By Lennox Samuels
It's a story as common as it is familiar in the fashion industry: a young man flies to New York seeking his fortune in one of the world's preeminent fashion capitals. A tall and striking ethnic mix of black, white, and Latino, with blue eyes, light skin, and brown-auburn ringlets falling to his shoulders, he hopes to make it as a model. But every agency tells him some variation on "we already have one like you." Apparently, the fashion industry has room for only one "exotic" model at a time. The young man later decides to abandon modeling as a career.
Minority models continue to face high odds in their efforts to scratch a good living from fashion. Many designers and labels, from big-name Italy-based conglomerates like Prada to such home-grown powerhouses as Donna Karan, round up the usual prospects when runway season comes around. As for appearing in ad campaigns, the sort of work that lands a model in the glossy pages of Vogue, GQ, Elle, W, Details, and other magazines—and where the big money is made—it may take as long for a minority model to become the "face" of Dolce & Gabbana as it took for a black thespian to win the Academy Award for best actress.
Photo: Preparations backstage at Gucci’s spring 2011 runway show included mounting photos of the models—a couple of them minority—who were to appear on the catwalk. The international brand’s slick print ads rarely, if ever, stray from using all white models. NEWSWEEK received no response to a fax asking for comment about the label's model-hiring practices.