It’s hard out here for a Black model.

By Daisy Hernandez Oct 24, 2007

Everyone has a secret indulgence when it comes to media consumption. You know… that one thing you read or watch or tune in to even though you would be hard pressed to explain why. Or if you were pressed, you’d snap, “It’s just escapism. Get off my case!” I once sat in a workshop with one of my journalism icons to find out that regardless of her love for hard-hitting politics, cowboy boots and fattening foods, she read Shape magazine in secret. She couldn’t say why. She just liked it. She wanted to know what everyone else read in secret. My indulgence is the Fashion and Style section of the New York Times. There. I’ve said it. My name is Daisy and I read about fashion. I have no idea why. I shop at Target. I wear jeans and T-shirts. I make Ugly Betty look not-so-fea. And still, whenever, I can, I log on or even better… actually buy the paper. So the Fashion and Style section is not exactly where I expect to find anything about race and politics. Imagine my surprise then to come across Guy Trebay’s great story last weekend covering racism in the fashion industry. As Trebay writes, Black women spend $20 billion on clothing but they’re rarely the ones snagging the modeling jobs. Agent and former model Bethann Hardison sums it up well: “Modeling is probably the one industry where you have the freedom to refer to people by their color and reject them in their work.” Well, not exactly. But it’s probably the one industry where you get to scream about it to a major newspaper. My favorite line in the article came from J. Alexander, a former Black model and judge from “America’s Next Top Model: “Some people are not interested in the vision of the black girl unless they’re doing a jungle theme and they can put her in a grass skirt and diamonds and hand her a spear.” I’d like to take a spear and use it on … no, no, I believe in peace and all that. In case, you’re tired of using the word “white,” we can apparently go with “android” instead. Trebay writes: “The current taste in models is for blank-featured “androids,” whose looks don’t offer much competition to the clothes, pointed out James Scully, a seasoned agent.” It’s a good thing I’m wearing brown today. I’d hate to compete with my T-shirt. Ironically, Trebay did have one misstep. He made a mistake by writing that Italian Vogue had featured a Black model dressed as a maid. No! She actually was the maid. The photographer included her in the picture to complete the scene of a rich white lady with a black woman who cleans for her.