Why aren’t there more minority models in the pages of fashion magazines?
The answers are often disturbing, and speak to a form of racial bigotry found in the fashion centers of New York and London — as well as a deep-rooted aesthetic that equates prestige and elitism with stereotypical whiteness (and thin-ness).
Here are a few highly-revealing quotes from fashion industry employees, from an analysis of the industry by Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model. Her article is called “Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling,” and was published in 2009. Mears kept the identities of her sources private.
“A lot of black girls have got very wide noses… The rest of her face is flat, therefore, in a flat image, your nose, it broadens in a photograph. It’s already wide, it looks humongous in the photograph. I think that’s, there’s an element of that, a lot of very beautiful black girls are moved out by their noses, some of them.” —H, London Agency Director
"But it’s also really hard to scout a good black girl. Because they have to have the right nose and the right bottom. Most black girls have wide noses and big bottoms so if you can find that right body and that right face, but it’s hard.” —A, NYC Agency Scout
"Okay let’s say Prada. You don’t have a huge amount of black people buying Prada. They can’t afford it. Okay so that’s economics there. So why put a black face? They put a white face, because those are the ones that buy the clothes.” —L, NYC Stylist
"We don’t like using the same model too often, but it’s harder to find ethnic girls. And…well, I don’t want to sound racist, but— well for Asians, it’s hard to find tall girls that will fit the clothes because most of them are very petit. For black girls, I guess—black girls have a harder edge kind of look, like if I’m shooting something really edgy, I’ll use a black girl, it always just depends on the clothes.” —A, NYC Magazine Editor
“Me personally, in my opinion, there really is no good, good, black girl around. The really good, good black girl around are still the same, and are still the one that everybody wants… It’s very difficult to find one. The agency don’t deliver enough choice to make happy the client [sic].” —O, NYC Casting Director

Why aren’t there more minority models in the pages of fashion magazines?

The answers are often disturbing, and speak to a form of racial bigotry found in the fashion centers of New York and London — as well as a deep-rooted aesthetic that equates prestige and elitism with stereotypical whiteness (and thin-ness).

Here are a few highly-revealing quotes from fashion industry employees, from an analysis of the industry by Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model. Her article is called “Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling,” and was published in 2009. Mears kept the identities of her sources private.

A lot of black girls have got very wide noses… The rest of her face is flat, therefore, in a flat image, your nose, it broadens in a photograph. It’s already wide, it looks humongous in the photograph. I think that’s, there’s an element of that, a lot of very beautiful black girls are moved out by their noses, some of them.” —H, London Agency Director

"But it’s also really hard to scout a good black girl. Because they have to have the right nose and the right bottom. Most black girls have wide noses and big bottoms so if you can find that right body and that right face, but it’s hard.” —A, NYC Agency Scout

"Okay let’s say Prada. You don’t have a huge amount of black people buying Prada. They can’t afford it. Okay so that’s economics there. So why put a black face? They put a white face, because those are the ones that buy the clothes.” —L, NYC Stylist

"We don’t like using the same model too often, but it’s harder to find ethnic girls. And…well, I don’t want to sound racist, but— well for Asians, it’s hard to find tall girls that will fit the clothes because most of them are very petit. For black girls, I guess—black girls have a harder edge kind of look, like if I’m shooting something really edgy, I’ll use a black girl, it always just depends on the clothes.” —A, NYC Magazine Editor

Me personally, in my opinion, there really is no good, good, black girl around. The really good, good black girl around are still the same, and are still the one that everybody wants… It’s very difficult to find one. The agency don’t deliver enough choice to make happy the client [sic].” —O, NYC Casting Director

Lament for the approaching winter

I’m now in my 14th year of living in this city and can’t say I’ve grown any closer to the winter.

The cold weather, it dries my mouth and numbs my fingers and piles wads of tissue deep into my pockets.

It makes me expend far too much energy on clothing options, all of which will either suffocate or chafe, unless of course they are remotely fashionable, in which case I’ll simply freeze.

You born-and-bred Northerners like to go on about how great it is to have 4 seasons. But this is of course one of those great rationalizations, a coping mechanism.

Because even if the winter does make the summer that much more glorious — and I’ll admit, it does — that doesn’t make the winter itself any less lousy.

5 Things I Learned from the “Discovering Columbus” exhibit at Columbus Circle.
Christopher Columbus is a hero — or at least that’s how most adult visitors like to think of him.
Kids are more likely than their parents to see Columbus as a colonizer, enslaver or the guy whose germs helped decimate Native populations. So I heard from a security guard who’s eavesdropped on some fierce intra-family debates.
A lot of people don’t have much faith in academic scholarship, especially if it casts Columbus in a negative light. “It’s history. We rewrite history all the time,” said Scott Mackey, from Rochester. “So whoever’s teaching it, it’s their twist.”
In 1891, the year before the statue was erected, 11 Italian-Americans were lynched in New Orleans. This I heard from John Mancini, head of the Italic Institute of America, who’s been a vocal critic of the exhibit because it doesn’t present these kinds of facts.
The exhibit is a hit. It’s sold out just about every day, and every visitor seems to have a smile on their face. Columbus is Fun!
The exhibit is up through November 18. More info at the Public Art Fund.
(Photo by Tom Powell Imaging)

5 Things I Learned from the “Discovering Columbus” exhibit at Columbus Circle.

  1. Christopher Columbus is a hero — or at least that’s how most adult visitors like to think of him.
  2. Kids are more likely than their parents to see Columbus as a colonizer, enslaver or the guy whose germs helped decimate Native populations. So I heard from a security guard who’s eavesdropped on some fierce intra-family debates.
  3. A lot of people don’t have much faith in academic scholarship, especially if it casts Columbus in a negative light. “It’s history. We rewrite history all the time,” said Scott Mackey, from Rochester. “So whoever’s teaching it, it’s their twist.”
  4. In 1891, the year before the statue was erected, 11 Italian-Americans were lynched in New Orleans. This I heard from John Mancini, head of the Italic Institute of America, who’s been a vocal critic of the exhibit because it doesn’t present these kinds of facts.
  5. The exhibit is a hit. It’s sold out just about every day, and every visitor seems to have a smile on their face. Columbus is Fun!

The exhibit is up through November 18. More info at the Public Art Fund.

(Photo by Tom Powell Imaging)

From the Playgrounds and Prisons of New York to the World.

That in a nutshell is the narrative arc of street calisthenics: an explosive and demanding fitness regimen that was honed in the 5 boroughs but has gone viral. It’s now practiced by competitors in Russia, France, Sweden and numerous countries. There’s even an upcoming special on European TV, translated into 18 languages.

Listen in to my WNYC story on the phenomenon, above. And watch these unimaginably slick moves from the latest Street Calisthenics tournament, the NBXA 2012 (thanks to alexher for the link).

NYC Street Workout Goes Global

Like rap, the street workout, aka “street calisthenics,” aka the “thug workout,” is Made in NYC, but has taken off in Russia, Israel, Spain and other countries. All thanks to the eye-popping moves and physical rigor of New Yorkers like Hannibal for King, the Bartendaz, Barstarzz and other local workout crews.

Me and my co-worker Walyce Almeida spent a lot of time at Wingate Park, in Brooklyn, and elsewhere, exploring the appeal of street calisthenics, along with the debate over whether this emerged from the streets of New York, or the prison system.

We also explored the question of why street workouts are getting international attention but are largely ignored here in New York. For all those answers and much, much more, listen to WNYC!