While the beauty industry may be embracing more diversity, it has a long way to go. Supermodels such as Joan Smalls still continue to face discrimination and racism. While Joan has served as the face of countless brands and magazines and has become a major money maker during her impressive career – the Afro-Latina model recently spoke unapologetically about her own experiences.
During a recent Business Of Fashion VOICES panel on diversity and inclusivity in the industry, she shared her continued struggle to break through barriers, including something as simple as booking a hair campaign.
“I’ve always had a struggle trying to get a hair campaign. It’s mind-boggling. I’ve been on option, and they dropped me at the last minute. And the excuse was, ‘We were afraid to try something new.’ And by ‘new,’ they meant ‘We’ve never shot a black girl.
Joan also noted that African-American talent is often selected based on where the images will be used for promotion.
“For campaigns, it’s like, ‘Okay, Joan’ll do this region, but in the group shot, Joan, you are excluded because you don’t sell, you don’t fit in that quota,'” she explained. And even when Smalls was chosen for campaigns, she never understood why she was often the only nonwhite model. “I was like damn. I saw a lot of beautiful women that fit a different description. Why are they not here? Why are they not being represented? They are your consumer, so why not paint that beautiful picture?”
She said the move is nothing more than “fear and control” by fashion professionals. But, she said, “I like the challenge because it reminds me to continue pushing and striving and knowing that one person’s opinion is not going to stop me whatsoever.”
Press play below to watch the full panel discussion.