“She Kept Referring To My Edges As Afro Bits:” Black Models Get Real On What They Go Through In The Industry

March 17, 2017  |  

It’s not news to any woman of color that the fashion industry was not made for us and rarely only checks for women of color when trying to get credit for being diverse. And though Black models have begun routinely calling out the discrimination they face from the casting process to the makeup chair, never have they spoken as candidly as they did in a recent interview with Nana Agyemang for Elle magazine.

After a disappointing experience modeling for a national morning television show in which the makeup artist “had no color in her makeup set to match me and used foundation way lighter than my complexion,” Agyemang decided to talk to eight women who go through what she went through on a daily basis working in the industry. Just a heads up, making Black women’s skin look ashy is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few disturbing accounts.

Kamie Crawford, 24, JAG Models

I once had a job where the client was so nice, the shoot was long and the rate wasn’t amazing, but I wanted to do it regardless. I got there and the hairstylist was Australian. She went in to do my hair and she kept referring to my hair as an afro and my hair was straight this day. She was like “OMG this afro!” and I was like, what the hell are you talking about and she kept referring to my edges as afro bits. In a negative way.

[She said] ‘Omg your afro bits I just can’t get them.’ It was taking so long to do my hair, the client asked what’s going on, we are not on schedule, and she said her afro bits are too difficult for me to do them, I am trying to get them straight. Basically she was blaming it on me and making it seem like my hair and I were the problem but it wasn’t me. My hair was straight but she just didn’t know how to do it. Of course, it’s offensive but I can’t cuss her out and do my job at the same time. These microaggressions add up being a woman of color and others models who aren’t of women of color don’t have to face it.

Ashley Chew, 25, retired

“My issue is because I am fair toned I shouldn’t be the darkest thing in the room, if I look around and see that I am the darkest person in the room with ethnic hair then there is a problem. Even in the black hair care casting white directors will ask for a black girl then I show up and they’re like, ‘No, we want a black girl,’ and that’s happened plenty of times. It’s almost like being too light for the black castings and being too dark for regular casting.”

Tatiana Elizabeth, 22, MSA models

“I remember one time getting my full face of makeup done and I look in the mirror and it’s a completely wrong shade and I am like, What the heck, you’re a makeup artist I don’t understand how you don’t understand how to do all types of skin tones not just one. I have had multiple experiences where I am like this is not how I am supposed to look. Sometimes they’ll use lighter shades or darker shades. I think [some makeup artists] just don’t understand how to do it, so they try to compromise and try to mix and match and make things instead of just having the correct shades because they’re available, but they just don’t have them.

“At this point, I don’t even say anything anymore, I’ll just go into the bathroom and fix it myself. I’ll come out and they’ll say ‘OMG you look amazing’ and I am like ‘yeah because I did it myself.’ It is annoying that I have to go through that and at first I was scared to make those adjustments but at the end of the day I am my own brand and I don’t want to put work out there, whether it’s with a client or for myself, because it’s me, my image—it’s not the makeup artist it’s not anyone, it’s me so I need to make sure that it’s on point.”

Check out the other interviews on Elle.com.

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