News & Runway

This Black Model Is Calling Out the Industry by Recreating Whitewashed Campaigns

True, the fashion industry is more inclusive than it was five, ten years ago. Season over season, more models of color walk the catwalks and peer back at us from major ad campaigns than ever before. Still, during the most recent (Fall 2016) ad season, white models were cast 76.7 percent of the time, while only 11.2 percent of jobs went to black women.

Liberian model and blogger Deddeh Howard is understandably tired of seeing the same (white) faces dominating billboards and fashion glossies while other stunning, qualified, diverse models are needlessly overlooked.

She’s also over competing with fellow black models for the limited opportunities afforded them. “Even though I was told by agencies that I have an amazing look and [they] wish they could represent me, they already have a black model. Besides having an abundance of white models. It seemed as if one or two black models on the roster are enough to represent us all. When you are told that, trust me, it feels bizarre,” the model lamented on her blog. But rather than hang her head in defeat, Howard decided to prove her capabilities in the clearest way possible — through pictures.

In a series of images called the Black Mirror project, she and photographer Raffael Dickreuter (who just so happens to be Howard’s beau) recreated major campaigns that originally featured white models. The perfectly executed shots serve as proof of Howard’s skills and the absurdity of pigeonholing models based on their skin tone.

When choosing which adverts to reproduce, Howard looked to brands that repeatedly shun models of color. “The first criterion was to identify brands that truly never or almost never use black models and where we felt strongly that black models would look great representing them as well. We were surprised to find out that there were so many of them,” Howard told Mic. “Then for each brand we tried to find a shot that was ideally famous and striking at the same time and that would look great when being re-shot. In the end it was important to have a diverse collection of different products as well, covering sunglasses, bags, jewelry, etc. to cover a broad range of the fashion industry.”

Ultimately, Howard and Dickreuter targeted Chanel, Guess, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, David Yurman and Louis Vuitton, to name a few. (Might we suggest the next round feature Valentino and Moschino?) Check out the telling shots in the slideshow below.