The Color of Beauty Documentary: Sometimes You Really Don’t Get What You Pay For

When you get a chance to, watch “The Colour of Beauty” video that features Renee Thompson, a stunning Black model who exemplifies a “steel like” tenacity to succeed that all people, and particularly Black people, should model.  Her resilience and desire to succeed in the face of constant rejection from the “few Blacks allowed” modeling industry is even more admirable because her profession is based on her looks, her Blackness, yet she has made a tough living as a professional model for years.

Beverly Johnson, the first Black model to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine, shared her opinion about the modeling industry’s lack of diversity during a CNN interview:   “It’s disgusting, unforgivable, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.  It’s a sad old story.”  Beverly also mentioned she was having a flashback because the industry is the same as it was in the 1970s when she was at the top of her career.  And that everyone in the modeling industry needed to be “enlisted” to make changes.

I believe the message to Black women is that they must not only be more conscious of their fashion purchases, but they have a responsibility to at least go do some level of research about the designers, magazines, and advertisers that are directly and indirectly related to their fashion purchases, be they clothing, handbags, magazines, and so on.  If you don’t see Black or minority faces in the publications you read, or you come across articles about racist company practices (for example, Google the company’s name with the word “racism”), you need to write a couple of letters or send emails — and make some phone calls and complain.  Also tell your friends to do the same.

Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Tyson Beckford and others have spoken out and even met in regards to the ongoing “Blackout” in the modeling industry.

I was once looking through old pictures with a beautiful brown-skinned ex-girlfriend, who happened to be from NY.  I asked her why she never tried to become a model?  She said she had tried, but the industry gatekeepers  told her that her hips were too big.   She had curves but not like the curves you see on a lot of sistahs.

It’s shameful but racism consumes every area of Black life, not because we want it to, but because it does.  Some Black people seem to do their best to ignore racism, and will even criticize other Blacks who complain; however, pretending racism doesn’t exist in everyday life is insane.  You can complain and still work hard to change things or succeed.  When you repeatedly ignore racism, you begin to question yourself or internalize negativity as if something’s wrong with you.  This is bad for your mental and physical health.

The modeling industry uses “quotas of exclusion,” and they all participate in  finger-pointing in regards to who’s at fault for the lack of diversity, whether it’s the modeling agencies, casting agents, the designers, the advertisers, or whomever.  They’re all lame, and things will not change until you call it what it is — Racism — and do something about it.  The world’s population is over 80 percent people of color, and in the United States, minorities will be the majority by 2042.  Minority children are already two-fifths of all our country’s children under 18, but by 2023, minority children will be the majority of all children under 18.  So the modeling industry, like all American institutions that don’t welcome minorities, needs to understand that supporting diversity is good business.

Black women spend over $30billion a year on apparel, but when considering New York’s huge Fashion Week, Blacks were only 8 percent of the models in 2010 (an additional 8 percent were Hispanic and Asian); in 2008, women of color were only 13 percent of the models (6 percent Black; 6 percent Asian; 1 percent Hispanic); and in 2007, Fashion Week was virtually 100 percent White.  This is appalling.  It’s as if the modeling industry is stuck in the 1800s.

I would just say to Black women, it’s just like selecting the men you allow into your lives:  you make the choices so you have to accept the responsibility regarding how the relationship goes.  And if you “lay down,” the fashion industry will continue to walk all over you.

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