The need for diversity at Fashion Week isn’t just relegated to the runway and too often, black models must contend with limited resources when backstage.
Models such as Jordan Dunn, Nykhor Paul and Leomie Anderson have spoken out about stylists that are unequipped to work with black models meanwhile several industry insiders have echoed their sentiments, for example AJ Crimson and Ursula Stephen.
However inadequate styling for black models is not a recent phenomenon. At the start of Naomi Campbell’s career the iconic supermodel recalls dealing with stylists who were unprepared to work with black models.
She remarked, “When I was younger, I encountered this same issue. I would be backstage at shows and there would be stylists who didn’t have any experience working with black models. It’s disappointing to hear that models of colour are still encountering these same issues all these years later”.
Renowned activist Bethann Hardison believes that the reasoning behind it is quite simple “If you don’t have models of colour [being booked for a show] there’s no point in practice. Often girls don’t get the job if there was difficulty for the technician to actually do their hair”.
During her tenure as a model agent (she founded Bethann Management Co. modeling agency in 1984) Hardison realised that models lose opportunities simply because of their hair texture. If stylists cannot manage a model’s hair, it damages her chances of being hired.
When Bethann was a pioneering black model in the 1970’s, she watched models like Naomi Sims create their own makeup products. She noted that black models are still “going up against a system” and subsequently have to “be smarter and compete harder” than their peers.
Part of that means coming prepared with accessories that may help their inclusion. Bethann revealed “A models responsibility is always to be prepared, whether the technician is or not”.
Both Bethann and Naomi are utilising their platforms to combat this enduring and needless problem. Along with legendary supermodel Iman, they’re fighting for inclusion through Balance Diversity, an initiative founded by Bethann’s advocacy group Diversity Coalition.
Naomi has said, “Were using our voices to encourage the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity. And this applies to everything from casting models of color to having resources they need for shows, like hair and makeup”.