A friend of mine recently sent this mini documentary on racism in the fashion industry lovingly entitled “The Colour of Beauty” exposing blatant racism in the fashion industry. Only about 18 minutes in length, the short film follows African American model on her journey to becoming a top black model.
There are so many things I could say about this video. For one, is it at all surprising to anyone? I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard about this somewhere before, or if you’re lucky enough to be within the throes of the fashion industry, have witnessed it first hand. In the last 6 months I can count on my hands the amount of times I’ve seen biracial, or Caucasian models being represented in the folds of some of my favorite magazines donning black face. Yes, it’s appalling that I’ve had to made a tally of that at all, but let’s face it, the fashion industry has a bundle of amazing attributes, but sensitivity is definitely not one of them.
But hasn’t it always been like this? Talking as a person who is currently in the midst of one mind numbing job interview after another, the culture of the fashion industry has always been creativity, to produce, push products, and make money. It’s a business, a tough one at that, and if the main goal is to make pesos I’ll bet my right breast racial sensitivity is not taken into consideration. Especially when it comes to modeling. I’m pretty sure Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs aren’t making sure they have the appropriate amount of black girls on their Fall 2011 roster as to not disturb the racial equilibrium of this country. No, I can almost bet they’re worried about not only who’s buying their clothing, but also what model is going to attract their customer base.
The video proves to be pretty interesting, especially when speaking about Italian Vogues all black issue, and it’s use in pacifying those in the industry that say it’s racist. It’s funny, because as in just about any other industry, when someone points out that fashion’s notorious insensitivity to “curves” or “blacks” or “extreme photo-shopping” there almost always seems to be an event dedicated to dispelling nasty rumors and accusations. For instance, in the last 6 months everyone has been obsessed with showing “real women” in magazines, and on the runway. These real women being a size 10 or higher are what the fashion industry deems as fat. There have been designers dishing in on their use of size nothing models, magazine editors dedicating entire issues to real women, and companies being held accountable for the airbrushing in their advertising. All this talk about curves, and Lara Stone’s size six ass, brought about maybe a handful of opportunities for “plus sized” models, but after those V magazine issues, and Glamour magazine issues hit stands it seems the masses settled down.
For me, the documentary hit a nerve when describing the current black models at the top of the industry. Yes, they’re black, but in pointing out their Caucasian features – the slightly pointed nose, thin face, and slightly sunken in cheeks – caused me to think twice about what is presented to me on and off the runway. Fashion seems to want to justify that only these women are fit for moderate success, but just like it’s obsession with curves as of late, the fashion industry takes things to such an intense extreme making it impossible not to be outraged or even slightly offended. Which brings me to my next offense inducing point: Saying black girls don’t sell things is blatantly ignorant. From my knowledge, we haven’t given that notion a chance. I can count on my hands and feet the number of white friends I have that would still buy a $8000 Chanel bag whether or not the face of the brand was a black girl or a white one. Do these things really matter? And furthermore when did it become alright to create such blasphemous assumptions? I don’t care if Chanel Iman becomes the face of Proenza Schouler, because my love for the brand is so intense I’d buy the clothing if a monkey was in their advertising campaign. Feel me?
Sensitivity isn’t a strong point within the creative world. It should be, but it isn’t. The fact that I watched this video and was not only appalled, but definitely not surprised is what offends me the most. When did it become alright to not highlight diversity. And not just have a Brazilian girl or four on the runway either. I’m talking extreme diversity. Isn’t that what fashion is all about? Seeing the beauty in everyone, not just the 5’10” stick thin white girl with no booty, no breasts and a waist that looks like it might break. The fashion industry is stuck in 1955 and unfortunately I see no way for it to come out. Sadness ensues….
Check out the documentary, The Colour of Beauty, directed by Elizabeth St. Philip, below.
- The First Step Is The Hardest
- Go Big or Go Home: V Magazine Plus Sized Editorial
- V Magazine Model Search
- Little M.I.S.S. Frustrated: Blackface in Fashion, It Just Ain’t Right!
- Are You Size-ist?