Instagram's New Fashion Series Brings You a Daily Dose of Diversity
This week, Instagram is taking a break from its role as the go-to app for funny fashion designers to tackle one of the fashion industry’s biggest problems. The social media giant is taking on fashion’s overwhelming lack of diversity with a new, week-long initiative called the #RunwayForAll campaign. While designers struggle to cast more than just the usual crop of blindingly white models for their shows, Instagram is fighting back by featuring one badass model per day who is “redefining industry standards” every time they step in front of a camera—and it couldn’t come soon enough.
When The Fashion Spot released the Fall 2016 Diversity Report in March after the season’s fashion weeks came to an end, it confirmed what we’d already known. Of all the models that walked in Milan, Paris, London, and New York, a depressing 75.25 percent of them were white. Despite the fashion industry making major inroads with agender clothing, and despite some designers, like Kanye West, casting a almost exclusively people of color for their shows, the industry as a whole is still riding the struggle bus to diversity town. But much like Ms. Frizzle taking the keys to the Magic School Bus to bring her students to new, wondrous lands, Instagram is helping to break the cycle by inspiring all of their 162 million followers with a lineup of models that include Mama Cãx, Shaun Ross, Clémentine Desseaux, Londone Myers, and Jillian Mercado.
Mama Cãx Shows You Don’t Need Two Legs To Slay
When the series began on Monday, Instagram featured Haitian-born and New York-based blogger and model, Mama Cãx. She might’ve had her leg amputated when she was 18, but that certainly didn’t bring her down. Instead, she treats her prosthetic leg as the hottest fashion accessory around and collaborates regularly with Alleles, the prosthetic limb cover brand providing fashionable options for its customers.
“The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she wrote in Instagram’s post. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.”
“#RunwayForAll means any teenager feels represented when they open a magazine or watch a fashion show,” says Mama Cax (@caxmee). Mama grew up in Haiti, lives in New York City and never aspired to be a model — “not only because there were very few dark models on magazine covers but also because I grew up with very little knowledge of the fashion industry,” she says. “Eight years ago, after getting my leg amputated, the idea of being a model was even more far-fetched.” Today, Mama is modeling and doing other things that she was told there was no audience for, like sharing tips for traveling as a black female amputee. “The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she says. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @caxmee by @simonhuemaen
Shaun Ross Has Proved Albinism is Beautiful For Years
Tuesday brought Shaun Ross, the first male model of color with albinism, to Instagram’s feed. Ever since he began his career in 2008 at the age of 16, he’s been featured on magazine covers, walked runway shows, and has shown up in a roster of illustrious music videos including Beyoncé‘s “Pretty Hurts” to Lana Del Rey’s “Tropico.” As if all that weren’t enough, he was also one of the industry’s first openly gay models.
“I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” the Instagram post quoted him as saying. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like Winnie Harlow, Jillian Mercado and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.”
“#RunwayForAll is a world where everyone is treated the same,” says Shaun Ross (@shaundross). When he started modeling nearly a decade ago, Shaun was the only male model of color with albinism. “I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” he says. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like @winnieharlow, @jilly_peppa and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.” When he started, Shaun was one of a few openly gay models in the industry. “Agents always told male models to be masculine, but that was never the case for me. I never wanted to hide my sexuality,” he says. “I’d rather be myself.” Photo by @shaundross
Clémentine Desseaux Is The Plus-Size Model Taking on the Beauty Industry
For Wednesday’s campaign star Clémentine Desseaux, her experience with modeling hasn’t always been easy. As one of the only plus-size models in France, she’s been fighting to break free of the confines and limitations that come with this subset of the industry, as well as to change perceptions of plus-size modeling in general. Desseaux’s name became the source of controversy last year when outlets erroneously reported that she was the new face of Christian Louboutin’s makeup line, after the brand shared a 15-second video of Desseaux wearing their lipstick and smiling at the camera. Unfortunately, they were just sharing a video and not, as many suspected, a new ad, but from the overwhelmingly positive response to having one of the first plus-size models represent a makeup brand, they may want to take note.
“My size and look were in the way of me feeling invincible when I was young,” she said. “I hope I was the last generation of women to think like that. Role model is the new top model.”
“#RunwayforAll is not so much about what we look like anymore but more about what we represent,” says Clémentine Desseaux (@bonjourclem), who grew up in France. “I was always way bigger and taller than everyone when I was growing up, and I had those freckles,” she says. “When I saw the first plus models out there, I started thinking about trying it out. At that point I had no idea it would take me to where I am now.” Three years ago, Clementine moved to New York with $2,000 to her name and never looked back. “My size and look were in the way of me feeling invincible when I was young,” she says. “I hope I was the last generation of women to think like that. Role model is the new top model.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @bonjourclem by @emmaandhercamera
Londone Myers Went From the Morgue to the Runway
Every scouting story is a bit crazy in its own regard, but for Thursday’s Instagram pick, crazy doesn’t even come close. When the Georgia-born model Londone Myers was shopping the racks of her local Forever 21, she got scouted not by a modeling agency, but rather by an autopsy technician. When she was scouted again (this time for modeling), she quickly went exclusive for Saint Laurent and, since then, has become one of the freshest faces on the New York modeling scene—but still makes time to volunteer at hospitals in between seasons.No other model can walk the catwalk and slice open dead bodies quite like Myers. Plus, she’s holding it down for models of color, embracing her unique brand of beauty.
“It’s great to no longer see so many models of color with straightened hair,” she says in the Instagram post. “Can you imagine if white models were made to perm their hair to achieve a completely different texture for every single shoot? Finally, society is embracing us for how we are naturally.”
“#RunwayForAll means living in a world without color,” says Londone Myers (@londonemyers), who is from Georgia and lives in New York City. “Growing up, it was so hard to relate to the Cindy Crawfords and Christy Turlingtons,” she says. “It’s great to no longer see so many models of color with straightened hair. Can you imagine if white models were made to perm their hair to achieve a completely different texture for every single shoot? Finally, society is embracing us for how we are naturally.” Londone has come a long way from her days of being bullied in school. “I was super insecure about my wide-set, mostly buck teeth,” she says. [email protected]_deyn and @lindseywixson taught me to just be myself. A model should be more of a force than a person.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. #Boomerang by @londonemyers
Stay tuned to Milk for more model diversity.
Original imagery by Kathryn Chadason.