Bianca Alexa, who has roughly 90,000 Instagram followers, made a call to action on June 5 when she released a video on the social media platform where she recounts the times she faced discrimination while working as a Black model and how the industry needs to do more to create an inclusive and diverse environment for Black, indigenous people of color. She has subsequently launched the platform, #VisiblyUs, on Instagram to highlight Black models, influencers, hair stylists and makeup artists that brands should be working with.
“I can tell a lot of brands are trying to save face and it seems like a p.r. stunt, especially when they were posting a black square on their [Instagram] feed and then they go radio silent,” she said during a phone interview from Los Angeles. “Now is not the time to be quiet. Brands have so much influence and so many followers.”
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As a black model 90% of the time I have to prep and style my own hair for shoots because the stylist on set doesn’t know how to work with it, and I know many black models deal with this on a regular basis as well. I’ve been on sets where all the other models had clip in extensions dyed to match their straight hair perfectly, except for me. They didn’t even put in the effort to try and find curly clip in’s to match my texture, nor did they know how to style it on set. I had to literally do my own hair because they were breaking it, trying to comb it out as if it were straight. HIRE stylist that know how to work with textured hair. There are so many amazing, talented stylists that KNOW how to properly style black models hair without frying it or damaging it. I’ve been on sets where I am the ONLY black model and the makeup artist didn’t have a shade to match my skin tone, let alone anything darker. Which resulted in the makeup artist applying makeup all the way down to my collarbone to try and make it look like my skin even though it was clearly a completely different color. THIS was for a foundation campaign btw. These are all things that can easily be avoided when you take the time to hire talent and creatives that know how to work with different skin tones and hair textures, but unfortunately this kind of situation happens more often than not. MODELING AGENCIES – Most only rep a handful of black models (if at all). If they already have 1 black model with a similar look they won’t even consider signing more, meanwhile they rep a plethora of similar looking while models. Don’t just sign black models /talent to make your roster seem diverse, and then ignore them. Push for better opportunities and campaigns for your models of color, Push for better rates for them. BRANDS & AGENCIES- You have SO MUCH POWER when it comes to pushing for diversity, in this industry. YOU choose who you want to book for your shoots & campaigns. YOU choose who you want to work with on set, and behind the scenes. YOU choose who you want to give opportunities to. HIRE more black creatives, models, influencers and talent. #blackmodels #shareblackstories #blacklivesmatter
Over the last few weeks, major fashion and beauty brands have responded to the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people across the country with pledges of support to the Black community by offering donations, grants or promises of promoting diversity within their company and their initiatives. #VisiblyUs aims to hold brands accountable to these pledges, as well as give them a resource to find Black creatives to hire.
“I want the platform to shed light on what we often go through in the industry,” she said, “but also be a resource for brands to find talent of color and create equal opportunities and give us the same spaces they give our white counterparts. It can also offer action steps on how we can remain inclusive to the Black community, not just now because it seems like a trend to most brands, but it’s something that should be and continue to be in the future.”
In her video, which now has more than 66,000 views, Bianca Alexa details an experience where she was the only Black model in a photo shoot for a beauty campaign where the hair stylists didn’t have the resources or experience to work with her natural hair texture. She ultimately had to style her own hair, while the other models were given hair extensions that were made to match their hair color and texture.
“I obviously didn’t want to seem like I’m being difficult on set,” she said about the experience. “I know that’s why a lot of models of color are scared to speak up when people are damaging their hair on set because you have to work 10 times harder just to be in that room.”
While Bianca Alexa has experienced other instances of discrimination in the industry — for example when makeup artists don’t have a foundation shade to match her skin tone — she says she’s worked with brands that have created a comfortable and equal environment. Between her modeling and influencer careers, she’s worked with major brands including L’Oréal, Reebok, J. Crew, Nordstrom, NYX and Urban Decay, among others.
Bianca Alexa has already begun spotlighting several Black creatives in the fashion and beauty industry, including makeup artists Bethany Garita and Renée Loiz and models Widny Bazile and Nicki Cheri.
“More brands could actively be like, ‘OK these are the things we need to make sure we’re doing to be inclusive,’ and actually allow more opportunities for Black creators to be able to work in the fashion and beauty industry,” she said on her platform’s goal. “I want it to be a multifunctional page and hopefully it can spark some change that is really needed.”
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