I don’t flip through Vogue magazine very often. But when I find myself tempted in the supermarket checkout line, I can’t help but notice that scant few of the glossy pages feature faces with colour that hasn’t been professionally applied.
The Colour of Beauty — the NFB’s latest film to come out of its Work For All project — is a short documentary about racial discrimination in the fashion industry, directed by Elizabeth St. Philip. I watched a preview of the film several weeks ago, and I can tell you that watching Black model Renee Thompson navigate the predominantly pale fashion world is an uncomfortable experience.
While everyone involved in the biz points the finger at someone else, few will debate the fact that models of colour get less work, and are far less likely to succeed than their caucasian counterparts.
The film asks important questions, which producer (and occasional Art Threat contributor) Aisling Chin-Yee lays out in an accompanying blog post:
Why isn’t the multi-cultural society that we live in reflected in our magazines, on billboards and on the runways of fashion shows? And who are the parties involved in this industry’s lack of diversity? Does the answer lie somewhere in the back rooms of fashion magazines or in the offices of casting directors of fashion shows? Is it something that is discussed at advertising agencies, or between designers and modelling agencies?
The Colour of Beauty doesn’t have all the answers, but it will definitely make you wonder why white folks have a privileged place behind the lens of the fashion industry.