An L.A. model and blogger has pinpointed the problem, and the solution, in the ongoing debate about racial diversity in the fashion world.
In a series of remarkable side-by-side images that mimic familiar ad campaigns, Deddeh Howard (above right) poses alongside top white models like Gisele Bundchen, Kendall Jenner and Candace Swanepoel in outfits from Chanel, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein and other major labels.
The campaign’s message? Anything you can do I can do just as well.
The campaign, called ‘Black Mirror’, has generated tremendous international media buzz since it was launched on Deddeh’s blog this week, and brings the diversity issue into crystal-clear focus. Any unprejudiced observer, viewing shots of Deddeh (who was born and raised in Liberia) next to industry icons like Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista or Gigi Hadid, will find it nearly impossible to choose one over the other — or to explain why one has been chosen to front a brand’s marketing and the other has not.
The Black Mirror series, which was meticulously composed and shot by Deddeh’s partner Raffael Dickreuter, is accompanied by a stirring blog post about the need for more diversity in fashion advertising.
“In a time where black people too often are in the media for being underrepresented at important events such as the Oscars or make headlines for being targeted by the police I felt it was time to do something positive and inspiring about my race,” Deddeh writes. “I hope this project can help to bring awareness back to the positive side of black people.”
She recounts a personal anecdote about auditioning for modelling agencies, only to be told “they already have a black model.” (Former Victoria’s Secret model Chanel Iman recounted a chillingly similar experience in an interview last year.)
And while she cheers the selection of Jasmine Tookes to wear the $3-million Fantasy Bra in this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, she also says the use of many black models in last week’s show “(felt) like an afterthought” because they were “almost invisible.”
“We live in a globalized world nowadays with many interracial couples producing mixed babies. Why can’t the big brands not embrace our diversity more and give all of us visibility?” she adds.
“The visibility on these commercials and billboards matter as much as having elected a first black President. The next generation can only get inspired and reach for the stars themselves if they believe they can do it too.”
Racial and ethnic diversity in fashion has been an issue forever, but it achieved new prominence in 2013 when Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison launched the Balance Diversity movement, which “outed” fashion brands that refuse to use models of color in their runway shows and marketing efforts.
Since then, minorities have seen opportunities gradually improve and an analysis of this fall’s New York Fashion Week showed more than 30% of models cast were either black, Middle Eastern, latina or Asian.
Is Deddeh Howard the new face of diversity in fashion? Decide for yourself by checking out her extraordinary work on SecretofDD.com