“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!