Every few weeks, it seems there is another case of people getting up in arms about the appropriation of black hairstyles in the fashion industry. And each time, there is debate and questioning from certain individuals as to why people get up in arms about something as trivial as hair.
A tweet from Lilah Parsons, a former model and a host on London’s Capital Radio, may help further illuminate why hair appropriation is such a sensitive issue: It included screenshots of casting-call policies for models that explicitly banned Afros. And they weren’t from the 1950s, but 2011.
“When I started modeling, casting requests frequently contained comments like this,” Parsons wrote, in response to a tweet from Leomie Anderson promoting a letter Anderson wrote to her 15-year-old self about the beauty industry for Elle U.K. “I hope times have changed.”
— Lilah Parsons (@lilahparsons) March 22, 2017
Times have certainly changed a bit in the fashion industry, as we’re seeing more Afro-textured hair on runways, billboards, and in the pages of fashion magazines. Plus, we’ve got more models of color than ever speaking out about the difficulties they face in an industry that is still grappling with representation issues.
South Sudanese model Duckie Thot touched on this a few months ago after fellow black model Winnie Harlow made a tasteless joke about Duckie’s hair on social media.
“I’ve never really had a good experience with my natural hair and modeling in [my former home of] Australia before,” Thot wrote in an Instagram post. “I remember on top model on one of the episodes I had to cornrow my own hair. I was extremely upset and embarrassed that they ‘didn’t know how’ to cornrow my natural hair when at the end of the day that’s their job. I sat in front of the mirror silently crying before my shoot doing my own hair, cameras rolling while all the other girls had hairstylists, shit scared I was going to get eliminated because a few ‘hairstylists’ didn’t know how to do their job.”
Model Kelly Gervais recently told Yahoo Beauty that a New York modeling agent said she wasn’t “dark enough” to wear her natural hair, even though she’d had success rocking it when she was working in London. “I didn’t even know how to take that or understand that. I’m a Haitian woman with Haitian hair. You can’t expect that just because I’m light-skinned, I’m going to have a Spanish curl. This is me and my natural essence, and why can’t people just be OK with that and not try to alter me to their standards of beauty?”
It’s clearly been a struggle for many black models to get folks to accept — let alone learn how to style — their natural hair. And although things have improved, there are obviously still some prejudices there. Parsons’s tweet reminds us that there’s a lot of ground for the industry to make up.
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- YouTube Twins Embrace Natural Beauty
- African-American Hair Is the Star of This New Pantene Ad
- Fashion Week’s Crowning Natural-Hair Moments