The fashion world’s lack of diversity is well known. Despite history-makers like Iman, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Sims, Peggy Dillard-Toone, and others paving the way in the ‘70s and ‘80s, since the seeming black model boom in the 1990s (Naomi, Tyra, Roshumba, Verionica Webb, Beverly Peeele, et. al), the industry hasn’t been too kind to sistas.

Of the four major fashion weeks earlier this season—New York, London, Paris, and Milan—nearly 90% of all models walking the runway were white.

The breakdown: 848 White models, 63 Black models, 59 Asian models, 20 Hispanic models, and 3 from the Middle East.

Which brings us to the latest, “Look! A black girl!” fashion news circling the web.

After 19-years of keeping their ad campaigns all-white (with an Asian woman sprinkled in for flavor), Prada finally cast a black (biracial) woman in one of its ads.


Kenyan-born, British-raised Malaika Firth is the first sista to snag a Prada ad since Naomi Campbell in 1994.


Let that sink in.

Though some are giving the Italian house props and wondering if this will signal a new, more inclusive era for Prada, I won’t hold my breath.

The fashion industry is one of contradictions. While it pats itself on the back for “all black editorials” and including black models in a show (After a brand has been publicly shamed, no less. Hello, Dior), it continues to literally prefer white skin while craving everyone’s dollars.

And while I’m happy for Firth–because, let’s face it, this could make her career–Prada should not and will not get any kudos from me for failing to recognize the beauty of black women (or all women for that matter) for nearly TWO DECADES.

  • omfg

    she’s biracial?

    sorry, this does not count toward the black girl quota. it just doesn’t.

    beyond that, i don’t understand why anyone would look to any of these designers to “recognize the beauty of black women.”

    here’s what miuccia prada said recently to the nyt:

    ‘Mine is not an artistic world, it is a commercial world. I cannot change the rules.’

    do you get this?

    this is miuccia prada, who heads a multi billion dollar empire, talking.

    they really don’t have to use a black model. the only reason they are including asians is because of $$$. the biggest growing market for luxury goods is in asia. designers rarely, if ever, used asian women in the past. when africa comes up and a large number of black people have the ability to command the market, they’ll include more and more black women because they want $$$$.

    this is going to sound harsh, but black women got spoiled by freer thinking european designers like ungaro and yves saint laurent and gautier and lacroix who often used them in the 70s and 80s. but it was a different time – THEY ACTUALLY OWNED THEIR DESIGN HOUSES and did what they wanted. many designers nowadays are part of conglomerates and they seem to be less inclined to risk any degree of bottomline to indulge a particular aesthetic they may actually love.

    prada is the last person i would expect to go off the reservation, despite the fashion people who believe she is groundbreaking and a feminist. a few weeks ago, she mentioned in the same nyt interview that she doesn’t even have the guts to use an “older” woman. that means an older white woman like Carmen Dell’Orefice for anything.

    i feel bad for beautiful black models like jourdan dunn, who look better than just about any of those girls she stands next to. i understand her perspective, and i’d like to see her work and earn money.

    but, i feel like we need to get off of this begging white people to recognize our beauty. that is just so childish.

    sorry about the long post…

  • aziza123

    Dear author, start your own fashion label and hire all the black models you want!

  • Yb

    “she’s biracial?

    sorry, this does not count toward the black girl quota. it just doesn’t.”

    Thank you. This is not a win in representation for us. When I saw people claiming this girl as a black woman I asked myself “So we are one dropping people who are half Asian now?”

    This girl being casted in this Prada campaign has nothing to do with black women.

  • Lady Ngo

    Yeaaaaaaah, i’m gonna go ahead and say that im pretty sure Prada doesn’t give a hoot about, talk less of craving, OUR dollars.

  • BeanBean

    I still don’t understand why this ‘black girl quota’ even matters. Last time I checked Prada was started by white people, is owned by white people, nearly 100% of their customers are white people. Do we really expect them to put anyone that isn’t white in their shows/ads??? Yes, it’s messed up, yes it’s wrong, but let’s not act naive here people. Most people have some understanding of how the advertisement industry works. They know their target market, so they market towards that demographic, which is white people. In the perfect world, women of all colors and sizes would have equal representation, but we don’t live in a world like that, and we never will. Prada will never get a penny of my money, there’s no need for me to pat them on the head like they did a good deed.

  • Eye Candy

    I think people are forgetting that women that meet the requirements to model are apart of a very small percentage to begin with. They must be 5’8″ or over with measurements of about 34-24-34. I’m a model myself, women like us are not the norm, factor in the fact that the majority of these models are discovered in countries where the majority is mostly white (U.S., France, UK, etc). How many big African based modeling agencies can you name? There lies your problem, there are more white models on the runway simply because there are more white people living in the countries of those top modeling agencies. Of course there is racism in the industry but I don’t believe that is the primary reason as to why there is a lack of black models. There will be instances where I know another model will get a job before me just because she is white but I don’t sweat it because I feel like I would also be more likely to stand out more. White models are a dime a dozen and they all look alike, this is why in recent years black models like Arlenis Sosa, Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn, Melodie Monrose, etc have been able to make a name for themselves faster than their white counterparts.
    It really is like a blessing in disguise.

  • Lisss

    I wholly agree with most of the previous comments. This is one of those things where we will have to create our own stuff and showcase our own designers. Recently, Montreal had its first black fashion week – a complete success!!! And Paris has had it for years. My church will have its own fashion show in 2014 where the models will range from size 0 to 18, ages 18 to 50. Initiatives like those are what we need instead of waiting for companies like Prada with their overpriced purses and their obsession with white beauty to throw us a bone.

  • apple

    people still wear prada?

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    As someone who would much sooner support an independent designer on Etsy than pay through the nose for designer labels, I’m neither elated nor upset by this. I am glad the model’s getting exposure and a cheque but that’s the extent of it.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    She’s part Kenyan and that’s fine enough for me. I don’t need nor do I look for Miuccia Prada to validate me.

    Prada is an Italian label and regardless of the lack of advertisements directed at the Afro consumer, they’re still going to buy the luxury product. Even if you don’t buy their clothing and just buy their fragrances, you are still supporting the brand.

    ” Yeah, I know, I already saw it on Tumblr.”

  • Starla

    Is this model Black or biracial?

  • Lola

    I’ve seen the other prada picture for this campaign and all the models look grey.

  • Lola

    Her father is white.

  • ScriptTease

    I anticipate the day when we can have an all “Black” model fashion show ripping the runway. When I say black, I mean when you look at the woman, you know both her parents are black, and when I say “Black fashion show”, I’m speaking on a professional level, and not the ghetto hood-rat kind (yes, I am aware I will probably get thumbs down for that). We have beautiful Black Women everywhere, and I’m sure we have Black Fashion designers too, so what the hell are we waiting on? I am so tired of US waiting on white folks to validate us…. it ain’t going to happen, they don’t give a damn about us, and personally speaking the feeling is damn sure mutual. The LAST thing white folks want people to know is that Black women are beautiful so we are under exposed, and they take the ugliest they can find (inside and out) to represent us. They’ve poisoned our Men and is destroying the self esteem of our young ladies with this crap too. Come hell or high water, my current goal and mission is to bring Black Folks closer together. Mark my word and remember this name “DAWN”.

  • JS

    Prada shouldn’t get a penny of your money anyway since more and more as an “Italian designer” their bags and wallets are coming with made in china/taiwan labels. Why are they charging all that money again? Not to mention the gender bias and ageist way they treat their employees. This just adds to the list.

  • Marcy

    She is beautiful! I do not think that it is important that she is biracial…she is a brown beauty. I don’t know much about Prada and but always good to see more “types” of beauty celebrated since most of the models on the runways look rather similar.

  • Dom D. McAuliffe

    Who cares? Like someone else said, Prada was not initially geared toward black people. There are plenty of black models and plenty of black websites (such as this one), magazines, etc. that recognize the beauty of black women. We’re doing our own thing, which is what we need to be doing. Stop worrying about whether or not white people include us.

  • Deb

    she’s beautiful but not surprised she’s racially ambiguous facially.

  • Deb

    oops I meant visually.

  • Pepper

    Yet (SOME) black folks keep spending their hard earned money on stuff just because it has a name attached to it. And that’s all it is ….is stuff

  • Pingback: No Props to Prada for Hiring 1 Black Model After 19 Years | TheJusticeTeam

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  • Ms. Vee

    Thank you!! Just don’t buy their products and keep it moving. The desperate need for white validation can’t even be correctly defined as pathetic at this point.

  • Pingback: No Props to Prada for Hiring 1 Black Model After 19 Years |

  • MoodScope

    Who cares? Any black person who feels the need to buy from companies that don’t even cater to them has some issues with keeping their hard-earned money in their pockets.


  • Pepper

    Why (Some) people think what they wear defines them is beyond me. Part of it is trying to impress other people. Gucci this, Louie that (and most of the time they’re fakes). I can see if someone is a bona fide millionaire, and can really afford an item. But if someone makes 30K, or even a 100K a year; that doesn’t justify spending $500, or $1000 on a purse. Just like people that ride around in the hood in a Benz. They wouldn’t (still) be living in the hood if they really could afford a Benz. Warren Buffet is one of the top 5 richest people in the world (Billionaire status), and he wrote around in a pickup truck for years, and lived in a modest home (until his wife convinced him to upgrade). The point being…..he wasn’t trying to impress anyone, and has BANK!!

  • Hays

    Good lord. Who cares about this. And if you actually look at past runway shows, Prada actually is more inclusive than any other fashion house. And to dismiss them over Naomi Campbell back in 1994. Are you kidding. Naomi is still the Queen on runway. And if you want an all ‘non ghetto’ show then do something about it. Who said that a luxury brand can’t come from an all black beginning. Ever thought why that hasn’t happend? Maybe we need to stop buying up all the fakes and start putting our money with them. Carly Cushnie, Duro Olowu, Dexter and Byron Peart, Scott Barrie, Joe Casely-Hayford … hmmm seems we have a lot to go and shop with. Protest by supporting them with your money instead of whinging about white folk campaigns. Yawn.

  • Nic

    Brazil is a major supplier of models and guess what, they have the largest population of black people outside of Africa itself.
    However, the modeling scouts there make a point of chasing down the small percentage of white people who are descendants of Italians and Germans who moved to Brazil after WWII (this includes Gisele…those Europeans are not part African and marry each other, so still 100% white). One of the reasons Americans of all races are so ignorant about the size of the African diaspora is b/c so many countries that have majority populations that are actually black or brown always pick their whitest citizens to represent them in the media (and Brazil does this everywhere except on the soccer field, where they seem to need “us” to win).

    So whether the modeling scouts are in a country that has a majority black population like Brazil OR a country with a reasonable percentage of Black people (like the US), the girls who get “discovered” and scouted or the ones who don’t get turned away when they knock on the doors of the modeling agencies are white.

    I’ve only known a few models but one thing they all had in common was a)they were white and b)they were picked, they didn’t have to hunt it down and weren’t actually looking to be models.

  • Common Sense

    Yet black people run out and pay good money to buy designer apparel and bags even though they act as though you don’t exist!!! This is nothing new. When will people ever learn?!?!?!?!?!?

  • WhatIThink

    The funniest part in all of this is that European leather handbags (and leatherwork in general) was learned from the Africans. One example being the ancestors of the Tuareg who introduced frilly leather bags and tassels into Europe. Another example is the embossed leather tradition that is very ancient in Africa being found in Egypt and elsewhere. Then you have the elaborate bags and casks of the Islamic period in Spain combining African, Persian and other cultural traditions…… All of this is where the Europeans get their ideas from and we turn around and pay them big money for repackaging our ideas. Another example is the cosmetic industry where that also started in Africa, from face painting, body painting to lipstick, hair styling, fragrances and so forth…… And it is no coincidence that these ideas were sucked up and repackaged by the French and others during the colonial period in West Africa. And you wonder why we are attracted to it. Because it is OUR STUFF to begin with…. LOL!

    Black folks need to go to Africa and learn some craft and then they can make the same stuff these white Europeans are making because most of their ideas come from others in the first place. LOL!

    Morocco is a good spot because it is closest to Europe and has the longest history with the leather souks and tanneries which directly influenced the European tradition.

  • WhatIThink
  • J310

    Prada please clean out your closet and get rid of racism. That closet cleaning includes racist store managers like the Miu Miu Beverly Hills store manager that drops the N Bomb. Please Please Please get with the times. Fashion is about moving forward not dragging out the worst things from the past. The model choice shows ethnic diversity but it still evident that the company is still in the past with its ideals.

  • GeorgeLanceRockwell

    It hurts but it’s true: nobody caters to Black people because nobody likes us, we have little monetary value, and we’ll spend money on them anyway. Black people shouldn’t support these businesses and should instead strive to make our own. Black people need to stop going where we are not wanted and stop trying to associate with other races that hate us and all want us dead. Fact is, they’ve succeeded and Black people will be extinct by 2016.

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