Though the lack of diverse models in the fashion industry has been well noted, British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman recently told the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper she “does not think fashion is institutionally racist in the slightest." To back her claims, Shulman presented the most visible and successful African-Americans in fashion to silence claims of isolation. “There have always been Black players on the scene—at the moment look at the stylist Edward Enninful, make-up artist Pat McGrath and [models] Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls, who are at the top of the tree.”
However, in an open letter published in the UK’s Sunday Times, 19-year-old model Leomie Anderson says not only do Black models experience prejudice based solely on their ethnicity, but according to skin tone as well. She says many Black models, which have previously walked in New York, L.A. and London fashion weeks, flat out skip because they’re not likely to be chosen. “I’ve heard from other Black models that it’s much harder to get work in Milan.”
For the most part, Leomie has managed to work the runway without directly being told she wasn’t being used in a show because of her chocolate hue, however she hasn’t gotten by completely unscathed. “I’ve only had one racist comment made directly at me. I’d gone to a casting for a fashion designer, I can’t say who. They just said: 'We only want pale-skinned girls to be in our show.…'"
She went on to say, ““Shadeism” definitely exists: there are different attitudes towards different shades of black. Lighter-skinned models are used more than darker-skinned ones, and if darker models are used, it tends to be for a traditional African look.”
(Photo: Tim Whitby/Getty Images)