This 24-year-old model isn't just a pretty face. She's a voice that needs to be heard

Julee Wilson
Jul, 11, 2017

Fighting For Diversity In The Modeling Industry: “It’s my job, and the job of everyone, really, to make things easier for the next generation, and that happens when we share our stories and live in our truth. I am living my truth, and by doing so, I’m inspiring others to be free and do the same.”
 

 

A couple months ago I wrote a poem entitled "melanincholy" describing the pain and isolation I felt working as a Black model in a eurocentric industry. Constantly trying to prove my worth to those who were unable to appreciate all I had to offer; trying to deliver a message that was falling on deaf ears. It's a fickle industry where one minute you're hot and everybody "loves" you, and the next nobody fucks with you. Your value is based on how well you're able to be a jester for those seeking entertainment, and your Blackness only gets recognition when it's trendy. They chew you up and spit you out when it's time to change flavors. They put you on a pedestal just to turn around and watch you crash and burn. In many ways, #EssenceFest felt like my homecoming. I lost so many "fans" when I stopped being who the industry pressured me to be, but I gained the support of MY PEOPLE! Those who will stick by me and uplift me for the rest of my life!!!!! The love you get from your OWN is unlike any other. The industry intentionally tries to create distance between us and our people but as a Black artists, we must always return to the communities from which we come. I look forward to us growing together; THANK YOU for taking this journey with me. Just know, I'm walking this earth as a vessel for God and He has instructed me fight for my people. That is what I will do 'til the day I die. It's time to raise the level of expectations. No longer shall we remain in America's dark and dusty shadows. We are THE light and our time to shine is NOW! BLACK people, I LOVE you and I APPRECIATE you more than anything in this world. This is only the beginning. ❤️✨ #ForUsByUs Special acknowledgment to @missjulee @essencefest @essence and everybody involved in making this moment happen. You have my undying gratitude. 🙏🏾

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Eclectic Chick: “My style is a mix of high- and low-end clothing. I also love feminine details and jewelry. I’m like Jimi Hendrix meets Tupac meets Sade.”

Designer Crush: “I adore Elie Saab princess dresses.”

Easy Does It: “I’m pretty minimal when it comes to makeup. I love Marc Jacobs mascara, Glossier skin tint, Nars highlighter and a little lip gloss.”

What Happened, Miss Simone?

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Fast-Forward Five Years: “I feel like anything is possible at this point. I would like to have written a book. Besides that, I have no idea. I could take a guess, but that would just be limiting God.” 

This feature originally appeared in the August 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.