by Guest Contributor Brigitte, originally published at Make Fetch Happen
This rambling piece about Jourdan Dunn and the problem of racial discrimination in the fashion industry doesn’t really add anything new to the discussion. There is still the same three lines about black models not selling well, their various looks not being “in” at the moment and the usual finger pointing. It paints Ms. Dunn as the great black hope of fashion and notes that all the ink about racism in fashion has added up to more work for the young model. Here are some select quotes from what is presented.
The fashion industry is racist:
These days, ethnic beauty is pretty much invisible.
The fashion world, on this evidence, has been screening out ethnic beauty.
Black faces don’t sell magazines:
Editors and managers say that, however much they want to use ethnic girls, putting one on the cover of a glossy magazine will depress sales. If ethnic women brought in big profits, nobody in the industry would be in the slightest bit interested in their skin tones or their racial type. Rightly or wrongly, though women from ethnic minorities are considered a bad commercial bet.
It wasn’t always like this:
In the 1960s and 1970s, ethnic women were much more visible in fashion. That was a time of exuberance and change; the time of the Black Power movement, the mantra “black is beautiful”, Roberta Flack singing Be Real Black for Me. This mood continued into the 1980s, with models such as Iman, Pat Cleveland and the young Campbell splashed everywhere.
The gay white puppet masters of the runway like women who look like smooth boys:
One suggestion is that the absence, particularly of black girls with African features, has to do with the tiny minority of people who make the fashion weather: the arbiters of fashion. These are the top casting agents and designers who decide whom to send on photoshoots and the catwalks, and many of them are gay white men. I’m told they really don’t like black women. Again, the question is, why? Or, rather, why not? As ever, if it’s not something to do with money, it is probably something to do with sex.
The sexually immature look is hot right now:
The ideal of female beauty in the fashion industry today is childlike, almost bordering on paedophilia. With few exceptions, the most sought-after faces have small, childish features, with little noses, little chins, small mouths and big, little-girl foreheads and eyes. They are childishly asexual. The same goes for fashionable bodies. The hottest bodies are almost always immature, lacking in secondary sexual characteristics – no curves, no breasts, no body hair.
Black models have the wrong type of body for fashion:
Asian girls, with their uncurvy, boyish figures and neat features often fit easily into this mould, but models with pronounced African features – large, full lips, wide noses and different facial proportions, as well as more curves, bigger bottoms and fuller breasts – do not.
Black women are too naturally sexual for fashion:
Several people have suggested to me that the gay arbiters of fashion find full-on female sexuality distasteful, which is why they don’t favour this kind of womanly beauty among white girls, either.
The new class of super-rich people also hate to look at black people:
…marketing aimed at the new mega-rich consumers in China and Russia cannot afford to ignore the fact that those countries are more racist than the west.
Black people don’t like looking at black people either:
There is also evidence that ethnic women have been ambivalent about their own kind of look for many years. For decades, women with dark skin the world over have tried to make their skin paler or their hair straighter, sometimes with dangerous chemicals…
There are, of course, issues of status and power tied up in all this. Most dark-skinned people have been colonised or overrun by pale-skinned people. Pale, in folk memory, means power and wealth, and this has been deeply internalised. Perhaps this is partly why there is some resistance among black and other ethnic women themselves to dark-skinned beauty, even now; perhaps they themselves find something else more aspirational.
Nice diagnosis at the end huh? I’ve got to stop reading this stuff. These articles all say the same thing and there’s never any solution presented. It really does surprise me that there seems to be zero interest among influential black folk in the media to really invest in publishing a high quality fashion magazine aimed at Black women. I’d rather see that that yet another rapper or r&b diva’s tacky ass clothing line. My eyes…they hurt from the non-stop rolling.
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