There’s an exciting crop of black supermodels emerging, and 22 year-old Chanel Iman is arguably on the top of the list. Iman has modeled for Victoria’s Secret, GAP, DKNY and Ralph Lauren, and appeared on the covers of Teen Vogue, Italian Elle, i-D Magazine and more. She is the youngest black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue, and only the third black model to have done so. It’s interesting to hear that even she is faced with blocked opportunities and closed doors due to racism when she encounters designers who believe one black model is more than enough.
She told The Sunday Times Magazine:
“I appreciate designers making a strong statement that black women are beautiful. Black women like fashion. And when there’s more diversity on the runway, it makes our world more inclusive.”
When asked if fashion has a problem with race, she says:
“Yeah, most definitely. A few times I got excused by designers who told me ‘we already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.’ I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, ‘we don’t want you because we already have one of your kind, it’s really sad.”
Though Chanel expressed she was proud to be include in Vogue Italia’s legendary All-Black issue, saying “it was a moment for everyone, [black] or not,” The Sunday Times Magazine notes that critics pointed out the 30% increase that issue saw in advertising relied mainly on campaigns with white models. That disconnect between the black faces featured in the magazine and those starring in ads is due to racism as well, according to famed photographer Steven Meisel. He said at the time: “I’ve asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say No. Advertisers say black models don’t sell.”
That sad reality proves that racism in fashion is an enduring problem. It’s important that successful models like Chanel Iman use their platform and lend their voices to make the chorus against discrimination that much stronger.