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Why Dark Skinned Models Are Only Given One Look In The Fashion Industry

December 17, 2019

I love fashion. And I mean obviously, I love my $9 boots from Forever 21 as much as the next girl, but what I really mean is the fashion industry. I love haute couture and fashion houses. I enjoy watching runway shows in my spare time. Studying how fashion imitates architecture and other art forms to create its’ own,. I always have. However I haven’t always loved the monolithic approach to black women that the industry employs.

Now I hate to seem like a negative Nancy, (I actually have a very positive of a runway show I recently watched being cooked up). However, I haven’t seen this said elsewhere and it needs to be said, so here it is: the majority of dark skinned black women in fashion have the shortest hair. There it is, I said it. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we have all seen it at least once in our lives.Think about the very last time you opened a print magazine or the last time you saw a dark skin black woman in fashion in general. She most likely had a gorgeous, healthy, 4c, fade. Now that is in no way meant to be comedic, but to emphasize that this problem is as incredulous as I've just described it.

Now, let me say that I do love seeing dark skin models from all over the world. That is one thing that I will always commend the industry on. I have never had a shortage of British, Australian, African, American and so on, dark skin models that I may not have seen otherwise. This shows that dark skin women are internationally beautiful, because we are. But, when majority of these women have the same hair style, that is where I find fault.How is it that you scrounge the entire globe for dark skin black women, yet a solid 80% percent of them have the same hair type, length, and cut? 

I, myself, am blessed with 4c hair, so do I love seeing it on gorgeous models who look like me? Absolutely. Do I enjoy rarely seeing it at varying lengths and styles? Absolutely not. There are some models such as Ebonee Davis and Kyla Ramsey, who have beautiful lengthy 4c hair. But we do not see them as often as we do our Maria Borges and Adut Akechs (Who recently won 2019’s model of the year, congratulations to her!) with this very short, and oddly specific hair style.

Now I wouldn’t be addressing this issue if it wasn’t as singular as it is. If the majority of the models in the industry had extremely short hair, I wouldn’t even be writing about this. However, every other race of model in the industry have past shoulder length hair. It is actually the opposite, for non-dark skin models. The majority of them have significantly long hair and it is very rare to find shorter lengths among them. Now notice I said non -dark skin models. As in, light, and mixed race black models are given much more diversity with their hair than dark skin black models. As in this plays directly into another overarching system that needs to be destroyed; colorism. As in this is further proof that this problem is exclusively affecting dark skin models.

Furthermore, this "look" contributes to the masculine promotion of dark skin women. Yes, I said it. Now that is not to say that there aren't dark skin women who have extremely short hair, that wear it with beauty, grace, and nothing but femininity because there most definitely are. However, when put up against other races of women, it would seem that these dark skin models are more masculine on the basis of hair, alone. And if these haircuts are to be classified as feminine then why aren't they seen as often on other types of women?

So. We’ve covered the what, let’s get to the why. Why do dark skin black women seem to continuously be in this particular box in high fashion? As other women of different races and different shades get to flaunt many different colors, lengths, and styles of hair, dark skin models seem to almost exclusively don this style of hair. Is it because there aren't many dark skin models with significantly long hair? Is it because longer hair would crowd these models' amazing features? Is it because the models themselves always prefer their hair this way? No, I don't believe any of the reasons above. I do believe that if an industry person were questioned about any of the concerns I've addressed they would pose my questions as answers.

I believe it is attributed to the laziness of the industry to work with black hair. And I'm not simply speaking on 4c hair, because not all dark skin Black women have that particular hair type. Even if it were to be 2b hair, it would still be more work than an Asian or white model. It is the laziness to hire black hairstylists, to see the boundless possibility of black hair, and to see it as possible. Are agencies even hiring dark skin models with lengthy hair? This could be another potential form of laziness. I can name at least five aspiring models on Instagram who fit the bill, but aren't being given opportunity. 

Having curly and textured hair can be seemingly difficult during a fast paced runway show, or a magazine shoot where several looks need to be shot in one day. So, hiring dark skin models, who, with rare occasion otherwise, only have short but textured hair seems to be the tried and true solvent. This hair requires little to no styling, and is much easier slip a wig onto. But just because something is convenient, doesn't make it right.

There are so many options for dark skin models, such as braids, Afros, which are just as easy as TWAs (Teeny Weeny Afros), and the most common sense one of all, allowing the models to have their hair styled before coming to work. There is no excuse. This "look" is dangerous for dark skin Black women, because it contributes to us becoming a monolith in such an important and globally diverse space. And when this space is watched by the whole globe, we seem monolithic in more spaces to one. 

 

Princess-Zenita is an aspiring writer trying to find her authentic voice in a world full of noise. When she's not trying to build a literary empire, she's usually spending time with her loved ones or reading a good novel.  

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