“I need a Black model, but she has to be like a White girl dipped in chocolate.”

“They really look like White girls that were painted black. That’s beauty to the industry’s perspective.”

In July of 2008 fashionistas of color went crazy when the Italian Vogue released its “All Black Issue.” The Italian Vogue, once a small circulation print became one of Conde Nast’s best sellers. In New York alone, local new stands were selling out almost unable to meet the demand. The issue was phenomenal with stunning images shot by famed photographer Steven Meisel, certain to go down in fashion’s most celebrated iconography. Franca Sozzani, The Italian Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief said she was inspired by President Obama and the lack of diversity on runways. Sozzani is so presumably committed to change that she launched and Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy. But what of the rest of fashion? It seems the “all-Black” craze has proven to be more about commerce than change. These days, glossies are trading the coveted issue’s Black models for White models in blackface.

If there is any doubt that things haven’t changed, “The Colour of Beauty” a short documentary is sure to snatch the wool from our eyes. The film produced by the National Film Board of Canada apart of their “Work for All” series follows 24-year-old model Renee Thompson. The Jamaican-bred standing at 5’10” stumps her Pradas from casting to casting in hopes to land a spot in New York’s Fashion Week. Watching Renee standing in the mirror closely surveying in herself yields a stirring response. Renee says, “Quitting to me seems like your giving in to that racist facade. It’s not okay that you think I’m different or lesser than.”

In 2007, the fashion industry held panels and boycotts, resisting the lack of Black models on runways and in editorial. Why has this discussion ended? Has this proven to be merely another trend like the resurgence of exaggerated shoulders? Is the fashion industry allowed to be blatantly racist without accountability?

Check out “The Colour of Beauty” short film. Share your thoughts with us!

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  • Mila

    I applaud ladies like Renee who are able to persevere in a silly environment as Fashion World

  • “The Colour of Beauty” is very good short film! It’s sad and very true. I know exactly what Miss Renee Thompson is experiencing and good luck to her with everything! Although I’m a commercial print, real people and Lifestyle model, you can still see and feel how prominent racism is throughout the entire modeling community!

    Out of all the magazine shoots I’ve had, only one I’ve been privileged to have another “black female model” participate in. I’m usually the only black model on most of my shoots. And when I tell you I can sometimes feel the tension in the room, trust it’s not a good feeling! I usually would have a good friend of mine come along. Just so I literally would not be the only black person at the shoot. I mean even most of the make-up artists and hairstylists would not be of my color. What makes it worst, is half of them do not know how to apply make-up or do hair on a darker skin tone!?
    I always have to come prepared with my hair already done and sometimes a bag full of my own make-up. Smh

    It’s just so much nonsense sometimes with the modeling industry, it’s just ridiculous!
    I’ll never forget one of my early shoots. I flew out to another state for a shoot, my good friend came along once again. This was his first time with me on a shoot and sadly his first time that he experienced, what I have since I started modeling in 2007.

    We walk up into this beautiful house. Everyone is sitting around outside. The two other models that walked in right before my friend and I were greeted with ” Good morning, how are you? Are you hungry? We have a some food here, we’re waiting for the catering service to get here with the rest.”

    5 mins later my friend and I proceeded to introduce ourselves to the editor of the mag and photographer. You think we received a warm and friendly greeting? In fact we were looked at as the hired help or maybe they thought we were the catering service.

    IDK, but it was very quiet. I mean from the hair stylist to the wardrobe stylist, everyone was just looking around as if trying to figure out who we were and why are we there.
    The really sad thing is the editor didn’t even recognize me. Now this is a woman I have been emailing back and forth for 4 months and she has my pics. So you mean to tell me that quick you forgot what I looked like? I mean really!! Even so the day before the shoot, you mean to tell me you didn’t check to see what models are suppose to be there?? Instead the day of the shoot she goes on her computer I guess to check my pics, name, time slot for shoot, etc. Then my friend and I are finally greeted after all of that. All we could do is look at one another, shake our heads and stay as professional as possible and kept it moving!

    You definitely have to have a thick skin in this business! And people sometimes don’t understand that when you’re on the outside looking in!

    People bashing Naomi is a perfect example. No one knows what she really goes through day to day. Sometimes you have to be a lil bitchy or protective of one’s self. People will try to walk all over you and make you feel less than! Now I have experienced this racism on a lower lever but it still hurts and it’s not right. Modeling is something I always wanted to do, so I will keep my head up, keep it professional, keep pushing and encourage my fellow brothers & sisters who model to stay strong and do the same!

    Hopefully one day we will all be at the same level and will be accepted for who we are, some of the brightest shinning stars!

  • Almost forgot until recently, a few of my family members joined me on a shoot and it was one of the best feelings! Having someone on the shoots who looks like me.

  • Alexandra

    Trying to compete in a European industry? well what can you expect?
    Since integration came people still think that everything is goody, goody.
    We still have ethnic magazines, with good reason. When Blacks were not accepted somewhere, they would turn and make their own. Hence why they had many black mags, organizations, etc;
    Why cant ‘some’ Black models do the same? still looking for acceptance and crying when you dont get it. We have Ebony, Essence, etc; well lets have a model agency that looks for a “certain look”. Naomi was complaining about that once, she should start one.

    • I have to disagree with you as far as “black” models marketing ourselves to Black magazines only. Why should we? Why can’t we be seen everywhere just like Caucasian models? Have you noticed most of our mags are no longer in print, so there goes that idea. And about the crying part so not cool. I don’t think some models are crying, if anything most are just fighting for what’s right! Just like anything else our people had to endure. We fought until we were somewhat satisfied or at least seen some positive results!

      Again when you’re on the outside looking in, it’s so easy to pass judgment! And who said there weren’t any agencies for us? Bethann Hardison started one and there are many more, you’re missing the point. There can be a million agencies for us, but if no one is willing to hire us for runway, print, ad campaigns etc, then it defeats the purpose. So you will have an agent, a model and no work? Models want their fair do, just like everyone else who is looking for recognition, praise, or a paycheck for all of their hard work!

    • Alexandra

      You’re right, I’m looking from the outside in. But you just said the same thing I said.
      You said “Why shouldn’t we be seen just like Caucasian models?”…..You want acceptance.

      You also said, “no one is looking to hire us”. Well…there you go. Black models are just not in demand. You know you dont have the look they want, what do you expect?
      And this country is mostly white. It only makes sense that most of the models should, and would be white. Their industry was never intended for non-white models. End of story. Integration came and some things have changed, but the color of the models will reflect what most people in this country look like.

  • edrina

    Dark skinned models used as props for single white model: Interview Magazine May 2010 Edition. Editorial: “Let’s Get Lost”


    The dark models are beautiful and make the editorial fantastic. Too sad the vision did not reach beyond…………