By: Naima Karp
At only 19, Neelam Gill is now a well known face of the prestigious Burberry brand, most notoriously in Mario Testino’s campaign for the brand. She hopes to complete her studies in psych one day, and has an affinity for Drake.
She realizes her role and didn’t even think about her impact in the modeling world, but after scrolling through photos on Style.com, realized that she was the only Indian model. She’s glad to be working with a company that embraces diversity, especially coming from a company that understands that being Caucasian, and being from England, don’t have to be synonymous with each other.
Chanel Iman has spoken out about her experiences of racial discrimination, and talks about the politics involved in the modeling word, in terms of diversity. She had been told, more than once, “we’ve already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.” Out of 148 fall/winter 2014 runways shows, there were only 10 percent black models, and 0.45percent ‘other’, which would include Indian models.
Outside of the runway, advertisers are notorious, as Steven Meisel once put it, for being convinced that black models don’t sell, contrary to the success of heavyweights Iman and Naomi Campbell. Ricardo Tics explains it succinctly: “Of those who cast only white models, he said: “I think that is called laziness. People sometimes think, ‘It’s easier, we’re used to it.’ ”
It was once pretty rare for a black model that wasn’t Naomi to be on the cover of vogue, nonetheless a dark skinned one, yet just recently, Lupita N’yongo graced its over. 2007 was the first year in which we saw an Indian model on the cover, with Bipasha Basu, and Priyanka Chopra, followed by famous Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachnan. Fingers crossed that soon, we’ll see Neelam’s flawless face on there too.
With a multifaceted and strong Indian covergirl plastering magazines all across America, this can be a powerful stepping stone in dismantling stereotypes and encouraging inter-culture education and understanding through a platform that we can all understand: the communal love for the runway, by fashionistas all around the world.