NYFW: The Runaway from Color
By Ashley Oliver
While New York Fashion Week may receive rave reviews for trend setting, some models of color voiced dissatisfaction regarding the perceived insensitivity makeup artists display when tending to their skin tones.
While this year’s numbers are not in yet, a survey by Jezebel magazine found that last year less than 10 percent of the models participating in New York Fashion Week events were African-American. Models with darker skin tones are concerned that the makeup artists hired, are unfamiliar with their skin tones.
“I had to buy my own makeup several times,” said, Sema-Tawi, 24, a British BMA Modeling Agency model. “It’s unprofessional and quite sickening that I had to pay for myself to do a job that’s supposed to pay me.”
The increasing racial tensions among some models have culminated into a mini-protest in Union Square. An Instagram post by supermodel Nykhor Paul condemning white makeup artists in the fashion world for racism triggered the protest.
Celebrity makeup artist, Yariszbeth Itzel, believes modeling agencies hire makeup artists based on their clienteles’ overall perception of beauty from a Eurocentric lens.
“Marc Jacobs or Calvin Klein hire some black models, but they’re usually lighter skinned because the makeup artists don’t know how to work with darker shades,” Itzel said. “It’s not racist because most of the people who go to see the shows want to see light complexion models, so the companies hire [makeup] artists who specialize in light skin tones.”
Clinical psychologist Bruce Berman said individuals of all races usually equate lighter skin tones with beauty as a result of colonialism. “In a lot of countries, including non-white countries, the European standards of beauty were imposed on people,” Berman said. “People subconsciously believe the closer one is to white, the better they are as a person. That may be why many of the makeup artists who only specialize in lighter skin tones may be hired.”
Public criticism of limited cosmetic lines has led to the expansion of Afro-centric shades offered by companies. And while the Jezebel analysis noted nearly 80 percent of Fashion Week models were white, the inclusion of other ethnicities had risen slightly but steadily over previous years.
Shavonique English, 20, a York College sophomore and makeup artist at Sephora in Times Square, said she has noticed a wider variety of makeup shades being sold. “Many of the models who come into the store for fashion week are white,” English said. “Mostly every makeup artist in my store is diverse, but if [model companies] don’t need diverse makeup artists because there’s only one or two black models, they’re not going to hire us. But now that so many models are bashing the makeup artists and companies, all of a sudden all the makeup companies want to sell darker shades.”
Quest model, Khorey McDonald, 22, noted that he has never experienced racism in the fashion industry but he has noticed less models of color participating in New York Fashion Week.
Shavon Richards,23, a Political Science major at York, believes consumer marketing plays a role in the expansion in cosmetic lines. “Black people are proven to be one of the top consumers in America and makeup is a big business,” said Richards. “I don’t think the makeup [brands] care about the criticism, they care about their pockets!”
All images in slideshow from Google.