Race Games – The Unequal Opportunity Industry of Modeling
There has been many a debate in the world of modeling, mostly pertaining to specs of physicality; how thin is too thin? too fat? too short? This though is a different issue, an issue of race, of skin color. Yes, even still, even in this big, beautiful world we have come to know as the fashion industry, there is definitely an issue of the use or lack thereof of black models. I feel like I’ve been teleported back to the 1930′s, wherein I should be writing this on a typewriter. But sadly, this is not the case. It is still 2013, and yet the mindsets of some editors and model casters are stuck in some by gone era. Not to pin point the blame on any one publication, but to illustrate one such example, here’s a case from Numéro magazine. The above photo shows 16-year-old Ondria Hardin transformed from blond hair-white skin into an ‘African Queen’.
“Numéro justifies darkening the skin of a white model and calling her ‘African’ by saying that it represents the ‘melting’ of cultures, and that it’s okay because the magazine sometimes uses women of color. It’s kind of the equivalent of I-have-black-friends-therefore-I-can’t-be-racist. Well, I’m not sold.
Number of non-white cover models: 3 of 139 (2.2%)
Number of non-white model editorial spots in the last three years: 15 of 270 (5.6%)
Just so we’re clear, according to Numéro, to be considered a diverse magazine only 5.6% of your models must be non-white. A “deep attachment to the promotion of different skin-colored models” means that only 2.2% of your cover models have to be non-white.
France demographic statistics, via Wikipedia:
As of 2004, French think-tank Institut Montaigne estimated that there were
51 million (85%) white people or European origin,
6 million (10%) of North African people,
2 million (3.5%) of Black people and
1 million (1.5%) people of Asian origin in Metropolitan France
So, if we were to play the numbers game, Numéro is really not that far off. (Assuming both numbers above are correct).”
Even still. If this has become just another industry standard, falling into dangerous normalcy as a double zero-sized waist, somewhere along the way we are participating, and saying that this is OK. But in reality, it isn’t. In a world where culture, creativity pool together for l’inspiration, how can we accept that there isn’t an equal opportunity here?
It isn’t just black women either. White models have been transformed to look like Asian women too for fashion editorials. To add to this, and maybe on the flip-side, a recent interview with Vick Mihaci, President of Elite Management Worldwide appearing in The Malaysian Insider , he talks about the future of modeling and where the industry is headed:
R: What type of models will designers be after in 2013 and 2014?
VM: In the coming months, androgyny, longilineal figures and Asian models will be very in demand.
R: Are there physical or mental differences between Asian models and Western models?
VM: Asian models are much more thorough and they handle stress better. They are very disciplined and very strong mentally.
I’m just not so sure that because you are Asian, you are mentally stronger and handle stress better than a caucasian or black woman. I also don’t feel like there is a lack of capable, beautiful models of all races to be able to give work to those who already fit the roles of the creative direction. I do believe though, at the end of the day it comes down to marketing and economics. ‘What looks good’ is doublespeak for ‘What will sell this magazine? This collection? And more importantly, who?