Model Joan Smalls sat on a Business of Fashion panel and spoke frankly about all the many ways black models still face a lot of challenges in the fashion industries. The discussion also included thoughts from transgender American actress and model Hari Nef and IMG model agent Ivan Bart.
Smalls spoke about being the only white model on a runway after attending castings filled with women of color, and in one particularly heart-breaking moment, she discussed being told she wouldn’t be included in a group shot for a campaign targeting Asian countries because black models don’t sell.
Here are some of the highlights:
05:12: “Brands have to be more open minded and mindful when they choose their cast because they do hold a social responsibility to the world to represent their consumers.” –Joan Smalls
05:42: “When I see a runway with all the same models that are just cloned, I’m like, “Is that your beauty? Is that your world? It’s very one-sided and bland.” –Joan Smalls
09:54: “It’s not like you can just be a model, you have to be a trans model or a black model or a Latina model and you know, they kind of bring you in, and it’s diversity day and then you go home. And diversity day is cool. Diversity day like essentially pays my bills, but diversity day isn’t, it’s never a blue chip campaign. It’s never a contract or rarely a contract.” –Hari Nef
10:57: “Just bringing people in and including them does not lend itself to building a new interface for fashion that is inclusive in a sustainable way. It doesn’t shift the paradigm. It does not take into account the people who are being included. It’s very difficult to fit yourself into this mold that wasn’t built for you. These samples that weren’t built for you.” –Hari Nef
19:11: “I remember when I started and I’d be in a fashion show and I was the only non-white. And I would look at the board, and it was like, “What…I’m happy that I’m here because I’m very grateful. ‘Cause like you said, we’re out the mercy of others to book a job so I am very grateful for that opportunity. But then at the same time, I’m like, ‘damn, I went to the casting. I saw a lot of beautiful women who fit a different description. Why are they not here? Why are they not being represented. They are your consumer.” –Joan Smalls
20:24: “I’ve always had a struggle trying to get a hair campaign. It’s mind boggling. I’ve been on options. And they dropped me the last minute and the excuse was, we were afraid to try something new. And by new they meant, we’ve never shot a black girl.” –Joan Smalls
20:52: “On yeah, for [Chinese] campaigns it’s like, Okay so Joan will do this region, but then in the group shot, Joan you are excluded because you don’t sell. You don’t fit in that quota.” –Joan Smalls