#BCM332 Case Study Part 3: Racial Discrimination in modeling industry; Catalyst of Change

My previous two posts have focused heavily on the issue of racial discrimination in the modeling industry and each one of them touched on a different stage of the problem and action that has been taken in order to prevent the situation from further making serious changes in our society. My first post addressed the issue and defined it in terms of social implications that are being dragged along with it, while the second post focused more on how models use social media features to fight back and regain their rightful status in the world of beauty and fashion.

And it is not a coincidence that the previously ignored or discarded models of color have found an immense amount of support on social media, part of which resulted in successful careers and more positive, uplifting and rewarding experience in the fashion industry. When asked about her return success story, Senegal-born supermodel Khoudia Diop claimed that agents and fashion designers alike, as well as the agency she now works for – The Colored Girl, have all reached out to her through social media.


” The co-founders, Victory and Tori, first contacted me via social media and asked me to participate in their new campaign “Rebirth.”
I was familiar with their previous work, and their entire portfolio is dedicated to celebrating diversity.

We share a joint goal: to inspire, empower, and uplift women of color worldwide, and I was excited when they asked me to be a part of something so positive. “

(Diop, 2016)

It is not a surprise that after witnessing how social media can fuel change and bring awareness about the importance of diversity in any industry, people would have more positive reactions to such campaigns and would be more likely to join in on it, even if social media often tends to portray certain movements as ‘trends’ rather than a societal crisis. In this particular way, social media definitely functions as the medium of change in what we perceive as trendy, popular and beautiful and we can already see the momentum of that change which reflects on our contemporary perception of beauty.

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Instagram is getting more and more of posts celebrating the beauty of melanin where women, men, girls, and boys are encouraged to embrace it and appreciate it instead of accepting the general margins that previous fashion and beauty industry malpractices have set for them.
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Khoudia Diop, both online and offline known as ‘The Melanin Goddess’ has received an outpouring support from men and women of all colors thanks to her brave stand against discriminatory practices in the modeling world.

 

 

 

 

Things seem to be turning for the better for models of color, but the final destination hasn’t been reached yet. It is vital that black models receive the same respect as one would give to an Asian model or a Caucasian model for the same reasons – and because society often celebrates Asian beauty trademarks such as cat-like eyes, delicate noses and lips and white models’ gentle frame, milky skin and flushed cheeks, wouldn’t it be generally unfair to deny black women the same right?

It is often argued that black beauties often don’t receive the right recognition for their stunning features. In the same way, society may choose to celebrate beauty features of a black model, as it is truly hard to argue against the genuine beauty of a tall frame, voluptuous curves, gorgeous naturally curly hair and chocolate-like skin. Social media has taught many that these features, aren’t something to look away from and give yet another fashion brand a single reason to deny any black model their professional cooperation.

And while it’s still undeniable that as a society, we have a long way to go in terms of achieving a diverse environment in terms of job opportunities, social media is helping this fight gain a huge momentum which is bound to educate and encourage further, making sure there is little to no room left for prejudice and discrimination.


” Brands like Fenty Beauty and Christian Siriano are dishing out more opportunities for black models to appear in campaigns and on runways, while OG supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Beverly Johnson continue to speak up for inclusion. Thanks to this work, it looks like the melanin moment will turn into a permanent movement. We still have a long way to go before these industries can be considered truly inclusive, but the progress that’s being made makes the future so exciting! “

(Battle, 2018)

Some may argue that people in the fashion industry are free to hold preferences over which models they hire and while that may be true, we cannot deny the negative message this sends to our youth as well as the businesses globally. Instead of encouraging exclusiveness and racially rather homogeneous work environment, we should stand for inclusiveness and fair treatment that guarantee a positive change, even if it may be gradual and take greater effort.

” The containment of black beauty, in all of its variation, has historical roots. In 1786, New Orleans was a melting pot of beauty. Free black women were able to do as they pleased, but the anxiety of white women over this perceived “danger” informed a series of restrictive laws that made up the Edict For Good Government. ” (Jackson, 2017)

Jackson reports on a growing Instagram movement where former Instagram or fashion models are building their careers solid, despite the fashion world’s apparent obsession with ‘white beauty’. She also points out that these models are still very much aware of the racial barriers in the industry but are also very determined to break them by celebrating their skin tone while disregarding all the discriminative and clearly racially-based criticism. During her encounter with ‘The Clermont Twins’, she recalls the girls being very free in expressing themselves through social media, claiming it has given them the ability to boost their careers while also changing how people perceive the concept of black beauty. One of the sisters claimed that they’re not naive about the racial barriers set before them and that it is unfortunately very apparent women of color do not get the same amount of exposure as non-ethnic women do.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

1. Battle, M. (2018). 17 young Black models on the road to supermodel status. Revelist. Retrieved from: http://www.revelist.com/beauty-news-/black-models/12095

2. Jackson, K. (2017). The Black Barbies Of Instagram. The Fader. Retrieved from: http://www.thefader.com/2017/03/02/black-barbies-of-instagram

3. Jamshed, Z. (2016). The ‘Melaniin Goddess’: Meet the model whose skin tone made her a social media sensation. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/khoudia-diop-model-social-media/index.html

 

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