Supermodels Tyra banks, Iman, Alek Wek and most recently Naomi Campbell have accused high fashion magazines, Vogue in particular, of "sidelining black beauty". Naomi Campbell has made headlines with her decision to open her own modelling agency in Kenya in an attempt to amends the situation of what she feels is racism and discrimination by fashion publications.
Alek Wek, recently revealed in her self entitled biography, Alek, just hot off the printing press, her views on a coffee ad for the Italian brand Lavazza. During a photo shoot the black beauty posed nude in a “gigantic white espresso cup bigger than a car . . . My skin was to be the espresso. I can’t help but compare them to all the images of black people that have been used in marketing over the decades. There was the big-lipped jungle-dweller on the blackamoor ceramic mugs sold in the ’40s; the golliwog badges given away with jam; Little Black Sambo, who decorated the walls of an American restaurant chain in the 1960s; and Uncle Ben, whose apparently benign image still sells rice.” Lavazza CEO Ennio Ranaboldo told Page Six: “A great artist photographer, Albert Watson. A great model, Alek Wek. A great calendar. That’s all there’s to say.”
Naomi has appeared on a total of 8 Vogue covers; Linda Evangelista appeared on 13 and Gisele Bundchen 12. Kate the most featured model appeared on 24 covers. Some may feel Naomi’s complaints are petty and unfounded, complaining about the lack of covers she appears on, when the average person is faced with bills, mortgages, debts – real problems. Obviously her argument goes above and beyond knit picking over magazine covers, but it’s hard to sympathise with a ‘struggling model’ that is in no way struggling to make a living.
Anya James, a black model from London and a featured contestant on the reality show, Make me a Supermodel, said racism is ripe in the fashion industry. "From my experience as a black model, I have to work 10 times as hard. For example, at castings, I make sure I look 110 per cent and that I'm on my best form. You hardly ever see a black model in the public eye, but no-one seems to be speaking up about this imbalance," reported The Independent.
Certain publications have reported on their selection process, stating that an average fashion magazine has one black cover per year, which is in no way racist, but rather balances out their target demographic. The results of the 2001 UK Census revealed in its ethnic composition that the prominent ethic group is 92.2 per cent white, while 2 per cent of the British population is black, 1.2 percent is mixed race and the remaining ethnic groups such as Asians, Indians and Pakistani’s make up the remaining 5.8 per cent. Bearing theses statistics in mind one black cover per year more than covers its demographic.