Model Ebonee Davis recently became one of the stars of Calvin Klein’s fall 2016 campaign and now the model is using her platform to speak out about racism in the fashion industry.
Davis wrote in an honest and powerful letter published by Harper’s Bazaar, “We must band together to neutralize the phobias surrounding black culture. Rather than perpetuating trite stereotypes that vilify people of color, we need to produce positive, accurate and inclusive imagery.” Davis writes about the fashion industry’s low number of models of color, makeup artists with no knowledge of black skin, and hair stylists who destroy black hair because they aren’t trained to manage it while the models suffer, “We sit in silence for fear of being labelled “a diva” while being inflicted with pain, or watching our faces turn grey.”
The model says that landing the Calvin Klein campaign made her pause and reflect on her past struggles. “I thought back to how hard I had tried to assimilate into the fashion industry—straightening my hair, wearing weaves and extensions. I was told that brands only booked black girls if they looked like they’d been ‘plucked from a remote village in Africa’ or like a ‘white model dipped in chocolate,’ and from the start of my career in 2011, I lived by those words. Until last year when I made the decision to wear my natural hair.”
Davis calls on the industry to make changes and discuss its use of black culture and address issues facing the black community, “As artists in the fashion industry, we are the embodiment of free speech. We set the tone for society through the stories we tell—fashion, the gatekeeper of cool, decides and dictates what is beautiful and acceptable. And let me tell you, it is no longer acceptable for us to revel in black culture with no regard for the struggles facing the black community,” adding, ” Most importantly, love black people as much as you love black music and black culture. Until you do, society will continue to buy into the false notion that people of color are less than—a concept already deeply embedded in America’s collective psyche which is reinforced again and again through depictions in media. The time for change is now.”
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