Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NYT: Conspicuous by Their Presence




The irony in fashion is that it loves change but it can’t actually change anything. It can only reflect a change in the air. But what changes fashion? What would finally move American designers to include more black models on their runways? That 30 percent of the country is nonwhite? That black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes? That an African-American is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party?
The answer is the individual eye. NYT


Naomi Campbell, according to the article, was set to appear in just four photographs for the highly anticipated July Vogue Italia issue. That number magically turned into twenty. Mr. Meisel was allotted 100 pages for his project.
While I'm sure that all of the photographs of Ms. Campbell are beautiful but I'm bothered that in an issue that is supposed to celebrate diversity, the go-to model is still the one black model that ruins the curve for the rest of them. Naomi is a pop icon and a bonofide celebrity. Although she is incredibly beautiful and an amazing model, she has also been the only bonofide superstar of her hue in this industry for a very long time. While designers routinely give six figure contracts to no name European models, Naomi is the only dark skinned girl that has that kind of earning power. Because she is a household name and an instantly recognizable face she is safe. People may snicker about her run-ins with the law and personal problems but, like Kate Moss, she is an undsiputed fashion champion. Her inclusion and prominence in this issue is representative of the "tokenism", "laziness" and "paranoia" that this industry has been soaking in for years like a manicurist's bowl of Parmolive.
Other models featured in the issue include Iman, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Liya Kebede, Pat Cleveland, Jourdan Dunn, Sessilee Lopez, Chanel Iman, Veronica Webb, Tocarra Jones, and Karen Alexander.
When asked about the inclusion of Sessilee Lopez, Meisel remarked that he used her because "Because nobody gives her a chance.” I couldn't help but wonder after reading that if other relatively unknown models would be given that chance in this issue. It comes out on Thursday in Europe and soon after in the US. I'm anxiously awaiting the issue, of course, but I wonder if any of the faces represented will also appear in the phone book sized September issues of Vogue.

5 comments:

Camille Acey said...

Oh wow, today's Thursday and I'm in Europe. I better look around for it. Though honestly I am annoyed about having to give those people my hard earned Euros. Urgh.

Brigitte said...

Be sure to let me know what you think of the issue Camille. I don't think it gets here until maybe next Tuesday.

Asian Models Blogger said...

Naomi is the reason a lot of black models don't get work. She black-balled them and threatened to pull out of projects if the clients hire other black models.

Veronica Webb back-stabbed a lot of black models too. She is not very well liked in the industry.

I hear Alek and Liya are super nice and great to work with. Jourdan and Chanel are new so I haven't heard much about them behind the scenes.

Love your blog! Keep up the good work. I'm anxiously looking forward to the Italian Vogue issue too.

lapetitediva said...

Naomi is the reason a lot of black models don't get work. She black-balled them and threatened to pull out of projects if the clients hire other black models.

Veronica Webb back-stabbed a lot of black models too. She is not very well liked in the industry.


Damn, damn, damn! I knew Naomi was a bitch on wheels to other Black models(most notably, Tyra Banks), but I didn't know that about Veronica. I wonder if that's their true personality, or a testament to just how FEW opportunities there are for Black models in the industry, or a combination of both. That's not to imply that White models don't back stab and sabotage, but reading your comments about Naomi and Veronica reminded me of something Halle Berry said in an Essence interview several years ago. IIRC, she recalled how an agent or someone in the industry made a remark along the lines of, "You can have five White actresses and five Black actresses in the same room and the Black actresses will get into a catfight and the White ones won't." She went on to say how Black actresses were all scratching for the same few roles, which was why there tended to be much more competition among them.

Brigitte L. said...

Damn! Will we ever overcome the crab mentality!?