It reminded me of the popular and more poignant term "Black and Proud" made popular in the 1970's; but what does it mean to be "Black and Proud" in Fashion?
The topic of racism within the fashion industry at large and the model industry specifically, has been spoken, written and talked about for many years with little pockets of success that keep the hopes of black models alive - when they see what they feel are landmark points in the fashion trajectory.
Over the years many black models have and continue to make their mark in the fashion world. Two examples are used here since a list of all the many who contribute would be very lengthy.
Naomi Campbell was scouted at the young age of 15 and her career quickly took-off with her landing the cover of British Elle just before her 16th birthday. She went on to become one of three of the the most recognisable and in-demand models in the 1980's called "The Trinity" (Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista being the other two).
However that did not stop her from being faced with racism- she is said to have quoted Turlington and Evangelista as saying to Dolce & Gabbana, "If you don't use Naomi, you don't get us." Naomi is one of a select few to have been given the title of 'Super Model' and one of the few celebrities instantly recognisable by first name only.
Tyson Beckford's rise in the model world and being named VH1's "Model of the Year" and one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World placed him firmly in the list of fashion icons and brought a whole new meaning to the term 'Male Supermodel'.
Tyson on his reality series "Make Me A Supermodel" called Naomi his "sister" and indicated that Naomi often used her influence to get him jobs and vice versa.
The rise of the black model however looks like a fluctuating graph with its many falls right after each peak and while individual battles have been won the war is far from over!
An african proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child"; fashion is no different- until the black Agents, Designers, Event Producers, Photographers, Stylist, Writers and the Models themselves start really, really rallying around each other the war will be lost and the battles become nothing but mere memories.
The work of major publication Italian Vogue certainly deserves thunderous applauds! But what of the rest of us? What can we do? Two words, "excellence" and "loyalty" to each other as a people in the industry.
As an agent I feel frustrated when it's the black models that aren't prepared, the black models who take months to get into the gym, the black models who aren't strict about diet, aren't dedicated and never take responsibility for their actions, full of excuses and then...shocked when success doesn't come their way.
Or when they are finally prepared; try to use everyone (mostly their black counterparts) to get where they are going with no thought of loyalty or respect - but jump through hoops to follow the advice, request of the caucasians in the industry instead.
Success always takes a team to accomplish and as with all things worth achieving sacrifices have to be made, so make the people on your team feel valued by being your best and treating them the same.
Only when we see the value in ourselves to demand nothing less than excellence from "the man in the mirror" and the value in our brothers an sisters to be loyal to them and rally to their (which is really our) cause only then will the small pockets of success become a wave of victory!
In a video that was nothing short of touching- Tarrice Love talks about why he shoots black and the self-sacrifice that often no one knows about; for ANY player in the industry who pushes for our own.
For many of us the business end, 'bottom line' and financial gain are sacrificed on the altar of love- because for every "bad career" move we make in the advancement of our own people, it is indeed a labour of love!
So, to my brothers and sisters who want to be a successful Agent, Blogger, Designer, Event Producer, Model, Photographer, Stylist or Writer...
Hard work and unity throughout history have transported us from slaves to the Senate from prisoners to Presidents; and fashion will be no different!