The New Face Of Prada Is Black, The First In Almost 20 Years

July 3, 2013  |  


With the noticeable lack of minorities in high fashion, it has been a sweet surprise for many to know that 19-year-old Kenyan, Malaika Firth, has been cast as the new face of Prada. This hasn’t happened since Naomi Campbell was named the face of the high fashion label’s ads in 1994 – almost 20 years ago.

Over the course of the years it seems there has been an almost blatant exclusion of women of color from high fashion runways, fashion spreads, and print ads for any number of reasons. Things have even become so sparse that folks have gone as far as to have white models in blackface for certain fashion spreads or white models with arms painted black for runway shows. And though much uproar has been made about this or that, things have seemed slow to change as even Firth has admitted that she has been dismissed from model castings because she was “non-white.” But with Firth’s casting, and model Joan Smalls dominating runways, changes are happening.

Fashion designer Raf Simons seems to have received the memo that we are living in a progressive age as he also recently cast six minority models for his recent runway show for Dior. He hadn’t used any non-white models prior, and because of that, Simons has been criticized for the lack of color in his castings in the past.

One can never really be sure if these changes are happening as a result of designers trying to cover themselves after allegations of unfair casting due to race came up, or if they really are trying to be progressive and incorporate more cultures into high fashion in a non-stereotypically offensive way.

Either way, we’re glad to see more models of color being showcased, including this Kenyan beauty.

Have you noticed that there have not really been many women of color in high fashion? Or do you think things have improved?

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  • TheTroof

    She’s gorgeous, that is no doubt. But I’m not surprised or in shock because she has “soft features.” I saw a documentary on models, I forgot where. But one of the modeling agents said “we are basically looking for white girls dipped in chocolate” when we recruit black women. Are we moving forward with this pick for Prada? No. Not really. A soft-featured, light-skinned black woman has always been lauded. No difference here. so there’s no surprising-element to this. Maybe if they chose Alek Wek or Jessica White. Anyway! she’s beaaautiful, so I’m so glad they chose her nonetheless. =]

    • Andrani

      “The Color of Beauty” was the name of the documentary.

      • TheTroof

        Thanks !

  • kierah

    get your money, honey!

  • Kenedy

    Ayyy team 254!

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  • Andrani Rosalila Foster

    The fact that we have to celebrate the fact that this girl is the first black face of Prada in 20 years speaks volumes. We don’t celebrate when we see a white model because they dominate the industry. No need to celebrate something we see all the time. When black girls get to that level, then I can say we have some progress. You don’t have to be involved in the industry to notice the blatant exclusion of black women. One or two token black models is enough for a show. At any top modeling agency in NYC, out of 50 models, only 4 or 5 will be black. And they’ve filled their quota. But inclusion is far from equality. And even less obvious to the general public is the kind of features that agents look for on the black girls they choose. Most, if not all, have narrow noses. You will never see a black model with “stereotypical” African features: wide nose,far apart eyes, big lips, because these features designers and agents deem as ugly. And, typically, in order for a black model to succeed, she has to be advocated for by someone in power. Naomi got in because the late Gianni Versachi advocated for her. When he died, his line was taken over by less open minded people. This is a topic no one speaks about but is so widespread and deeply entrenched in the fashion industry.