Bethann Hardison’s Balance Diversity campaign is gaining steam–and some very famous advocates.
Supermodel icons Naomi Campbell and Iman, both of whom have persevered over the industry’s prejudice, are publicly throwing their support behind Hardison, who last week sent open letters to the fashion governing bodies of the major fashion cities. The two have joined Hardison’s new advocacy group Diversity Coalition, and yesterday, the three women went on Good Morning America to discuss why the lack of diversity on the runway is so troubling–and why designers should no longer dismiss it as artistic right.
“The statistics, it’s really shocking,” Campbell said. “Heartbreaking. Your body and beauty, it doesn’t matter what color you are. If you’ve got the right talent, you should be there having the opportunity to do the job.”
“There were more black models working [in the '70s] than it is happening in 2013,” Iman added. “There is a time when silence is not acceptable at all. And if the conversation cannot be had publicly in our industry, then inherently there is something wrong with the industry.”
Campbell, for one, is calling BS on all this talk of a designer’s “creative vision.” “I think they hide behind aesthetics,” she said.
Yet the three wanted to clarify that, despite the language used in the open letters sent out last week, they aren’t calling designers themselves racist.
“You know, this is not the business of shaming,” Iman said. “And as we go back again to clarify it, nobody is calling any of these designers racist. The act itself is racism.”
That’s the whole point of Hardison’s campaign: To get designers and casting agents, who probably aren’t racist on a personal level, to examine how they could be contributing to sending such a negative message. “I think they’re ignorant and they’re arrogant, and I think it’s not even about racism,” Hardison says. “I think it’s a sense of laziness and they’ve told themselves a story.”
None of the designers named responded to Good Morning America about the campaign–though, to be fair, it’s the middle of fashion week so they’re probably pretty busy. Still, we hope that they’re listening. “Change does not happen easily,” says Iman–but starting a frank discussion about the issues is certainly the first step.