First Daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, Obama have sent modeling agencies into a frenzy with clients demanding child models that resemble the adorable pair. With advertising agencies eager to capitalize on the fascination of America’s new First Family, the girls have sparked a new interest in Black beauty. Now, more than ever, advertisers are projecting positive African-American images. ESSENCE.com explores how the Obama Effect is diversifying mainstream media.
By Qianna Smith
“There has been an onslaught of increased submissions of Sasha and Malia look-alikes," says Marlene Wallach, president and owner of Wilhelmina Kids and Teens, one of the leading modeling agencies. "On Friday, April 3, we are having an open call due to the demand. So many kids from all ethnicities have been submitting images. There is a heightened awareness of aspiring models from all different backgrounds, shapes and sizes.”
TyGirlz created two limited-edition dolls dubbed “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia,” which were quickly discontinued because of incredible likeness to the First Daughters, which the company claimed was not their intention.
Dubbed “trendsetters-in-training” by Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), Sasha and Malia are establishing what little girls around the country want to wear. Taking notes from their stylish mother has cultivated a youthful fashion sensibility for her two daughters.
Meet Ariel Binns, 6, a beautiful brown-skinned girl is taking over the modeling scene, as there’s been an increase in the need for young Black models. Binns, pictured here, works the runway like a seasoned pro at the Child Magazine Fall 2007 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York.
Tyra Banks graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar’s 2008 fall fashion issue, where they featured the budding mogul as First Lady Michelle Obama in an editorial spread dubbed “American Dream.” To complete Banks’s White House makeover, Ariel Binns, a 6-year-old first-grader from Brooklyn, was cast as First Daughter Sasha Obama (pictured under an Oval Office-like desk).
“We have definitely seen an increase in the demand for Sasha and Malia look-alikes," says Natasha Matallana, booking agent for the children/teens division at Product Model Management. "Nadia (pictured) was shot by New York magazine as Malia and we had another model shoot a segment for “Entertainment Tonight” as Sasha. Sasha and Malia have inspired more parents of beautiful African-American girls to submit images to the agency and our submissions have increased by 50 percent. Having an African-American President has not only inspired adults, but kids across the country.”
American “tweens” are fascinated with Sasha and Malia. Their sweet smiling faces have captured the hearts of not only Americans, but the entire world. The First Daughters have become fashion trendsetters, setting the tone for how little girls want to dress. The J.Crew coats the girls wore on President Obama’s inauguration sold out on the retailers Web site within moments, catapulting the girls into American pop style icons.
With U.S. retailers struggling to make profits in our current economic climate, First Lady Michelle Obama and her gorgeous girls are a ray of light for a troubled industry. The country will be watching the darling duo as they blossom into little fashion icons wearing clothes that are both affordable and fashionable.
“Marketers are finally waking up to it: Black is beautiful,” shares global branding expert David Rogers to CNN.com. “It’s just going to become part of the fabric of the fashion imagery of pop culture, which is a great thing.”