Fashion and beauty have come a long way in terms of inclusivity. But that doesn't mean we should forget the brutal discrimination models, and other talent, have faced in the past.
In an open letter to her 15-year-old self, runway star Leomie Anderson remembered the hardships she faced when just starting to break into the industry — and frankly, her story is heartbreaking.
"Dear 15-year-old me," she wrote for Elle U.K. "I know that, right now, your skin tone is not something the beauty industry is interested in catering to. When you go to your local Boots or Superdrug, you stand idly by as your friends swatch foundations and purchase their £6 concealers, something you cannot do – and not because your mum said you're not allowed, but because there's nothing available in your shade."
“You'll find your voice and hopefully enable other black models to speak up if they feel their make-up isn't done correctly.”
— Leomie Anderson
In just a few years' time, you'll take part in your first proper Fashion Week, something that I know you're already nervous about and, unfortunately, the struggles for your skin tone will persist. There will be professional make-up artists who claim to have been working for 20 years who will make you look grey on the runway.
A few years after that, you'll be in the news speaking about how little has changed backstage at shows – you'll find your voice and hopefully enable other black models to speak up if they feel their make-up isn't done correctly.
Anderson shared the post via Twitter last Tuesday.
Other users responded with messages of love for the model, leaving her encouraging replies like, "Thank you! This made me smile and cry a lil. Reading this as someone aspiring & coming from you means so much.ily," and "You are so important to women! Everything you stand for. Continue inspiring."
But one tweet from U.K.-based radio host Lilah Parsons, stood out from the crowd, as she recalled a time when a casting requested "no afros."
"When I started modelling, casting requests frequently contained comments like this - I hope times have changed," she tweeted.
According to the email attached to the tweet, other hair types and lengths were allowed to audition.
But while Anderson and many other models note that the world of fashion and beauty still has challenges, things can only get better when industry talent is vocal about the issues.
Thankfully, people like well-known casting director James Scully are not afraid to put others on the spot.
In an Instagram post published late February, Scully put fashion house Lanvin on blast for their discriminatory castings, and vowed to keep telling similar stories once they're brought to his attention.
"I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of colour," he wrote. "If this behaviour continues it's gonna be a long cold week in Paris."
"Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to to share them for you. It seems to be the only way we can force change and give the power back to you models and agents where it rightfully belongs."
Runway veteran Naomi Campbell has also spoken up about fashion's need for increased diversity, and has made it clear she and fellow supermodel Iman have no plans to "shut up" about it any time soon.
"I did look online at the couture shows and it was a little bit disappointing," she told Town & Country editor Stellene Volandes during New York Fashion Week. "This week we’re starting off in New York. We do a count [of diverse models]. We really hope it’s not going to go backwards — I always try to be optimistic — but if it does, then they will hear us again."
She later added, "I do feel that Iman and I will not shut up until it gets to the point where it’s equal, balanced."
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