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Diverse models rock! 

VARIETY: Models of Diversity

"WHERE ARE all the black models?" That is a question that has been asked but rarely answered for decades. In a cutthroat industry based on appearance and extreme cases of nepotism, the struggle for diversity continues.

One woman who is working fiercely to represent that within the fashion industry is Angel Sinclair, founder of Models of Diversity – a nationwide charity promoting diversity and equality throughout the fashion and beauty industry by working to support models of all shapes, sizes and disabilities who need help in creating the platform for their beauty to be seen and heard. 

"I was scouted by Gok Wan for the TV show Miss Naked Beauty in 2008. The show was about body confidence and I was the oldest contestant on there,” recalls the model scout. “Being around a diverse range of women made me realise that you didn’t really hear a lot about body confidence at that time and it was refreshing for me to see different women.

From there, I started to do my research and ask questions; where were the black models, where were the disabled models, where were the petite models? So I decided to start up a campaign and I named it Models of Diversity.”

The agency has a key advantage over its competitors like Storm and Models 1, as it actually holds a diverse roaster of talent and owns that title proudly. “What really gets to me is there’s all these credited agencies; you’ve got Storm, NEXT, Models 1 and more, but when you have a look at the models that they’re claiming to be models of colour, they’re actually not. They might be white Brazilian models or models that have some kind of olive skin, and they use that to claim they champion diversity when they don't. That’s why it’s important to me to honestly represent diversity across different areas.”

FOUNDER: Angel Sinclair

Since its inception, Models of Diversity has made some great headway in the industry; from Kelly Knox and Jack Eyre – two disabled models from Models of Diversity – walking Teatum Jones show at London Fashion Week in February 2017, to their on-going campaign to increase diversity amongst high street brands.

“Jack was one of the first amputee models to walk in that show so it was a major accomplishment for MoD,” enthuses Sinclair. “Also, our relationship with high street brands continues to progress. What we try and do is speak out to a lot of them and for the most part, they’ll ask us to tell them more so the conversation is going somewhere.” 

But Sinclair is keen to let people know that these accomplishments still remain few and far between, specifically with models of colour and in particular black models. “I can tell you that models of colour definitely face the hardest time in the fashion industry,” she reveals. “But also, a lot of models of colour are too scared to speak out, because they think if they do, it’ll cost them their livelihood. So they’ll accept the treatment that they are receiving from casting directors, modelling agents and at castings.

That’s why I commend people like Naomi Campbell, Iman and Jourdan Dunn in particular, who speaks out about the discrimination black models face.”

Models like Jourdan Dunn and most recently Leomie Anderson, have been key in speaking out about the lack of representation for black models and have used their platform to do so.

GATEKEEPERS: Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell

Sinclair encourages her models to do the same and to not fear what may come. “What we try and do with MoD is encourage our models to speak out, because if you don’t, nothing is going to change. That’s why I was over the moon when British Vogue appointed Edward Enninful as the editor-in-chief; it’s going to make a huge difference because this guy is all about diversity.”
The appointment of Enninful – a British Ghanaian – as the editor of the UK’s leading fashion magazine will hopefully represent a change on British newsstands with more diverse faces on the covers of magazines. At a time where Naomi Campbell hasn’t been on the cover of British Vogue in 14 years – whilst Kate Moss covers the same magazine 1-2 times a year – a clear sign of change is needed here in the UK.
“You go into a newsagents in the UK what do you see? You see a lot of the magazine covers are of white women, but in America, you see a lot of different nationalities. Hopefully we’ll continue to see that change here.”

While representation remains a prevalent issue, Sinclair credits social media as to why more black models are getting better work.

“Social media is great, because models are now able to represent themselves. A lot of the time, agencies will say to them ‘oh we’ve got a model that already looks like you’ but now models are finding their own work, getting in contact with upcoming designers, photographers and brands, and most of this is happening on Instagram.

Instagram has become a really good platform for models of colour to get work.”

In this day and age, Instagram is the ultimate modelling portfolio, creating a new generation of "insta-models" that brands can't get enough of. With Sinclair’s social media savvy approach to the modelling industry, coupled with her quest for a diverse fashion utopia, the mother-of-four is keen to develop this emerging trend of black models flourishing on social media.

“We’re always looking for more models, and we’re specifically looking for disabled people of colour to get in touch with us who may be interested in modeling,” shares Sinclair. “We do run model workshops, test shoots, and we cater for people on low income or on benefits.”

Beyond looking out for models, Models of Diversity also looks out for consumers too, encouraging them to speak out when they see underrepresentation within fashion and beauty advertising. “What’s really important is that people and consumers as well can get involved with us.

We do a lot of shoutouts on our social media and encourage people to contact different brands – if you go into a shop and you see that the brand doesn’t have any representation of you in their advertising, email them, and ask them why? That’s what we do and we encourage our members to do the same.”
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