By Calynn M Lawrence
What is colorism? Well, if you are asking for the literal definition, then colorism would be “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” This according to what you would see on Google. However, if you actually sat down and spoke with a person of color, or minority descent, they would describe colorism to be much more than that.
Is it still real in today’s world? Clearly. Yet, many people fail to realize that colorism does not transcend the modeling industry, it effects models just as much as an everyday person on the street. This article is taking the quotes of three experienced fashion models when asked about the subject. Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Adele, a biracial fashion model who identifies equally with both her Black and White side, has this to say about the matter: “I have faced colorism since the day I stepped into modeling at the age of 13. Because I am someone who does not look like the typical biracial woman, many of times I am told that I am not ‘unique’ enough in appearance to land gigs. Unfortunately, this is done quite a bit by my own Black people. For instance, I went to a casting call for a music video as the lead girl. The ad asked for mixed or multicurtural black women. Being biracial, I thought that was enough. It wasn’t. I got to the call and was immediately rejected and told that if they wanted someone with brown skin and brown eyes that they wouldn’t have listed the adjective ‘mixed.’ Apparently, my blood line is not enough to identify as being biracial. It’s all about having a certain look and it’s terrible.”
Marie, a Filipina actress and model, was deeply touched about the issue and had this to say: “Since, I was a little kid, I would look at the members in my family and wonder why I looked so different from them. Why was their skin so pale, and mine so dark? Why was their hair so straight and mine so wavy? Why were their lips so thin and mine so plump? It wasn’t that I felt that I was less attractive than my mother or my siblings or cousins, but I was certainly the black sheep. It did not matter how many times I was told how beautiful I was by outsiders, I never felt truly accepted. Whenever I would respond to posts needing an Asian model or actress, I was almost always turned away because I don’t look Asian enough. Unfortunately, I had to pass as a Latina woman for many of my jobs because I’m not the typical yellow skinned, straight haired, pretty as a penny Asian model. No matter which way you look at it, it’s not fair. This needs to change. For me to have to pass as a member of a different race just to get hired is inexcusable.”
Lola, an African American fashion model, feels this way on colorism: “You look too ghetto. You look too trashy. You’re not model material. These are things that I was told auditioning for gigs. Now, this is not to shade any of my colored brothers and sisters, but I come from an upper middle class family. Both of my parents have college degrees and good jobs. To me, it seemed cruel to be told such things just because I have afrocentric features, a large rear despite my tiny frame and long extension braids. Sadly, I am always stereotyped as being low class or lesser than, simply because of the way I look. Whereas, you can have a trailer park white girl who gets casted for almost anything she applies to just because she’s got talent. That’s how it should be. Yet, as a black woman, I get criticized ten times as hard because of the color of my skin. This is why I am determined to start a fashion modeling agency when I am older that caters to women of color.”
Colorism is certainly real in today’s society. It is not right, fair, just, what have you. The fact of the matter is that we as a people can not let this go past. Equalizing the playing field for models of all ethnic backgrounds and aesthetic categories should be the next big step for the advancement of fashion.