Ashley Chew, Ajak Deng & others.

The Forbidden Fruit | Imani Lee | March 25, 2016

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#BlackModelsMatter was first seen last September when model Ashley B. Chew was photographed by street style photographers with the black tote bag stating “Black Models Matter“. And since then, stories have appeared on multiple networks and the bag could be seen worn by many on Instagram, making it even more popular.

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But, it’s more than just a simple fashion statement. Model Ashley Chew has walked for designers such as Antonio Urzi and Hendrik Vermeulen in New York and Miami, experiencing the lack of diversity firsthand. It’s these experiences that prompted her to create her viral blog, coining the phrase. When asked what inspired the phrase, she states: “It wasn’t really a deep thought, when painting “Black Models Matter” on the bag, nothing premeditated. It was just natural.” 


Sudanese-Australian model Ajak Deng has also been seen on Instagram with the bag when she announced earlier in February that she would be retiring from the modeling industry due to discrimination. She has been continuously outspoken about racism and her own experiences in the fashion industry. Deng took to Twitter and Instagram during her announcement about how she was kicked out of Balmain tweeting,“I know a lot of black models would rather kiss someone’s a** than being honest but guessed what? I do not gaged [give] a damn f***”. She returned to Instagram later in the month to let her fans know she wouldn’t be giving up on the being a black model so easily.

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So many other black models have continued to speak out more and more often about their experiences and the effects of the lack of diversity on the runway and in print. White-washing of the runway just will not stand anymore. British model Leomie Anderson tweeted on Feb. 17, “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.” South Sudanese model Nykhor Paul wrote a heated post on her Instagram, “Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up wtf. Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive for all not only white people.”


Though designer and Project Runway judge Zac Posen has stepped up making headlines as he has been casting predominately black models for brands like Yeezy and Hood by Air, maintaining strong diversity. He’s also cast almost all women of color for his own line which was inspired by Princess Elizabeth of Toro, who is a lawyer from Uganda who was the first East African woman to be admitted to the English bar. “Diversity is very important, and it is something that has always been equally important to me as well as a key component of my collections, whether it is shapes sizes or skin color,” Posen told  Style Mic. “We live in a diverse world, and it is essential it is represented within the fashion industry.”

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Models of color are speaking out louder and making bold statements with stories of their experiences and the hard facts about the state of the industry, but we’ve still got a ways to go.