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Serena, Vogue and Fashion’s Lack of Diversity

Diversity In The Fashion Industry

Diversity in the fashion industry has been a topic of conversation for some time – dating back to the 60s and 70s when the industry was virtually colorless. Although there were arguably more designers of color then, it sparked questions of how America could be considered a melting pot, yet segregation reigned supreme.

Lack of diversity on the runway and in the glossy pages of today’s top publications is disheartening – and although some progress has been made, it doesn’t seem to be moving fast enough to reconcile past discrepancies. Why are women of color consistently absent from magazine covers?

I never chalked it up to racism – although that might be part of it; we’re just not on folks’ radar. That is, Black women.

We are not the standard of beauty, still. Between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of white models at New York Fashion Week has remained more or less around 80 percent.

We also represent a very small percentage of Fashion Week designers. Less than 3% to be exact.

However, every once and a while, I’m pleasantly surprised to see a person of color serving up some editorial realness on a magazine cover.

Case in point: Serena Williams

Case in point: Serena Williams’ hair-blowing-in-the-wind Vogue cover.

This comes just one year after the world gave the side eye to the Kim & Kanye cover and an article titled “We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty,” in which a Vogue writer goes on about how big backsides are just now being considered the norm. Vogue, where have you been? Or the OBSESSION with cultural appropriation (last year baby hairs made their debut on the runway) – however, this cover is helping to restore my faith, a little.

It’s hard to constantly not see people that look like me represented on the covers of magazines that I constantly read. But on those rare occasions when I do, I have to give a slow clap. People, we are making strides even if they are at a glacial pace.

Serena is exuding elegance, confidence and grace and I am pleasantly surprise to see not just a Black woman on the cover, but a killer athlete. (Side note: Her 7/11 remake video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7AF5294ED4) for Vogue.com shot using a GoPro is pretty awesome.)

Williams’ body has often been criticized for being too muscular and not feminine enough. And the industry has too been criticized for perpetuating an unhealthy standard of what a model should be – hiring rail-thin girls versus taking a more diverse approach and accepting a wide range of body types.

I certainly don’t have all of the answers. I don’t expect to see people that look like me suddenly become covergirls on the regular. However, a healthy mix of women of color on runways and magazine covers shouldn’t be too much to ask for. Especially given the buying power of women of color –it’s nearly $1 trillion per year. And that figure is rising.

So kudos Serena!

I see you.

Black girls for the win.

  • Tyshan Broden

    Yes! These baby steps are long over due but I praise God for them all the same.