British model Leomie Anderson has called out stars like Kim Kardashian and the fashion industry as a whole for appropriating fashion and beauty styles from black culture.
In a video for MTV, the 23-year-old model, who has walked for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Jeremy Scott and Victoria’s Secret, explains why cultural appropriation is so problematic in the fashion industry and celebrity culture. She singles out ‘the Kim K “boxer braids” scenario’ as an example, stating ‘That’s a hairstyle that’s very traditional to black culture, and they’re saying […] “Oh, Kim K started this new trend” […] it’s really insulting, I would say.’
In reference to the dichotomy between designers’ desire to take aspects of black culture to use in their work, and their apparent unwillingness to cast black models in their shows, Leomie adds ‘They take a lot of inspiration from black culture – African art, for example – and then when it doesn’t translate onto the runway, of course it does make people upset – why are we not included?’
Eloquently summing up fashion’s diversity problem, she concludes that ‘we’re in a weird situation right now – so much is happening that’s inspired by black culture, but we’re still not being included in the end result.’
It’s not the first time that Leomie has spoken out about the issues faced by black models working in the industry. During last month’s round of A/W’16 shows, the model took to Twitter to call out the make-up artists who arrive backstage unprepared to work on darker skin tones.
‘'Of course I get given to the makeup artist who had ONE brown foundation she was trying to mix with white on a sly because she's not equipped,’ she tweeted. ‘Why can a white model […] sit in anyone’s chair and feel confident they’ll look okay but black models have to worry?’
It’s a depressingly frequent scenario that’s caused Leomie to create a ‘Black Model Survival Kit’ video on her blog, Cracked China Cup, with the aim of helping others ‘survive the black model mishaps that you come up against.’ Speaking to MTV about her experiences, Leomie said: ‘As a black model you always feel like you have to bring extra stuff or be prepared that you are maybe going to be spoken to in a certain way at a casting or at a job. It’s just really unfair.’
Veteran model Naomi Campbell recently backed up Leomie’s comments in an interview with Teen Vogue, explaining ‘When I was younger, I encountered this same issue. I would be backstage at shows and there would be stylists who didn’t have any experience working with black models […] I’d always just bring my own products – my own make-up colours, hair products, everything – just to be sure that I had everything I needed to achieve a certain look. It’s disappointing to hear that models of colour are still encountering these same issues all these years later.’