Last season, a reported 82.7% of models were white at New York Fashion Week, with only 9.1% Asian, 6% black and 2% Latina. These are startling, yet not surprising numbers. We all know that catwalk models both female and male are made up of a high percentage of white models. In fact, the statistics show that black models still make up less than 25 percent of those walking during fashion month this season. Even the Queen of the catwalk Naomi Campbell recently spoke about the lack of representation of black women in today’s fashion shows.
Criticising casting agents the Supermodel accused them of being reluctant to book non-white models stating “It’s disappointing that they still think before booking models of colour…it shouldn’t be that way in this day and age.
And so as the anticipation grew to see what Kanye would unveil in his Yeezy Season 4 show recognised as an Artist notorious for using a high percentage of black models. On 3rd September Kanye announced the casting call for his show set to be hosted in Roosevelt Island.
And just like that, in less than 140 characters, Kanye had done it again, controversy had been created and Twitter erupted with blacklash, memes and questions.
The media circus that seems to follow Kanye everywhere had been unleased and as the countdown to Yeezy Season 4 begun, many were still side-eyeing the ambiguous casting call. As yes we would be correct in saying that Kanye employs a higher percentage of black models than most other fashion shows, but what we would not be correct in saying is that Kanye’s initial casting call was representative of all black women. “Multiracial” typically means “light skinned”, so what did this mean for dark skinned models?
Kanye later addressed the controversial tweet in a Vogue interview the Artist insisting that the casting call was not intended to exclude anyone least of all black women stating “how do you word the idea that you want all variations of black? How do you word that exactly?”. Well Kanye you answered your own question “all variations of black welcomed” would have sufficed over “multicultural women only”. The issue with Kanye’s casting call is that by seeming to segregate black women, the tweet exacerbated the issue of colourism, the inclination to define whiteness and European features as the epitome of beauty. We see this occurring all the time, it is everywhere we look from health and beauty advertisements, to fashion magazines white-washing black celebrities. Let’s face it when certain publications are referring to Fade video star Teyana Taylor as a “dark skinned woman” this is just one example of the prevalence of colourism in today’s society. And so one could understand why #BlackTwitter was outraged by the seemingly segregated casting call.
As the show begun it was encouraging to see that despite previous concerns, Kanye’s multiracial casting call did in fact include a varying hue of multiracial women, including dark skinned models. Despite all the criticism #YeezySeason4 received, the show was a celebration of various skin tones, body shapes and natural hairstyles. It was encouraging to see various skin tones compliment the natural tones of Yeezy’s designs and was symbolic of what future fashion shows should be representing: diversity. As after all it is just not one colour walking into shopping centres it is everyone.