If “The Face” model contestant, Devyn Abdullah, believes her “international look” will let her skip classification as “a black model,” she is in for a rude awakening. Jourdan Dunn, a supermodel whose covered Vogue Italia, fronted Burberry and YSL campaigns and closed out the Olympics, is lauded for her almond-shaped eyes that “look almost Chinese” and yet she regularly experiences racism in the industry.
She recounts a scenario for Net-a-Porter’s The Edit Magazine that’s almost reminiscent of the Jim Crow era in which a makeup artist won’t work on her because of her black skin:
Not just a model then, but an icon in the making, up there, as she is, with that embarrassingly small clutch of black women – Chanel Iman, Joan Smalls and Liya Kebede among them – who have made it all the way to the top.
There were times, however, when Dunn would be on her way to castings and told to turn back because the client “didn’t want any more black girls”. There was even one instance when a makeup artist announced on a shoot that she didn’t want to make-up Dunn’s face because she herself was white and Dunn was black.
Despite those racially-charged challenges, the single mother continues to persevere due to inspiration from her mother:
The model admits that in the past, discrimination like this has upset her, but a tremendous sense of self-belief, instilled in her by her mother, has always seen her through. “I grew up wanting to be my mom,” she says now. “She always seemed to make things work without ever complaining. She whips me into shape.”
Her strategy seems to be working in her favor as she continues to rank in accomplishments in her career: she is the first black model to appear on the Prada Runway since Naomi Campbell 11 years earlier and she won Model Of The Year at the British Fashion Awards. Read more of her article with The Edit here.