The Good & The Bad of the Diversity Trend in Fashion
PHOTOGRAPHER: LULA HYERS
STYLIST: MIA JACKSON
MAKEUP ARTIST: KEYANA BANKS
TALENT: ALIYAH MONET
STYLIST ASSISTANT: WILL GAMBINO
When did you know you wanted to be a model and who in your life has influenced you?
Honestly, modeling began for me out of an interest in fashion. I have always been into style so when I began posting more photos on social media, friends of mine from the New York artist scene started to ask me to model for their projects. After getting casted for the Yeezy show in 2016, I began to take modeling more serious.
My dad got me into streetwear since a kid so it always stuck with me. I like the raw, New York gritty style. As far as celeb influences, I always liked Missy Elliot, Left Eye, Old Dirty Bastard and so many more. Hip hop has been a huge influence on my life and style.
How do you correlate music, modeling and your work as an activist in the community?
It is so hard to find a balance when you have more than one creative outlet.
Modeling is how most people know me, but now I am ready to reveal music and short films. I have also been working on community organizing by throwing art shows and meetings to create safe spaces for lower income artists of color. I’ve decided to create a platform where all my mediums will meet in one place and am working on visuals as we speak to display on my website. There you will be able to find my modeling portfolio, music and the “Native” documentary, a series showing the real effects of gentrification.
What positive changes would you like to see in the industry?
The industry needs more diversity in front as well as BEHIND the scenes. There aren’t enough black narratives actually directed or curated by black people. I believe we can find a balance where black creatives are trusted with budgets to share their stories.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
I’m pretty transparent, but I would say most people don’t know that I’m sporty. I played basketball and volleyball in high school. I’m pretty much interested in, and have played, most sports. I’m super competitive haha.
Diversity has become part of the cultural conversation in a way that hasn’t existed until now. Why do you think this is?
I believe social media has become a huge influence on who is pushed to the forefront in mainstream media. It’s basically like a public online portfolio – so now magazines, agencies, record labels have all started to source talent from the internet.
Is there a danger of diversity becoming a major trend–something cool that big brands can exploit for personal gain? Does it even matter if you’re still disrupting the norm?
That all depends on the creatives of color, in my opinion. We must keep pushing culture forward and demanding budgets from these major brands. I have definitely seen the pros and cons of the diversity trend. Some artists are exploited for little to no pay and it’s not cool.
Why is it so important to use one’s platform?
It’s important to speak your mind, especially in these times of change. We are in a transitional period where traditions are being reformed – and many do not want to let go. Social media creates a voice for artists, entrepreneurs, etc. to share their truth and their perspective. Mindsets have changed about diversity, gender norms, body positivity and much more due to the knowledge presented.
What advice can you give aspiring models who what to be apart of the fashion industry?
Consistency is key. Even when you’re not working on a paid shoot, it’s always productive to collab with other artists. So while you’re working on your portfolio, you can brand yourself and have awesome content. Also personality matters now, unlike before, so don’t be scared to be yourself.