Black Models Say They Were Turned Away From a Miami Swim Week Casting


Models of color routinely find themselves marginalized in the fashion industry.

A group of black models say they were turned away from a casting during Miami Swim Week because of their race.
 Photo: Getty Images

Model Joia Talbott says race was the reason she and other black models were dismissed from a casting call during July’s Miami Swim Week. Talbott says that after arriving at the call, she and roughly 15 other black models were told, “The casting’s closed.”

However, when the women left the line, casting quickly resumed, according to Talbott.

“They told us they didn’t want any more black models, and that afros were a no-no,” the model said in a video posted to Facebook. “They was definitely not feeling my afro at all, so I didn’t stand a chance, right? Wow. We’re ready to go back to LA where we’re appreciated, and we book.”

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Racked reached out to both Talbott and Miami Swim Week about the alleged incident and will update the story if they respond.

Kacey Leggett of America’s Next Top Model fame also appeared in the video with Talbott. She said the experience had left her “lost for words.”

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“I’m still trying to process what happened, like, honestly,” she said.

Neither model named the casting company that rejected them, but Leggett urged the city of Miami to recognize that “there’s no such thing as too much brown skin.”

Talbott also raised the call on Instagram, where she posted a picture of herself and 10 other black models purportedly turned away from the casting. The models have a wide range of skin tones, hairstyles, and body types. Since they’re such an eclectic group, the allegation that all were deemed unfit for the casting is especially disturbing.

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In recent years, black models have made a point of discussing the racial discrimination they face, and for years now Jezebel has kept a tally of how many models of color walk the runway during New York Fashion Week. Activism related to the issue has gained momentum too. Last year, a Black Models Matter protest took place outside the Balenciaga show during Paris Fashion Week. The models targeted Balenciaga due to the fashion brand’s history of using overwhelmingly white talent during shows. In an Instagram post in which he called out Balenciaga for mistreating models, allegedly leaving 150 people in a dark staircase for three hours, casting director James Scully also pointed the finger at the brand Lanvin.

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“I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black, that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of color,” he wrote.

Two years earlier, model Ashley Chew coined the slogan “Black Models Matter” after painting those three words on a tote bag. Chew, also a painter, said she was inspired to use the motto after attending a casting for a designer that routinely snubs models of color. Since a street-style photographer took a photo of Chew carrying the politically-infused tote, the slogan went viral, turning into a hashtag that designers like Zac Posen have used. Both Posen and supermodel Imanhave carried Chew’s bags.

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“People don’t realize it, but the fashion industry is really cutthroat,” Chew told Fashionista in 2016. “People will tell you straight up if they don’t want black models or natural hair. Skin pigmentation doesn’t matter either. Light, medium, or dark — you’re going to be treated as black. I feel this is why ‘Black Models Matter’ created such a buzz, because it’s been an issue for a while. There’s nothing worse than getting turned down for your natural composition.”

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