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Posts Tagged ‘modeling industry’

Brazilian model, Gisele Bündchen, has just been re-named the world’s top-earning model with a reported estimated worth of $150 million. An article on The Daily Beast says she’s, “without question, the most money- and marketing-savvy supermodel of our time.”

And then goes on to say why: Gisele is also—unlike the dark-eyed, dark-haired, curvier Juliana Paes—blond and blue-eyed, a genetic asset in a country where half of the Brazilian population is black or mixed race, yet most of its top models have Northern European features. “More traditional, less daring, easier to accept,” says Pascowitz of Gisele’s more corporate-friendly look.

Got it. She’s the top earning model because she fits the European ideal. Curvier and darker is daring, white and skinny is traditional and easy to accept. But does her nationality even matter? Like who cares that she’s “Brazilian,” is that supposed to represent diversity? 

The Daily Beast’s article gives all credit to Gisele’s shrewd business sense, when really her genetic asset of blonde hair and blue eyes probably has a lot more to do with it. She’s unstoppable all right because curvier and darker will never be in season, and certainly not worth $150 million.

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It’s no secret that the fashion industry has an affinity for white models. And it’s no secret that Hollywood has an affinity for white actresses- clearly that’s why Halle Berry is the only Black woman to have won the Oscar for Best Actress since the ritual began in 1927. However it’s the modeling industry that’s always under fire, whether its the weight issues, lack of diversity, objectification or drug use- seems like they can’t get a break.

In a world where membership draws a hard line at height and body fat composition, I wonder how Black women (and other women of color) who have features and physiques different from the norm are ever going to be fully integrated into the system. In the short documentary the Colour of Beauty we learn that when a particular designer does want a Black girl, she has to be like “a white girl dipped in chocolate.”

And while Black girls like that do exist (thanks to our country’s history we come in a million different varieties)… can you imagine someone actually telling you that?

Diversity in fashion isn’t just about the runway, in fact, I’d argue it’s more about who’s working behind the scenes. Not only are the models as lily white as this year’s Vanity Fair Young Hollywood cover but so are the agents, the heads of major firms and the people working at fashion magazines.

Obviously, we can’t do anything about our “big eyes, big nose, big lips… Things that are common traits in African-Americans,” but hell will freeze over if we think just talking about the problem is enough to solve it. I mean, how do you go about integrating an industry that seems very comfortable with things the way they are? After all, can you imagine a client trying to explain to a person of color exactly what “type” of Black girl is needed? I don’t think think the chocolate dipping analogy would go over too well.

Integration isn’t about just being able to show up to the party without fear of being escorted out, it’s about being invited. How do you change people’s perceptions about beauty when its based off something completely subjective to begin with? And unfortunately, in a world where models would be manufactured like Barbies if they could, I’m not sure the Black ones would be the first choice to market clothes. After all, no one wants to be thought of as a “Negro company”…I learned that from Mad Men. Looking at it through an economic lens, items are marketed to people who have the money to buy and in the world of high fashion, Blacks are an afterthought-along with anybody else who can’t afford a $400 pair of shoes or a $1,500 bag.

That’s the official story.

The truth however, is that Blackness or rather, the stereotype of Blackness has been rejected because it’s seen as being ugly. And in a world where everything that matters is based on superficial perception, how do you go about changing the way shallow people think?


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