Say you have… a painting that you think is so beautiful, and everyone else looks at you like “oh my God, she is crazy, that is so ugly!” But it doesn’t matter, because it is a piece of art and you find it beautiful, and that is all that matters. Editorial works in the same way…It is more of the photographers who are shooting the campaigns, and they look at the girl, and think she’s beautiful. She is a piece of art, and they look at the girl, and they think she’s beautiful. She is a piece of art, and they see her as an art form…It’s not for everybody.
This New York City based booker’s response ( quoted in Ashley Mear’s Tastemakers ) to the question of why such freakish looking models predominantly book and therefore grace the pages of editorials in “high end” editorial magazines speaks to how idiosyncratic their choices of beauty and the right look are. Moreover, it becomes quite interesting when industry tastemakers give reasons for not booking black models for particular jobs. Reasons, like too black is too much, black women do not represent class, they are bottom heavy, and so on and so forth. A particular booker stated, ” people think that if you’re ethnic then you’re urban. You’re street style. You’re ghetto. You’re not higher class…” So it seems that if you are not black and could possibly be deemed down right ugly, then it is still possible to be considered a beautiful work of art. If you’re “too black”, then too dam bad.
When black models do book campaigns they usually look like Jourdan Dunn, the model featured in the H&M ad below. There is not much difference between her features and the other models’ features.I am not personally saying that she is not black enough or beautiful enough for my taste. I personally think that she is very pretty. But tastemakers, may qualify her as “high-end ethnic”. The problem is that there is a prototype, the right kind of blackness in the industry. And albeit she has had great triumphs in the industry, she has faced the racist side of the industry. She has been turned away from castings, shunned by make up artists, and dumped by designers even before she could be seen for a casting because she is black. Oh, the life of a supermodel; gotta love it. Read about her challenges here: http://fashionista.com/2013/03/jourdan-dunn-chanel-iman-call-out-modeling-industry-for-being-racist.
And then there is the stunning Liya Kebe. She is seen in multitudes of fashion editorials, campaigns, and even became the first black face for Estee Lauder about a decade ago. Again, here we see a similar type of “high-end ethnic” black beauty; small nose, small lips, thin, etc. The features are white enough, right enough, what I call user/fashion friendly features.
Liya,Tyson Beckford, a well known former black male supermodel, former supermodel Bethann Hardison, and model Naomi Campbell, who only the made the cover of French Vogue because of the wrath of Yves Saint Laurent, but yet boycotted British Vogue covers to make a point, joined forces alongside other models, agents, who have great impact on a model’s career, and other major fashion players to rally against racism in the industry. They argued that not only is the presence of racism palpable, it is even worse than it was in the 60’s: 50 plus years ago. More details here:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/sep/15/usa.fashion
Six years after the rally in 2007 there is still resistance. A Good Morning America host asks is it artistic expression when well known designers fail to book black models during highly coveted Fashion Week before addressing the show’s guests Naomi Campbell, former supermodel Iman, and Bethann Hardison. In the interview they call out well known fashion designers for their racist acts, yet they stand firm on the fact that they are calling the fashion designers racist. They are calling into question the designers’ actions that they are probably just oblivious to. Campbell, believes that designers hide behind the “look of the season” when it comes to their reasoning for not booking black models. Watch:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_mXQI6jO2U
Maybe it is artistic expression when it comes to booking the freakish models for editorials, but if you’re “too black”, then too dam bad!