Apparently the fashion and advertising world didn’t learn anything from the bad press Vogue Magazine received when they ran a photo layout with black face models in April.
Now, Dunkin’ Donuts has apologized and pulled advertising for its campaign in Thailand that shows a black face model offering a chocolate doughnut with the caption: “Break every rule of deliciousness.”
The Thailand Dunkin’ Donuts initially responded that the outrage amounted to “paranoid American thinking,” and noted that their sales have been up in that country, but Human Rights Watch said it was unacceptable that an international brand advocate this style of marketing. The Dunkin’ Donuts corporate office in Canton, Massachusetts, recognizing “the insensitivity of this spot,” stepped in and ended the ad campaign.
But the re-occurring black face trend may say something about the modeling industry’s hiring practices, as illustrated at New York Fashion Week during September.
According to the annual analysis by the fashion website Jezebel.com, while New York Fashion Week featured 4,637 “looks,” or outfits displayed on the runway, white models made up 80 percent of them. “That's a number that, if you look at the charts, we're growing familiar with,” notes the report, referring to the past four years of Fashion Week studies.
“Fewer than 1,000 looks were given to women who were not white, mostly black and Asian women, with some non-white Latina women sneaking in there,” according to the analysis. Women of other ethnicities, like Middle Eastern women, were barely seen.
Many of the same models of color who appeared this year were regulars in past years, suggesting the industry is reluctant to hire new models that aren’t white, but instead is relying on the same faces. And designers “boosted their numbers only because of a select black or Asian model who wore more than one look,” according to Jezebel.com.
Angered by the fact that diversity in fashion appears to be slipping rather than improving, ex-model Bethann Hardison recently launched a campaign aimed at outing designers who cast only white models. In an open letter sent in September to the fashion governing bodies in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, Hardison noted: "Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism."
The letter comes on the heels of British catwalk model Jourdan Dunn’s shocking July tweet that revealed she had multiple experiences being cancelled for catwalk shows for being "colored." That’s not a new experience: In late 2011, model Marcia Mitchell described on the Models Alliance website about being told by an agency, “We’re not doing black girls right now.”
Dunn told the Guardian September 23 she wants to speak up about the lack of diversity in casting: "The people who control the industry … say if you have a black face on a magazine cover it won't sell, but there's no real evidence for that. It's lazy." Dunn said that "People think that all models get treated the same, but there is still a lot of bull-s*** that happens."
While the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, or ethnic origin, models are not covered by the majority of labor and anti-discrimination laws because they are considered “independent contractors” and are hired based physical appearance.
About the Author D.A. Barber spent nine years in Los Angeles as both a print and radio journalist (commercial and non-commercial radio). He received a 1981 Los Angeles Press Club Award for work on a two-part print series on smog, wrote for virtually every major publication in the area, and authored over 90 local and national radio reports as well as producing several weekly radio news shows - one which aired state-wide in California, and another state-wide in Arizona. Barber went on to briefly become news director for an east coast commercial radio station and feature writer for the Utica Observer-Dispatch before returning to the southwest as Program Director for a non-commercial radio station, producer of two non-commercial radio documentaries on environmental issues, writer for the University of Arizona, and writer/analyst for a Energytrend.com. Barber wrote for the University of Arizona News Services’ Report on Research for six years, and co-authored the first edition of Insider’s Guide to Tucson. His print material has appeared in a number of national and regional publications, including Backpacker, American Desert Magazine, New Age Journal, In Business, East West Journal, L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles Reader, Ecology Digest, Tucson Weekly, Inside Tucson Business, Biz AZ, and Los Angeles Herald Sunday Magazine, Huffington Post, and USAonRace.com.