“Fashion Week’s Models Are Getting Whiter”
That was the headline the other day at Jezebel, which came up with the above graph after some exhaustive research.
What’s up with New York Fashion Week?
In reporting on the issue myself, I realized that this isn’t just about a bunch of women on runways. It’s about the very perception of wealth. In short, the faces that we see in ads for luxury products — makeup, handbags, sunglasses — are almost invariably white. Black and Hispanic ladies: good luck.
Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model who’s studied the issue, says high fashion is looking for girls who project youth, unattainability and a sort of sexual purity. Over the centuries, those qualities have come to be reinforced with whiteness in the West.
“Throughout colonial history, non-white women have often been marked as sexually deviant, hypersexual, sexually available,” said Mears. “Not just women, but also men.”
For black models, that means being repeatedly told they should get nose jobs, or that their rear ends are too big.
To be fair, some industry insiders take this seriously. But others, not so much. One designer who’s show I attended at Fashion Week was Nicole Miller. About a quarter of her models were non-white, and she had this to say.
“I had 5 diversified girls, plus a redhead,” said Miller. “Which is the most diversity. Because the lowest percentage of the population is redheads. So you have to include them in the diversified group.”
There you have it: redheads as women of color.