The Orange is the New Black star applauds brands for embracing model Ashley Graham and putting her in high fashion magazines and on runways, but Brooks points out that there are so many other curvy women they can also hire.
“I don’t know if fashion has made a wholehearted effort,” Brooks, 28, tells Vogue. “It’s more like, ‘Oh this is a trend, let’s get on it.’ Then they bring in Ashley Graham, who is amazing, but isn’t the only plus-size model ever to exist. What about Marquita [Pring], Denise [Bidot], Philomena [Kwao], Tess Holliday? When I look at the ads I don’t see faces like mine, I see skinny white women.”
The actress says that when she first gained fame on Orange is the New Black, she struggled to find trendy clothes in her size — and that hasn’t really changed.
“When I first started, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be so inclusive with my style and it was really hard,” Brooks says. “I haven’t been given an opportunity to wear these big-name designers, it has never been an option whether I had a stylist or didn’t. A lot of people won’t design for me, no matter how many SAG awards, Tony nominations, Grammy wins; it doesn’t matter.”
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Brooks, who is now designing her own line for Universal Standard, says she often pushes designers and asks them why they don’t make clothes for curvy women, but never gets a good response.
“I think they’re trying, but they can go harder and we should not be easy on them,” she says. “I don’t think we should pat anybody on the back for [doing] something they should’ve done 30 years ago.”
Brooks points out how necessary it is for designers to expand their sizing — not just for her, but for the younger girls looking for fashion role models.
“I remember my first SAG Awards I wore this dark blue dress by Christian Siriano and a girl recreated that entire look for her prom,” she says. “I thought, ‘Yes! It matters.’ I want women in huge numbers to feel motivated and feel like they are beautiful, but even if it’s just one [person], then my job is done.”
And Brooks is thrilled that, through her campaigns for Lane Bryant, she has been able to be that role model, up on billboards in Times Square.
“This was baby Dani’s biggest dream come true and I was so elated that I got to be myself,” she says of the ads. “I didn’t have to lose 60 pounds or change. I got to take the time to embrace and love everything that the world had deemed imperfect.”