Have you noticed that there is a shortage of black models? Of course, we’ve always noticed that there are less black models than white, but ever since Tyra Banks retired from modeling, there haven’t been any more black supermodels that came after her.
I’m very proud of Tyra’s show America’s Next Top Model because it gives black models a fair shot at making it big. But even the models that have won on the show-both the black and white ones-haven’t made it to supermodel status. They’ve made a few appearances on the runway, but most of them ended up on makeup and department store ads. I won’t necessarily call that “top model”.
We have models like Jessica White and Selita Ebanks that get some recognition, but not nearly as much as Kate Moss and Heidi Klum. I always respected Victoria’s Secret, but after I watched their fashion show last year, I noticed that they only had two black models walk their runway.
I’m thinking that the modeling industry is just like all the other industries. They always have their obligatory black person in the mix. No matter what you watch, you will always see a thousand white people-and one black person. They only do it so people won’t accuse them of being completely racist.
I do think that there are some real reasons why black models are disappearing-reasons that aren’t so much about pointing fingers at white agents and photographers and calling them racist. I think there are some legit reasons why it’s hard for black models to make it in the modeling world.
1. We Have A Different Body Type From White Models. Look around you. Is it a secret that black women are built differently from white women? Usually when you see a really thin woman, they are usually white. Black women are more curvaceous than white women, and the modeling industry isn’t a fan of curvy women. The models that we see on the runway everyday are very much thinner than the average woman-especially the average black woman. Even if black women are skinny, we will still have curves. I’m on the thin side (a size 5), yet I still managed to have hips, boobs, and a butt that isn’t big–but it’s there. Many black women will have that kind of built no matter what size they are, and it makes it hard for us to be accepted in the industry
2. We Are Not Viewed As Beautiful By Mainstream America. When we think of ideal beauty, the last thing that comes to mind is a black woman. Of course, I’m making that assumption because of the images we see on television and makeup/fashion ads. Beauty is white. It is not black. We still have a culture that thinks light skin is better. Even the black culture feels this way! There was a recent outcry about Gabourney Sidibe on the cover of Elle because they lightened her skin significantly. What’s even more sad is that light skinned women like Beyonce have also been lighted on some ads. On a L’Orealad, her nose was even altered.
Even when black women have the opportunity to be on the forefront of beauty, their image is changed to make them look more Caucasian. They take those same features that make you unique, and they airbrush them away so that you look like “the other models”. Our own unique look is never valued. We are always made to look white in order to be accepted.
3. We Are Harder To Beautify. Many of the makeup artists and hairstylists that work behind the scenes at photo shoots and runway shows don’t know how to do our hair and makeup. We have a different hair texture than theirs, so a style that takes them 5 minutes will take us 30 minutes. Runways shows are fast paced, so the models are to be ready to hit the stage quickly. To them, it seems illogical to take 30 minutes on a model for a simple hairstyle, when there are other models that have a more manageable hair texture, and it will take a fraction of the time to get them ready.
4. We Are Not Marketable Enough. We live in a country that has a majority of white people. Many of our most famous fashion designers come from a country where there is a majority of white people. So the main target for these fashion lines will be white people! There are rich black people, but there are even more rich white people. These designers want to target the people with the money to buy their clothes-and the vast majority of those people are in fact white.
If they put blacks on these ads and runways, that will be fair to us, but they will not be targeting the largest market. If Marc Jacobs put black people on his ads as much as he puts white people on them, white people will think that he’s “going urban” and they will turn away from his designs. This is a bad thing because the white people is where the majority of the sales are. Once you turn them off, your sales drop rapidly. In order to keep white people buying, he has to include them the most in his ads.
5. We Are More Conservative. I know a thing or two about the modeling industry because I wanted to be a model myself. I’ve read bunches of stuff about it, and what I’ve learned is that the models are expected to be submissive, in a sense. Photographers are always trying to get models to take off their clothes, and I don’t think black women go for that! Black women aren’t big on posing naked. That’s just not our thing. And we aren’t too big on being pushed around by others without standing up for ourselves. These are the kinds of things that models are expected to do, but black models may be more assertive. They may be more difficult to work with because they are willing to use the word “no” more often than others.
The sad thing about this is that there is no way to overcome these issues. These things are simply “cultural differences”. We can’t control our body type, our skin color, our hair type, the amount of black people in the world, or how we are raised. These things are out of our hands. We are simply not accepted for no fault of our own. The only thing we aspiring models can do is prove that we are just as beautiful and valuable as white models by having a strong passion and work ethic and by never giving up. Hard work pays off.
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