"Virtually Unrepresented"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Source: Show Studio

I know it's a struggle everyday, but I'm tired of fighting the good fight. " I wake up every morning knowing that I'm black," said a model friend of mine yesterday while relaxing by the pool. And I completely agree with her. The problem is that we don't have to be reminded by other people all the time. It's great that Obama is running for president and that people are paying more attention to issues concerning black people, but why couldn't this have happened sooner?

I watched photographer Nick Knight's short film about black models in the fashion industry. It's a very simple piece starring Naomi holding up two machine guns. She looks like the epitome of an angry black woman who's militant and intimidatingly beautiful. Basically, Knight takes responsibility for his role in the shortage of black models saga and that's great. He explains "The reality today is that black models are virtually unrepresented in fashion."

This brings me to my current dilemma: I can't get an agent in New York. It frustrates me that the floor has been opened for discussion, but little action is being taken to open doors for models like me. My agent here has been telling me to stay positive, that something will happen as long as we remain diligent. But like I said before, it's hard to keep going when doors are slammed in your face. I love fashion and I love modelling, but can't it just love me back?

Virtually Unrepresented in NYC,
Model Liberation

Thanks to Make Fetch Happen and Jezebel for the tip on Nick Knight.


Hair Therapy

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Essence magazine, July 2007

    My hair and I have a love-hate relationship. I'm what you call "tender-headed", and I've been like that my whole my life.  When I was a kid, I cried every time my mom tried to comb my hair. I still get that same feeling when I get relaxer put in. My hair is thick and dry, but it's easy to style and is naturally a great color.  Sometimes my hair and I have issues like when it doesn't want to cooperate and grow, or when I straighten it and but it poofs back out again.  

    It's not my hair's fault that I abuse it as much as I do.  I also allow other people, so-called hair stylists, to abuse it too.  Out of all the fashion shows and photo shoots I've done, I can count on one hand the number of stylists that have actually tackled my hair and done it well.  Most of the time, hair stylists see black hair and run the other way. At almost every show, I am the last model to get my hair done because the stylists don't know what to do with it.  I can tell them not to use hair spray on it, to use special heat styling products, but most of my requests are ignored.  My hair needs special attention that neither I nor hair stylists are willing to pay it.  

  I'm not the first model who's gone through this.  Look at Naomi's disappearing hairline.  Black models like Ms. Campbell, Tyra, and Iman might not be wearing wigs and weaves if their hair had properly been maintained.  And I know that I'm not the only woman who's had a hair crisis, perhaps I've just had too many of them.

    I am finally taking responsibility for the damage I've done to my hair.  I did something that a few years ago I wouldn't have had the courage to do.  I chopped it off.  When the hair stylists asked if I liked it, I told her I felt liberated. I don't know why I kept holding on to those dead ends.  It took hours at the salon and seeing my cut hair falling to the floor to make me realize that my hair is not my crowning glory.
    My mom says that God blessed us with great skin and pretty features, but gave us difficult hair to keep us humble.  So I'm working with what the good Lord has given me, I've just made a few modifications.



Video Vixens vs. Models

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Melyssa Ford vs. Tyra Banks

    Like many other black Americans,  I've been glued to CNN watching the "Black In America" series.  Soledad O'Brien's done a great job, but she's just skimmed the surface.  An issue she touched on, the video vixen, really got me going.  

    I live in a city that focuses more on entertainment than fashion.  So when I go to auditions or castings, I inevitably run into "the video girl." Sure we have many things in common, but I would be lying if I said that I have nothing against her.  She is the girl who makes directors and photographers think that I would do anything for attention.  She is the girl who portrays this oversexed tramp-like image of black women.  And she is the one who puts the work that I do in jeopardy.  

    I stopped going to auditions for music videos because of "video models."  Anytime I hear that an artist is looking for models for a music video, I laugh.  They aren't looking for models, they want video girls... and there is a big difference between the two.  Fashion models are normally 5'8'' or taller and slender with unique features.  Video girls tend to be shorter with sex appeal oozing from every curve of their bodies.  Another difference, models show up to castings in little to no makeup, while video models come with a full mask including fake eyelashes and extensions.  Fashion models and video girls alike do have agents, but the caliber of work is quite different.
    Some time ago, I was booked on a video for a rapper looking for models for a runway scene.  I show up on set completely confused, because I'm mostly surrounded by girls 5'4'' and under.  The director had a mixture of high fashion models and video girls on the set.  But when it came time to shoot the runway scene, he pulled most of the real models and used the short video girls instead.  It was a slap in the face.  

    I think video girls sell themselves short, and they don't even know it.  A lot of girls think it's cool to do a sexy urban photo or video shoot if it means exposure and they get to meet their favorite rapper.  They think that flaunting their sexuality is empowering.  And for the girls who think it will further their career, I don't think it does. But honestly, what does being a "video vixen" really accomplish in the long run?  I can tell you:  It makes people disrespect women and only view us as a walking ad for sex.  You can't tell me that you look at Vita G. or Melyssa Ford and think that they are ridiculously intelligent women.  No, you only see their big booties and that "give it to me, daddy" face. 

    It's been reported that Ms. Ford has made five figures on a single shoot, but is that price worth her integrity?  The good thing is that she does believe that the image portrayed by video girls is demeaning to women. Now we have to go above and beyond to repair that.  I take back what I said before; I have nothing against the video vixen, but the image she reflects.  



Dealing with Rejection and not Freaking Out

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Rejection... I've had my share. In fact, people have said "no" to me more than I've heard "yes."  I've walked into many agencies and had my hopes go up in smoke.  They always say "You've got a great look, but we're just not right for you."  What they actually mean is "you're not right for us, and we'd rather not take the chance." 

    I've also had people lie to me, because they don't want to hurt my feelings. That sucks even more because it insults my intelligence and my intuition.  It's hard not to take criticism personally when a casting director says "you are just too..." since the subject of objection is you.

     There was one particular campaign that I wanted so badly, and just got my heart broken in the end.  It was for one of my favorite designers.  The photographer had seen a picture of me in a magazine, and proceeded to call every agency in LA to find me.  I thought that was a good sign.  Every other day I was called into my agency to take Polaroids of my freckles. It was down to me and one other girl. She sealed the deal and I was stuck out in the cold.  I looked her up, and kept comparing myself to her. What did she have that I didn't?

   I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt.  My favorite designer rejected me. I felt exactly how I did when I didn't make cheerleading in the sixth grade.  All I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball and cry, but I didn't.  Rejection is reality, but it doesn't mean that you are less than zero.  It's just a test, and if you pass you'll be stronger.  Don't let those vultures steal your pride, you're more precious than that.

  Here's my inspirational song of the day: John Mayer's "Vultures"



"The Fashion Industry Does Not Define Her"

Friday, July 18, 2008

   Sitting outside of my friend's skate boutique TRU Gallery, I noticed a number of pretty girls walking by with their books. I observed all of their comings and goings for an hour, and obviously they had some casting.  While all of the guys on the block were drooling over them, I was thinking about what makes these anonymous girls tick.  What does the average model actually do everyday?  I'm a model, and I have friends that are models.... but I really have no idea what most of us really accomplish in 24 hours.
    Before modelling, I had a life that included going to a normal job everyday and looking forward to watching Smallville every Thursday night.  B-O-R-I-N-G!  Now I'm jet-setting around the world for shoots with Givenchy... total lie!  I actually spend most of my time marketing myself and emailing people for work. Yes, I do have an agent for that but a little self promotion doesn't hurt anyone.
      We all do things to help us get through the everyday drudgery, and a couple of model BFFs have turned their vehicle for release into art.  Apple and Michelle transformed art night with painting and pina coladas in Apple's garage into "Feed A Model."  The idea allows the girls to create beautiful paintings, sell their art, and then donate the proceeds to charity.  They have their whole hearts in the campaign, and I'm definitely inspired.

   The reality is that fashion isn't always glamorous, in fact, it's pretty shallow sometimes.  I find solace by writing about my experiences, while the ladies of Feed a Model paint to keep themselves sane.  And trust me, we all need to release some tension.  As my friend Courtney pointed out on another blog,  "One of my best homies is a model. She was a tv producer before she followed her dream to be a model. She however knows it's a fickle industry... The fashion industry does not define her. "
And I remind myself of that all the time.



High Maintenance, Makeovers, and Your Daily Fix

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    I know it's been a few days, and I didn't expect to make you wait this long. We.... scratch that, I am doing a bit of beautification on the blog (I think it deserves a makeover). But let me be clear, this is a makeover not an overhaul. I want this site to be more than informative...I want this place to be a sanctuary where we can talk openly without bias, prejudice, and without any super diva attitudes.  Because the cattiness of this industry is what's keeping us down and preventing us from uniting.

In the meantime...



Model Liberation


Catwalk Confessions: "Concept to Creation" and PC in Vegas

Friday, July 11, 2008

We're taking a quick trip back in time for this confession.  Last month Pool Tradeshow hosted "Concept to Creation" fashion event that was absolutely the coolest. It wasn't your typical runway show, instead it was a shoot with photographer extraordinaire Jiro Schneider.  I had to force myself not to dance too much while DJ Pubes was spinning on the turntables, I did have to schmooze ya know.   I'm always down for a party with free food and FREE BOOZE.  Hipsters really know how to throw a good one. 

All of the designers were great, but I must say Anzevino and Florence were my fav, because I just love those boys.  Thanks to the Apartment 3 family again for another awesome show. And look out for the Three-LA show July 19 on the rooftop at the Standard Downtown... I promise it's going to be ridiculously classy and hip.
Now on to Sin City where Pink Cookies rocked the runway with a performance by the drummer KC overlooking all of Las Vegas.  The show was scandalous with lots of skin and a whole lotta booty.
I have so much love these girls and I support them all the way. I can't give too many details, because "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!"


The Joy of Polaroids

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I had a casting today....on my day off. Which meant I had to over beautify myself just to look normal. My agent said to dress more European than all-American, but my wardrobe is limited since most of my duds are in storage. I was a little confused when I got there, since I was the only ethnic model there.
These castings always crack me up, because you get a mixture of commercial girls and high fashion models who walk in with huge portfolios. And they never really need to bring their books, because all the client really wants to see is a couple of polaroids.
To take a good polaroid means practice. They are kind of awkward, because you want to look natural and still appealing. I tend to look goofy or mean. The only model I've ever seen conquer the art of polaroids is Tyra, and even she looks silly doing it.


Why are Advertisers Still Whitewashed?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Some of my closest friends are label whores, and there's nothing wrong with that.  If I could afford to buy multiple LV bags and Gucci sunglasses ( my fav pair broke last week) then I would.  But one thing that I will never understand is why people buy brands that don't support them.
Case in point: flipping through the new Italian Vogue, you will see hundreds of editorial pages of beautiful black models, but you won't see many ads featuring them. Surprise surprise! Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Naomi Campbell have an LV ad and Chanel Iman is in a Gap campaign.

I'm not sure why advertisers aren't using more color in their ads.It can't be that black doesn't sell. So what's the deal...could someone please tell me.
NBC's Today Show brought up this shady situation yesterday morning. It's a little lengthy for my liking, but model Veronica Webb brings up some great points.