Thanks to a comment left anonymously on this blog I was able to read about discrimination in the Australian fashion industry, which is dominated by Caucasian models. I am giving the link here, as it is in the comments to my earlier post and it may not be immediately visible.
Racism in the fashion and beauty industry is rampant and there are very few non-Caucasian models to be seen in magazines and on the catwalk. Alek Wek, invoked by Oscar winning actor Lupita Nyong'o as her inspiration has been incredibly fortunate, in that she became a supermodel because of her African look. Yet she is an exception - a welcome one - and her success is due to exoticization, an 'othering' which is a companion to racism - the famous dancer Josephine Baker, the 'Black Venus', is an apt example of this kind of exoticization.
Josephine Baker, print from art.com
I was recently reading an interview with Monica Bellucci, who at the age of fifty is the face of Dolce and Gabbana's beauty and make up range. This is a remarkable achievement if we think that it is not so long ago that Lancome unceremoniously dropped Isabella Rossellini as soon as she hit the age of forty. So well done Stefano and Domenico for deciding to go with Monica Bellucci.
The interviewer, when describing Ms Bellucci, felt compelled to point out that Ms Bellucci is not 'model tall' nor 'model skinny'. Ms Bellucci is not even voluptuous, she is a slim woman whose height is given by her agency Storm as 5'9.5 - hardly short. It is rumoured that she may be about an inch or two shorter, apparently fiddling with height or with measurements on model cards is relatively common, but even if Ms Bellucci were just over 5'7, that is not short by any means, and Ms Bellucci has long legs, something, incidentally that has nothing to do with height, but with body proportions. Though slim, she is definitely not skinny, and in the past she has said that on occasion she has had to battle with weight piling up around her hips, for which she faulted, facetiously, her mediterranean genes. Even though the interviewer went on to praise her beautiful face, the fact that Ms Bellucci had to be introduced to readers as not your 'normal' model, according to a very questionable 'normality' is an example of the bias I am talking about, so deeply entrenched as to colour people's views, often with them not even realising it.
Photographer: Terri Lee-Shield. Model: myself
Who is to blame? No one apparently. Everyone will tell you they are not biased, they are not racist but...this (ie Caucasian models) is 'what the consumer wants' and this is a business, after all.
But attitudes can and must change and I hope to be able to see them change in my own lifetime.