The glitz and glamour of the fashion world might fool one into thinking models have it easy. But that’s not the case most of the times; behind all that glory the modelling industry remains to be swamped with problems like body shaming, labor exploitation and racism.
However, unsurprisingly, the challenges that African-American, Asian and models from other ethnic minorities face to make a place for themselves in this highly competitive industry are far more than what a white model might face.
Just recently, a video-clip from a fashion reality TV show “Model Squad,” which will premiere on E! this month, went viral when Victoria’s Secret model Devon Windsor tried to relate to the struggles of women of color – and let’s just say she failed miserably at it.
The clip from the show, which follows nine in-demand models around New York, featured models sitting and discussing diversity when one of the contestants, Shanina Shaik, whose mother is of Lithuanian descent and father has roots in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, told others how she was repeatedly told she would never be able to do high-fashion because of her skin color.
“I used to get bullied. Because of my skin color I wasn’t gonna be able to do high fashion. A lot of black girls would have to Miss Milan because they weren’t able to walk in the shows because they don’t want girls of that color," said Shaik on the fourth episode of a New York Fashion Week docu-series.
In a baffling back-and-forth, other models including Daniela Braga, Ping Hue and Ashley Moore, shared their experiences and talked openly about how hard it is to succeed when you aren’t white.
"I know it’s super hard to relate to,"said Hue.
But instead of acknowledging their struggles as a very real problem in fashion industry, Windsor became defensive and began to equate her own struggles as a white model to theirs.
“I literally f*****g went through helland literally lived in different countries like every other month and didn’t speak that language,” she said. “I didn’t speak Paris, didn’t speak Italian. And I did that for like, two years.”
Who knew “Paris” was a language.
When fellow model responded by saying she didn’t think Windsor could exactly relate to the turmoil of being different, the Victoria’s Secret model quickly became aggravated and made things worse by doubling down on the “struggles” she faced.
“You know how hard it is to be blonde? I have to get a highlight every month! Do you know how expensive that is?” said Windsor.
Predictably, the fellow models weren’t impressed.
“Oh my God, tiny violin,” said Hue.
Windsor’s distasteful remark didn’t go unnoticed. As soon as the video clip went on air, she got severely criticized, with people calling her out on being extremely self-centered and “petty.”
Shortly after, Windsor took to Twitter to issue an apology.
One of the fellow models, Olivia Culpo, also took to Twitter to defend Windsor by explaining how things can be taken out of context when the shows are edited.
I love you @devwindsor. Please understand information can be taken out of context & misconstrued to manufacture drama. I can assure you Dev has an immensely kind heart and anything that portrays otherwise is a manipulation of her true character ❤️❤️❤️— Olivia Culpo (@oliviaculpo) September 9, 2018
It goes without saying that having to pay for highlights is by no means comparable to the discrimination a person faces because of their skin color, facial features or birth place.
However, what’s more important to understand is the world of fashion, like any other profession, is plagued by systematic marginalization of minority groups. So, instead of trivializing the struggles of others, it’s better to acknowledge how some people really have to break their backs to get somewhere in life.
Though Windsor’s remarks might stemmed out of ignorance, it really is important to educate oneself about the sensitivity of the issue so that the industry can progress in terms of inclusivity and diversity.
Banner Image Credits: Photo by Gotham/GC Images