Model Ebonee Davis Explains the Importance of Black Girl Magic in the Fashion Industry
Last summer, model Ebonee Davis learned Alton Sterling was killed by police on the same day that she saw herself—dark skin, natural hair, round nostrils and all—in a Calvin Klein campaign for the first time. The former was a heartbreaking, angering loss to the black community, while the latter was a hopeful step towards black women being fully accepted in the world of fashion and beauty. They were two starkly different events, but together, they motivated the 23-year-old to pen an open letter to the fashion industry, describing how fashion perpetuates systematic racism in America, and how it can dismantle it.
"Systemic racism began with slavery and has woven itself into the fabric of our culture, manifesting through police brutality, poverty, lack of education, and black incarceration," she wrote. "The most dangerous contributors? Advertising, beauty and fashion."
After months of candidly sharing her story as a black model, Davis' fight is not over yet. She recently led an impassioned at the University of Nevada, released yesterday, about her experiences with racism in modeling, why she called out the fashion industry in her letter and how the industry can be more inclusive.
Onrelaxing her natural hairfor the first time as a child:
"Despite the burn of chemical on my scalp and smell of sulfur that filled the room, I was entranced at the prospect of having straight hair. It was beautiful. It was celebrated. And I with my kinky coils felt inadequate."
On experiences of racism throughout her modeling career:
"I had white agents with no knowledge of black hair care run their fingers through my hair and tell me things like, 'We already have a girl with your look.' Translation: all black girls look the same. Or, 'We don't think there's room for you on our board.' Translation: we're at the maximum capacity for the number of black models we'd like to represent. But the most excruciatingly painful: 'We just don't know what to do with you.' What I now see as an admission to their own incompetence felt like yet another attack.
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