‘Dear white people in the fashion world, it’s time you people get your shit right’
In a new interview with style.com, Sudanese model and former face of Louis Vuitton Nykhor Paul has responded to her Instagram post that attracted widespread attention last month. Paul directed her post at white people in the industry, particularly make-up artists, claiming that she had to bring her own make-up products to shows. What followed was a fresh debate about race in fashion – one which she weighs in on in this interview.
“I’ve been in this industry for a long time, so it wasn’t one thing that set it off,” Paul responds, when asked what prompted her post. “It’s been a constant battle. Dealing with all the make-up issues, skin issues, hair issues, it makes you feel inadequate, especially when you’ve come to work geared up and ready to do your job as a mannequin. This is not just something I’m going through – a lot of girls are going through this.”
And on the debate that followed, she says, “Everything has been positive except for a few people online. The complaints I have gotten have been from people who feel I was attacking their race, but anyone who reads my comments carefully knows that wasn’t my intention.” The tendency for white people to take wider issues to do with race personally is a conversation recently reared its head – just look at the way Taylor Swift responded to Nicki Minaj’s criticism of racism in the music industry as a direct insult?
But Paul is quick to affirm the power of social media in the ongoing battle against racism: “I love social media,” she says. “I always say people don’t have room to be racist anymore; it will be picked up by some social media, someone will tape it and expose them.”
As for a solution to fashion industry racism, Paul’s opinion is clear. “I do feel people need to expand their idea of what black models can do. Black beauty can be Chanel, black beauty can be Dior, it can be Lancôme and all those things. Clients can have a narrow definition of beauty.”
“...people need to expand their idea of what black models can do. Black beauty can be Chanel, black beauty can be Dior” – Nykhor Paul
But Paul says there are signs that change is afoot. The model notes Vivienne Westood, for whom she has walked multiple times, as a designer who is leading the way towards more inclusive runways. Westwood is known for pioneering catwalk shows with diverse models. In the past she has been outspoken about racism in the industry, once suggesting that editors should be “forced” to use a certain proportion of models of colour.
Read Nykhor Paul’s original Instagram post below:
“Dear white people in the fashion world! Please don't take this the wrong way but it’s time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up wtf! Don’t try to make me feel bad because I am blue black, it’s 2015 go to MAC, Bobbi Brown, Make Up Forever, IMAN Cosmetics, Black Opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carry them plus so much more. There are so much options our there for dark skin tones today. A good make-up artist would come prepared and do their research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect, especially at a show! Stop apologising it’s insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn’t help, seriously! Make an effort at least! That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that has issues with black skin tones. Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I’m tired of complaining about not getting booked as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologising for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernise and copy it! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?”