The BLM movement, which was a result of the killing of Black American George Floyd, has continued to spread to all parts of the globe. While everyone from almost all professions and industries have pledged their support to the cause. The fashion industry is no exception at least in this case.
Brands and publications have been called by former employees for discrimination and statements of solidarity, including the popular use of black squares on social media in support of Black Lives Matter, have been seen as empty gestures in the face of systemic racism within the industry.
Amidst all the pandemonium, supermodel Joan Smalls has taken it upon herself to pledge her allegiance with the BLM movement and that’s not all, the supermodel has informed that she will donate half of her earnings from 2020 to the cause in hope to raise awareness. Apart from that Smalls has launched DonateMyWage.org to encourage those in the fashion and entertainment industries, in particular, to donate a percentage of their wages — from hourly to yearly — to the organizations of their choice.
The 31- year old model from Puerto Rico speaks directly on the issue of racial discriminations within the fashion industry. “I see all the agencies, magazines, brands posting black screens on their Instagram accounts. But what does that really mean? What is the fashion industry actually going to do about it? Is it just another trend?”
“This industry that profits from our Black and Brown bodies, our culture for constant inspiration, our music and our images for the visuals have tiptoed around the issues,” she continued. “You’re part of the cycle that perpetuates these conscious behaviours.”
“You have continually let us down with your insensitivity and tone-deafness, and the damage control apologies of, ‘we will do better.'”
Smalls, who considers herself a “Black and Latina woman,” has built a highly successful modelling career over the last decade, and said that during her career she has dealt with a “constant battle” against racism that she “lived on a daily basis,” in an industry that “loves stereotyping us.” For example, she states that many photographers have declined to shoot her simply due to her complexion, “because there’s no need to shoot a black girl,” to magazines, brands and agencies continuing to work with people “of that mindset,” as well as stylists and casting director who would not work with models of colour, because they were “not willing to treat us fairly and give us a chance.”
The supermodel was the first Latinx model of beauty brand Estée Lauder, in 2011, and the first woman of colour to appear on the cover of Porter magazine,
Smalls has featured in the Forbes list of highest-paid models since 2013 and she’s considered an exceptionally successful model at that. She also stated that hiring people with racial ideology is a form of complicity that feeds the “beast of racism and inequality,” Smalls also expresses her gratitude to those who supported and stood by her.
“With the same breath I would love to acknowledge those that did see me for me, who fought for me, I applaud you… Thank you for being true to your morals and not letting pressures from others keep you from doing what you knew to the be right decision.”
Ultimately, the model implied that she doesn’t need “validation from an industry that casts me as a token Black girl while ignoring my whole cultural identity.” Instead what she’s after is “recognition of the systematic issues, the issues that arise from top to bottom within the industry.”
It’s time we all look to the future. The supermodel tells her “beloved fashion industry” that “this is your chance. The moment that you speak up and demonstrate that if you care, if you truly care, then show it… We see you. Do you see us now?”
Apart from donating half her wages until the end of the year, Smalls pledged to hold brands she works with accountable for their own actions while requesting them to donate financially and to implement policies that would actively promote inclusivity. “If I as a single individual can do it, just imagine what we can do as a collective to be the positive change the world needs.”
“I urge you to use your voice, use your infrastructure to help us,” she said. “I urge all of you to stand with us. Together we are stronger.”
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