It sadens me that we don't see and/or appreciate this kind of beauty more often. Who determines what is "ugly?"
Where have all the Black models gone? - a supermodel analyzes racist factors in several industries that impact jobs in the media and fashion modeling industry
by Veronica Webb
In the fall of 1994, I shared the cover of YSB with Black male model Clayton Hunter and with Roshumba, who had been featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue three years in a row. I, like more than a few other Black models, would consider the middle of the decade a prime time for us. Our popularity may have had much to do with a flood of media stories indicating that racial and ethnic groups would outnumber Whites by the middle of the twenty-first century.
The fashion, publishing and advertising worlds--the institutions where our desires and dreams are synthesized and sold back to us--were clearly taking notice and action.
More Black models began to grace the pages of fashion magazines, both in advertisement and editorial layouts, and Naomi Campbell's star was shooting into the stratosphere as she clocked a stunning number of covers. In Milan, where runway-show trends begin (because the first international showings are held there each season), Riccardo Gay Model Management had 12 to 16 Black women on the roster for fashion shows. In fact, every show I worked from 1992 to the first season of 1995 had at least seven or eight Black models. Considering that a show usually features 20 or so models, we had an impressive 35- to 40-percent representation. Things really got exciting in 1995, when Tyson Beckford snagged an exclusive contract as the face for top designer Ralph Lauren. Tyson went on last year to be named Male Model of the Year by VH1.
Fast forward to 1996... When the year came in, we went out. Today there is only one Black female model I know of with a major cosmetics contract: Tyra Banks for Cover Girl. As of this writing, Riccardo Gay in Milan has only six Black models in working rotation. And from the Italian runways to the French fashion scene to the catwalks in New York City, there has been a worldwide trend to exclude Black models from fashion shows. Only a few shows for the fall 1996 season included a Black face, and even then in several cases that face could have been mistaken for White. The result: Magazines and newspapers--many of which use pictures from runway shows throughout the year--will have few chances to include us in their pages. And, as it is, we are seldom the focal point of the main fashion layouts in general-market publications. Clearly the Black model is the subject of a damaging and demeaning "disappearing act."
"God made everybody exactly the way She wanted them to be!"
-Singer Rachelle Farrell, Individuality