It seems like I’ve been in the fashion industry for at least a decade, but it’s only been about five years now that I’ve been working full-time. If you add on the four years of interning then it’s been about nine years in an industry that I so dearly love but cannot for the life of me understand why its major issues have yet to be solved.
When I was interning at magazines in college, I wanted to be a fashion editor so badly. There were moments when I thought to myself, ‘even though I’m here at 3 a.m., not getting paid, it doesn’t matter because I love fashion!’ Crazy, right? But when you love it, you really love it. Not only the clothes, but the designers, the aspirations, the creativity, and everything that comes with the lifestyle that fashion magazines sell.
I was fully aware that I was the only woman of color on the floor at any given time, and the only time I ever saw other people of color was when I went down and said hello to the cafeteria employees. It always bothered me, and I consistently yearned for more diversity but as an assistant some things just aren’t up to you—in fact most things aren’t your decision other than how fast you run to get your bosses morning latte. Every day I would go into the office and be surrounded by girls of privilege, who fit into sample sizes and frequently wore Chanel even though we were unpaid; so it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I’m curvy, black and had to work at a steakhouse restaurant on the weekends to be able afford Targeé (Target). What got me through those extremely frustrating times was reminiscing on the moments where I would talk to my mom about fashion and why I loved it so much. I don’t think she ever quite understood my fascination, but I know that she wanted me to feel like I could belong in an industry that was so shallow despite the challenges.
I’ve talked before about my mother telling me to be what I needed when I was younger—and that’s been an interesting reminder along this journey. There’s a line of integrity and being able to put out content that you’re proud of, but there’s also the work you’re required to do, sometimes at publications that are only interested in clickbait and not actually moving the conversation to a positive space. I’ve come to realize that my motto of being what I needed when I was younger is more important now than when I was daydreaming putting up Vogue covers in my room. It’s not just a feeling to be able to see women that look like me in publications, but it’s now a requirement to be inclusive on all levels or I just can’t support it any longer. There’s a sense of responsibility that I think about constantly now—I don’t have the option of taking my position in fashion lightly, and I have no other choice but to find women doing amazing things that don’t fit the mold of what publications only choose to support.
For years, I would try to justify publications that only featured the same five blondes on a cover every year insisting that it was because of sales, or movies with a cast of women that look nothing like real women thinking that maybe that’s what the studio had to do and be happy that a woman got a part in the first place. But I just can’t do that anymore. There are no real excuses for not being inclusive in 2016, and I’d like to think that the content I produce and the women I write about are the best reasons to keep pushing, and keep calling people out on their shortcomings. It’s no longer ignorance—there’s a definite divide in fashion of people that want to do better and know more about women of color, curve women, transgender women, women with disabilities, and then there’s people who have the knowledge, but prefer to stick to what they know: out of touch and extremely exclusive. It’s those publications and that type of thinking that won’t last long, it’s only a matter of time before millennials start voicing their opinions even more about what we want to see and how we want our generation to be represented.
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