runway during the fashion month calendar. This extremely small percentage is also mirrored in advertisements, editorials and high profile fashion magazines. Research showed that fashion designers / brands opted to ultimately exclude models of color while the fashion industry continues to expand.

What is the “Token Black Model”? It’s the one Black model booked in a campaign to fill the diversity status quo. This Black model is seen to represent the entire Black race so that the brand can claim they are “woke”. The Token Black Model is not to be seen as a glorified position, but the “Black sidekick”, which is completely disrespectful. History has shown that the problem continues to arise in regards to the highly disproportionate representation of Blacks in the fashion & entertainment industry, although the Black buying power continues to outpace spending nationally, & Blacks are more likely to shop at high end stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus & Bloomingdales. More than half of African Americans prefer in store shopping compared with the total population (according to research). With this much buying power, you’d think Brands would like to represent themselves in a more fair image diversity percentage.

This can cause major anxiety for Black models while on set. As a model, you are booked to do a certain job. So when you now have to play “mua” after the hired mua got your foundation color match completely off, or made your features too off with their lack of working with ethnic models, it can cause anxiety before YOUR job on set or on the runway even starts. Too often Black models will bring their own bag of makeup and fix the mistakes made by muas. This also happens with unqualified hair stylists that are unfamiliar with any “4 hair” types. How many Black models can admit to having to fix their own hair & makeup before going on set? You’d be surprised to know.

They do anything for #clout, because Black people are known to be the original trend setters, but never fully acknowledge or book black models in their shows, campaigns or advertisements. What can be done to make a change and be seen as equal value?

...and on that note, the fight continues for equality across the entire board. It's time to make a well needed change.

As always, with love XxCR


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