In my previous post, I elaborated on the rising and ‘not so contemporary’ issue of racial discrimination in the modeling industry against women of color, and the extensive list of possible effects on society it carries along. The evidence to support this claim provided a substantial insight into the true extent of this problem and showed us that consequences resulted from it are causing quite a stir inside and outside the beauty industry. Another yet discouraging note by S. Newman confirms that black models are being set back by a few decades in terms of employment success rate and leading prosperous modeling careers. Newman explains how in the 1970s black models had greater opportunities that significantly dwindled with the arrival of 1980s, 1990s – and the ‘new’ aesthetic that ultimately excluded women of color.
” By the mid-1990s, the affinity for black models began to decrease. Designers opted for a new aesthetic that excluded black models. Black models were left in the dark to make way for the grunge era and “heroin” chic which fostered that group of models that included Kate Moss, Stella Tennant, and Kristen McMenamy. Models were more homogenous, so the industry didn’t require models who were bold, or charismatic. ” (Newman 2017).
Perhaps a few decades ago, this problem would have stayed swept under the rug and models of color wouldn’t have much in terms of media as an outlet efficient enough to help them gain deserved recognition and distinction in their field. Social media, however, changes all that. As a society riddled with discriminative behavior, we went from having to gather in massive numbers and hold large handwritten signs, to posting a single image, caption, status or tweet and directing it at the right audience. British model, Leomie Anderson testifies on the power of social media in context of this rapid shift the fashion world has seen recently, by explaining how the beauty industry used to feel very much like its own little world with its own set of rules and models unhappy about these rules never felt empowered enough to change anything.
She adds that nowadays, social media finally gives models the opportunity to speak up which in turn helps the industry to ‘up its game’ and meet the contemporary social standards. In a way, social media came as a blessing to these women who, up until recently, made only 6% of runway models during the peak of fashion month, according to Newman. These models, however, are all public figures with a handsome following on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and even YouTube channels. What happens when one of them is told off by a designer, photographer or fashion show director for being a woman of color?
“I have only once or twice before seen a campaign featuring models with our complexions, as we have never been presented as the norm for western beauty ideals. But the cast Rihanna picked was very reflective of modern society, and that’s who she sells to. People want to know what they are going to feel and look like when they use a product.” (Anderson, 2018).
She will, most certainly, reach out online and target her audience with the right kind of hashtags. Her ‘voice’ will merge with voices of many other discriminated models and their content will reach a strong momentum. Since social media has already proven to be an excellent conduit for self-branding and finding exposure, it is almost certain that these women, who have experienced such unfair and unprofessional treatment – will find work or work might just find them.
1. Anderson, 2018, ‘Leomie Anderson: social media has given models a platform to speak out. I am one of them’, The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/mar/07/leomie-anderson-social-media-has-given-models-a-platform-to-speak-out-i-am-one-of-them
2. Newman, 2017, ‘Black Models Matter: Challenging the Racism of Aesthetics and the Façade of Inclusion in the Fashion Industry’, Graduate Faculty in Liberal Studies, The City University of New York.