Iman and Naomi Campbell have been in the beauty game for more than 20 years. With countless magazine covers and runway shows between them, we consider their words to be fashion gold. Talk of the ever-changing modeling industry is especially flagrant during New York Fashion Week, as celebs flock to the annual week-long event. But one unchanging issue every year is the lack of diversity on the runway, something Iman and Campbell know a thing or two about.
According to Jezebel, of the 4,708 individual looks that were seen during New York Fashion Week 2012, only 20.6 percent were worn by women of color. In fact, “ethnic” models are still considered a novelty despite their decades-long presence in entertainment. When they’re not the “token,” they’re often “whitewashed” for their light skin and/or Caucasian features–someone that will blend into and not upstage the fabric. And while many designers have advocated for multicultural shows, little has been done to make this happen.
During a phone interview with Styleite, Naomi spoke on the disappoint she feels every year. “I like to always stay optimistic and hope,” the modeling ver says. “I pray each fashion week that I do see loads of young models of color out there. And when they do come and say to me, they didn’t want me because of this, it just hurts. I feel that I worked so long in this business….It’s just we’re in 2013, it shouldn’t be happening. We have President Obama and Michelle Obama as the First Lady, you know, this just shouldn’t be.”
Iman holds the same sentiments, writing an opinion piece for WWD where she talks about the challenges she faced in the makeup chair before creating her own line. “I would show up to a shoot fresh-faced, ready to be primped and teased into divineness, and the makeup artist of the moment would greet me with what was a commonplace opener at that time: ‘Did you bring your own makeup?’ And more ethnically diverse models knew what that meant. ‘There are no foundations for your skin tone.'”
Most will agree with Iman when she says “women of all skin tones want to look good when they rule the world.” Thanks to brands like Iman Cosmetics and CoverGirl’s Queen Collection, the gap for women of color in fashion is slowly closing in. Yes, we have girls like Chanel Iman, Selita Ebanks and Sessilee Lopez ripping the runway. However, we can’t help but think: Are we truly progressing in 2013?
Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair