Monday, January 28, 2008
Preaching To The Choir
Liya, Iman, Bethann and Naomi at the first event in Sept. '07
It can never be said that Bethann Hardison doesn't try. On Wednesday evening, the mother of Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison hosted yet another symposium on the lack of Black models on the runway. Held at NYC's swanky Bowery Hotel, Hardison succeeded in getting folks fired up (for the third time) over the industry's lily white fashion shows.
The audience was filled with a unique (Damon Dash was in the house with rapper Jim Jones) mix of fashion's movers and shakers -- designers, model agency owners, casting agents, stylists, journalists and models. The latter even had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the topic. Two gorgeous young women gave their first-hand accounts of what an aspiring model of color is facing in 2008. Get this -- one recounted for the room how she was strongly advised to get a nose job when first entering the game! Andre Leon Talley was there in spirit (his body was in Chicago assisting with Obama's campaign) as Hardison read an uplifting message from the longtime Vogue editor about diversity. Wonder when we'll see more diversity within the pages of Vogue. The evening proved to be quite colorful but led to a predictable round of the blame game. The designers blame the stylists. The stylists blame the casting directors. The casting folks blame... you get the point.
However, optimism filled the air when the president of Elite Models pledged to donate $1,000 towards Hardison's next event. That was a nice gesture. I think that because Hardison (a former model and agent herself) was courageous enough to begin this conversation, some influential people at the very least are starting to think about why there are so few models of color in the forefront of mainstream fashion. But I must confess that I still don't feel "asking" the industry to increase the number of Black models on the runway is the move in 2008. At least a few folks in attendance appeared to agree with me. I'm also not looking to return to this "golden era" when Black models were all the rage. Pet rocks were all the rage at one point in time as well. We are not novelties.
My evening ended on a high note when I asked the stunning Jessica White to pose for a PPT pic and she happily obliged. Unlike the majority of our current models of color she is American born. The Victoria's Secret model was also quite gracious after I congratulated her on the prestigious Maybelline contract she recently scored.
I'll be attending shows for NY Fashion Week very soon and I'll certainly keep an eye out for Jessica and other models of color on the runways. Perhaps some of this preaching has indeed fallen on the ears of someone beyond the choir.