If you thought Black models had it bad in the U.S., Ajak Deng is here to tell you the struggle is 10 times worse in Australia, so much so that she’s decided to leave the industry altogether.
On Tuesday, the Sudanese-Australian beauty announced her departure from the modeling industry on Instagram, stating:
“Put your best foot forward. I am happy to announce that I am officially done with the fashion industry, I will be moving back to Australia In order to live the life that I fully deserved. Which is real life. I can no longer deal with the fakes and the lies. My life is too short for this dramatic life. I am thankful and grateful for every sweet souls that I have crossed path with.”
Stephen Bucknall, of FRM Model Management, confirmed suspicions the frustrations Deg was referring to had to do with being a model of color in the fashion business. The manager told The Herald Sun that he struggles to book Australian jobs for Deng, despite the fact she’s appeared in campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.
“Ajak has said to me many times, it saddens her there isn’t more work for dark-skinned girls in Australia, as she would like to book more work here. The budgets probably aren’t big enough for (Deng), because she’s a big money earner, but they will spend the money on a Miranda Kerr or a Jess Hart.
“They’ll book the big caucasian girls, spend the big dollars, and fly them in from LA, but I’m yet to see them book a dark-skinned girl in that way. The Australian market doesn’t want to take the risk of using darker models as mainstream models. But if you go to New York, you’ll see African-American, Asian, and all these diverse cultures. Australia just doesn’t get it.”
It’s not often diversity in the fashion industry in the U.S. is praised, but knowing the struggle models of color have here gives a measure of just how difficult things must be in Australia for our racial inclusion to be idealized. So far, Deng hasn’t said what she plans to do next, but we love the model’s last IG post in which she announced: “I am a survivor.”