Calling Out The Fashion Industry - The Most Common Racist Art

by d.iwanzwich on October 19, 2015 - 7:42pm

The article "Black Model Nykhor Paul Is 'Tired Of Apologizing For [Her] Blackness' posted by Julee Wilson on August 17th 2015 to Huffington Post Canada centers around the idea of racism in the fashion industry. South Sudanese model Nykhor Paul's Instagram post is referenced, where she expresses her annoyance of professional makeup/hair stylists not being prepared to deal with a black girl by not having the right color makeup or never having practiced with dark hair textures. Wilson expresses that Paul is not the first model in the industry to have faced such disrespect due to her skin color. Wilson explains that supermodel Jourdan Dunn had a makeup artist refuse to work with her because of her skin, while Beverly Johnson would skip interacting with the stylists by doing her own hair and makeup. Paul goes on to say that she is tired of apologizing for her blackness, because fashion is an art and art should never be racist. Together, Wilson and Paul emphasize how the stylists should make a greater effort in accommodating all models because that is, after all, their profession. The author, greatly saddened by the disrespect in the fashion community, hopes the industry will try to break this pattern and create more diversity and representation on the catwalk.

I think Wilson has a valid point, the fashion industry is lacking in diversity, however I did not know that the disrespect went so deep. Wilson's article which strongly ties Paul's Instagram post to similar events, opens my eyes. However, I feel as though she should have included more commentary on the struggles women of color face besides just stylists, such as designers making clothing for slim-hipped women and agencies wanting women with 'white' features. Whenever I look through a magazine it is very rare to find any woman of color; and if there is one, she is usually the token woman of color. Although now I am starting to actively notice the lack of color in fashion, Erin N. Winkler, author of  "Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race" insists that children begin to notice race as young as six months old (pg.1). To young children, race means almost nothing in their daily endeavors, but as they age they begin to notice how people are treated based on their skin tones. Soon, they will begin to notice that everywhere they look, whiteness seems to be more widely accepted, and wanted.


Wilson, J., (2015) Black model Nykhor Paul is 'tired of apologizing for [her] blackness'. The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved from

Winkler, N., E., (2009). Children are not colorblind: How young children learn race. PACE 3(3), 1-7.




The reason I am responding to this post is because I agree that racism is a major issue in the fashion industry. During a class I watched a documentary on racism which was about a young black model who struggled all her life to become a super model. Many agencies rejected her because of her skin, however during the documentary the agencies were sometimes recorded. One of them said that she might get a contract simply because she had white features, such as the slim long nose. I also agree to the reference you made about the article "Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race" written by Winkler because it is true that because of the minimum appearance in magazines of different racial groups, children will realize that this may be because groups that are racially different from whites are inferior, which is certainly not true. Winkler states, “that children may assume or avoid or dislike people with different skin colors than their own” which emphasizes that children will most likely grow up separating themselves from different races. I believe that if a parent doesn’t encourage the children to interact with other racial groups they might most likely grow up disliking or avoiding other races. In conclusion, should racial diversity be equal in magazines and, in fashion shows to somehow diminish the use of racism?

In my opinion, fashion is something that is very important in our society, which is why I feel the need to comment. People often look up to models because they have a huge impact in the fashion industry. With that said, I believe that everyone should have the same opportunities. For example, if an adolescent sees that a certain group of people have less opportunities because of their "race" when it comes to having stylists, they would more likely think that it is okay, even though it is not. Furthermore, I agree with you on the fact that there is almost no diversity in the fashion industry. As presented in the documentary "The Color of Beauty", big companies look for "white" girls or girls with "white" girls features. Since there is a lot of people who follow the fashion industry, the majority of the time, they will only see "white" people, who are now considered as the standard of beauty. However, if we see it in a way that the stylists are not used to work with models from other "races" than "white". This might explain why they do not feel comfortable working with them. In that case, is it still considered racist?

Your post definitely highlighted a great example of injustice stemming from racism present in our society. The fact that woman of colour have trouble appearing in the fashion industry is very upsetting; however, I think it is just as important to look at a deeper issue that exists in this problem. You said that Sudanese model Nykhor Paul expressed displeasure over her stylists not being prepared to work with coloured women by never having the correctly coloured makeup and not being able to handle their hair. What I would ask is why do women even have to have their hair done and put makeup on to put up an unrealistic façade of what beauty is in society’s eyes. The truth of our society is that we let our peers control what gender is and we let this gender control us. Gender is in fact a “social construct that is used to define how members of a particular sex are supposed to act” (Waurechen). It is the “behavioral, cultural or psychological traits typically associated with one sex which individuals belonging to one sex are supposed to perform” (Waurechen). What is important to note here is the fact that gender is a construct and that it is performed, meaning that someone or some groups of people are actually capable of controlling what society believes is “feminine and masculine”. In our current North American society this power is mainly in the hands of the media and big corporations that send media advertisements for products that further reinforce these constructs. From a young age, girls and boys can see on the television that men are to be strong, macho and powerful while woman are supposed to be pretty and docile. When these ideas constantly fill the mind of an innocent child, they grow up to believe that they must follow them and the cycle continues. The issue with this is the fact that most of these constructs are unhealthy and ultimately hurt the society at large who feels the pressure to adhere. Women and men (especially models) are forced to follow unrealistic ideal body standards and in order to do this they must often go through extreme dieting, exercising and some even resort to plastic surgery.
Essentially, what I am trying to say is that even though there exists a problem with race in the modelling industry, the root problem in the industry is the way in which models are forced to adhere to impractical beauty standards which not only hurt them physically but also psychologically. If you want to read more about the great influence of the media on the younger generations, here’s a good article I found:

Works Cited

Waurechen, Sarah. "Introducing Key Concepts." Marianopolis College, Montreal. 25 Nov. 2015. Lecture.

I chose to comment on this post, because of its captivating title. Since we had talked about racism in the fashion industry for only a small part of a class, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it and be able to share my thoughts. It was also a subject that surprised and fascinated me, since I had never really thought about the racism that went through such a popular industry. In fact, I agree with you that there is a lack of diversity and I believe that issues can arise from it. Since it is part of the media, children and adolescents will look up to these models, which are in a significant majority white. As seen in class, whiteness will then become the norm and a standard to aspire to, which can negatively impact racially diverse kids, who are in a crucial development time of their lives. Also, the article mentions that a black model had a harder time to get a job, since the makeup artists and hair dressers were not prepared with the right color makeup and experience that kind of hair texture. As taught in “The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism Class”, this is considered new racism, since it is more subtle than old racism. The employers are not explicitly saying: “We do not want racially diverse models”, although they are sending out this message through only having appropriate materials for white models. This shows the more subtle side of this situation, while still remaining, in my opinion, an awful way of spreading racism in the fashion industry. In conclusion, it would be interesting to look at more ways that new racism is applied in this industry, such as clothes that don’t fit black girl that tend to have “wider” hips, or even old racism, if applicable.