“Racism in the fashion and beauty industry is an extension of the racism that exists in society at large.” -Ivy Prosper
Model Ajak Deng recently announced that she was quitting the modelling industry because of racism. She used social media to express her frustration with the things she experienced using an announcement on her Instagram page. “I will be moving back to Australia In order to live the life that I fully deserved. Which is real life,’ the model wrote. ‘I can no longer deal with the fakes and the lies. My life is too short for this dramatic life.”
She instantly received mixed responses from fans. Some were supportive while others said she chose to work in a cut throat industry and needs to deal with it. A week later she rescinded what she said and announced that she will in fact stay in the modelling industry and not quit as planned.
Deng has had quite a successful career in the modelling industry. Her resume boasts work for major labels and campaigns including, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Barneys, Jean Paul Gaulthier and many more.
It was disheartening when she announced her departure for those who looked to her as a source of inspiration in redefining mainstream beauty standards. I could understand where she was coming from because the truth is the industry can be very hard on a person. Being a woman of colour the jobs are fewer than those available to White models. The things a Black model hears are far more emotionally damaging and hurtful. Quitting seems like the easy way out, but when you think about all the struggles for Blacks and other races, if a person quit, then change would never be made for the good.
Racism in the fashion and beauty industry is an extension of the racism that exists in society at large. People regularly speak about not getting a job because they were Black and modelling is a job so it’s not much different. The things people of colour face continues to be a problem is all aspects of daily living. Particularly true when living in countries dominated by whites. Bethann Hardison is a former model, agent and advocate for diversity in the fashion industry. She formed the Diversity Coalition, supported by Iman and Naomi Campbell to open the dialogue on race and lack of diversity in the fashion industry. According to a recent study done by FashionSpot, in 2015 85% of models used in print ads were White, while 6.2% were Asian and 4.4% were Black and only 1.7% were Latina.
Deng should utilize women like Hardison to continue the conversation on what models experience and how change can be made going forward. Upon her announcement that she is returning to modelling she said that she was selfish to only think of herself and forgetting the people that had been there for her during both good and bad times. “I am just getting started and modelling isn’t the only thing I will be successful in my lifetime….” she said. “I thought giving up was easier, but I am going to stay and fight this war with kindness, forgiveness, love and support to all humanity.”
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