That the fashion industry, and particularly the modeling industry, is prejudice is not a question. That the industry is improving, however, is up for debate.
One might look at the black models who have ascended the ranks recently–girls like Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, Joan Smalls–and say that the industry is moving towards a more diverse beauty standard. But the truth is that even those models, icons in the making, have had to struggle against racism and prejudice throughout their careers–something that Dunn opened up about to Net-a-Porter’s The Edit magazine, which she covers this week.
According to the article:
“There were times when Dunn would be on her way to castings and told to turn back because the client “didn’t want any more black girls”. There was even one instance when a makeup artist announced on a shoot that she didn’t want to make-up Dunn’s face because she herself was white and Dunn was black.”
This is not a phenomenon exclusive to Dunn either. Chanel Iman recently told the Times:
“A few times I got excused by designers who told me, ‘We already found one black girl. We don’t need you any more.’ I felt very discouraged.”
That women as undeniably gorgeous and talented as Dunn and Iman are subjected to this kind of bullshit is truly appalling. Beyond the ick factor, the prejudice also creates unfair competition among black models.
It speaks to how inescapable racism is in the industry–and how strong these two women are–that far from complain about it, Dunn and Iman picked themselves up and persevered.
According to The Edit:
“[Dunn] admits that in the past, discrimination like this has upset her, but a tremendous sense of self-belief, instilled in her by her mother, has always seen her through.”
Thank god for Dunn’s and Iman’s perseverance. Let’s hope their success inspires some change in the industry.