Lilah Parsons has given followers on Twitter a rare glimpse at the sort of racism models in the fashion industry come across on a daily basis.
Parsons responded to a letter written by black model Leomie Anderson for Elle UK to her 15-year-old self. In it, Anderson discusses how the industry has changed in the last nine years.
She says she used to have to bring her own make-up to shows to avoid being embarrassed by make-up artists not having the right shade of foundation for her skintone. Now, she feels more represented, despite the relatively smaller number of ethnic minorities cast in major campaigns.
Parsons tweeted Anderson with an image of past casting emails that explicitly called for models without afro hair.
— Lilah Parsons (@lilahparsons) March 22, 2017
One read: “hair type: all except afro” Another asked for: “All hair lengths and colours. No Afro”.
Of course, by now, we should no longer be stunned by this discovery. Just disheartened and disappointed. This is because scores of models of colour over the years have called out the discrimination they’ve faced in fashion, and we should very well have been listening to them.
Calvin Klein muse Ebonee Davis wrote an open letter for Harper’s Bazaar in 2016.
“I thought back to how hard I had tried to assimilate into the fashion industry—straightening my hair, wearing weaves and extensions. I was told that brands only booked black girls if they looked like they’d been ‘plucked from a remote village in Africa’ or like a ‘white model dipped in chocolate,’ and from the start of my career in 2011, I lived by those words,” she said.
“When I was younger, I encountered this same issue,” Naomi Campbell told Teen Vogue in 2016. “I would be backstage at shows and there would be stylists who didn’t have any experience working with black models. It’s disappointing to hear that models of colour are still encountering these same issues all these years later.”
Speaking to the Guardian in 2014, Jourdan Dunn explained it was those at the top of the fashion chain that needed to work to instigate real change.
“The people higher than me – the stylists, the designers, the casting directors – they’re the ones with the power to change this,” she explained. “There’s where the conversation needs to happen… At big dog level.
“The people who control the industry… They say if you have a black face on a magazine cover it won’t sell – but there’s no real evidence for that.
‘It’s lazy. You always hear, ‘There aren’t enough black models’, which is bulls***. It’s all about these dead excuses.”