Modelling Agencies: A positive advocate for diversity?

Personal History.

Let’s go back in time to a little over a year ago, the summer before my senior year in high school. This was a time where I was constantly being asked “What do you want to do with your future?” As a result, a group of friends and I took a trip downtown to attend the university fair where I visited many different university booths, including Carleton, McGill, U of T and of course Ryerson!

I walked up to the Fashion Communications booth of the Ryerson section and met Ben Barry who, I would later find out, is a very well known and liked professor at Ryerson University. We had a nice long chat about the program and my views on fashion as an industry and my aspirations for it’s future. I departed from the booth with a huge grin on my face, feeling encouraged to pursue my passions for the fashion industry no matter what! After getting into Ryerson, not for fashion but for business, I decided I would not let my love for the industry die.

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Ben Barry, Professor of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Ryerson University

Fast forward to Jan 19th, roughly a week ago, to when I stumbled upon an article in the Huffington Post about the importance of diversity in fashion and not just that, but the role that modelling agencies play in the advancement of diversity in this industry. The article was called:

“Diversity In Fashion: The Important Role Modelling Agencies Play” written by Philip Mak

To my surprise, as I was reading along, I saw that Ryerson’s very own Ben Barry had contributed to Elle Canada Magazine about the topic. Philip Mak, the author of this article, was referencing Barry’s opinions to reinforce his own views of diversifying through the models used in our day-to-day advertisements.

Now, it is important for a brand to be conveyed properly through the selected model and they do indeed need to display the clothing or product well, but these are also the individuals who have influence on the growing social movements of self-love, empowerment and inclusion. As modelling agencies cast more diverse and ‘realistic’ looking models; in the sense that they are outside of the stereotypical blonde, thin and white ideal of what a model should look like. Modelling agencies are given the chance to open up peoples minds to the previously unprecedented possibility that our communities are made up of a diverse collective of ‘everyday‘ people, and that maybe it is these types of people who should be shown to us in our day-to-day lives through media.

With this realization that the majority of the people in our communities do not fit the stereotypical ‘model’ mold and modelling agencies changing based on this realization; the most influential group in society, teens and young adults, are beginning to see a more realistic reflection of themselves in the world around them.

Model Shaun Ross

Shaun Ross (left), is an amazing African American Albino model who is represented by many agencies all over the world like; Elite Paris, Next LA and Joy Models . Chantelle ‘Winnie’ Harlow (right), is an outstanding African American model who has a skin disease called Vitiligo, and is represented by d’Management Group. It is models and agencies like these that are vital in making waves in the industry, with the influential power they hold.

Model Chantelle “Winnie” Harlow

Shaun and Chantelle are members of the modelling community, who are helping redefine what it means to be beautiful and what it takes to be successful. What you look like should not be a limitation on what you want to do or who you want to be in life. By casting models of all different backgrounds, genders, and body types it opens people’s minds, and inevitably can change both the perspective you have of yourself and how you view others. Either way, this is an important shift in mindset that, needs to happen.

Below is a photo of model Slant Array, photographed by Ben hopper for his “Natural Beauty” project. She is featured with both arms above her head showing off her under arm hair, with a bare face and what would be deemed as unconventionally beautiful’ facial features. Her hair is short, opposed to long, which has been a part of the media’s beauty standards for women for a long time. Ultimately, the photo is meant to display her completely natural and realistic beauty. Projects such as this one are important and should be shared on our media outlets to spread the word of what it truly means to be beautiful.

Professional model, Slant Array.  Photo shot by Ben Hopper

The opportunity to continue diversifying this industry and supporting self-love is truly in the hands of modelling agencies, as terrifying as it might sound it could be one of the best things to happen for this generation. Modelling agencies have never been as powerful and influential, so with this chance to advocate for the large portion of our population who are not appropriately represented in media, it is so important that the necessary steps are taken towards a more accepting and diverse future. This is a generation, that is so much more aware of social issues and concerned with social change than ever before. I have no doubt, that with this start, accompanied by encouragement and support, that we can expect to see a large shift in the modelling and fashion industries for the better.

Thank you & check out the article that inspired this post here!

Check out Ben Barry’s article here!

Find me on instagram @_ksyd

-lahlah xx

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