Model Ebonee Davis Addresses Racism in the Fashion Industry in Moving Letter: 'The Time For Change is Now'

Ebonee Davis is speaking out about the recent police shootings of two black men and racism in the fashion industry

Photo: Source: Ebonee Davis/Instagram

Source: Ebonee Davis/Instagram

Ebonee Davis has something to say.

Amid news that she was named a star of Calvin Klein‘s fall 2016 campaign, the model penned a moving letter about police brutality, racism and the fashion industry’s role in it all. In the letter, Davis recalled the happy moment she saw a photo of herself from the campaign.

“As I studied the photo, my heart swelled with pride. I reveled at the image of myself — nostrils wide and angled toward the camera, lips full, hair defying gravity in all of its natural glory,” Davis wrote. “I could not help but to think back on how I had thought less of these features in the recent past, and why. I thought about how hard I tried to assimilate into the fashion industry, straightening my hair and constantly wearing weaves and extensions.”

Davis writes that the same “systemic racism” that shaped her self image in the fashion industry also led to the deaths of 37-year-old Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, 32, two black men who were fatally shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.

“It dawned on me that the problems facing the fashion industry and the problem of police brutality are two branches of the same tree. Varying in severity, no doubt!” Davis wrote. “But nonetheless stemming from the same root, systemic racism. Embedded deeply within American soil and fertilized by American policies, bearing the fruits of inequity.”

Davis noted that models of color make up only a small portion of the fashion industry and, during fashion week, are forced to work with makeup and hair professionals who aren’t properly trained in handling multiple hair textures and doing makeup for models with dark complexions. It’s a complaint shared by models including Nykhor Paul and Leomie Anderson, who have both similarly slammed the industry for being unprepared to match foundation to a variety of skin tones.

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“It is all too familiar and yet it continues to be a problem,” the model continued. “Similarly and with even greater frequency, we’ve experienced an uproar of outcry in regard to the shooting deaths of black men carried out by police officers. What’s the correlation? Inequity.”

She added: “Systemic racism began with slavery and has woven itself into the fabric of our culture. Manifesting through police brutality, poverty, lack of education, black incarceration and to a milder degree, advertising, beauty and fashion.”

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The model then called for those in the fashion industry to use their platforms to promote change. (And her voice is echoed by many, including that of stylist Hannah Stoudemire, who protested Men’s Fashion Week today due to top brands’ silence on the police shootings.)

“As artists, we are the embodiment of free speech. We set the tone for society through the stories we tell with our art. Fashion makes people’s minds up about what is beautiful and acceptable. We cannot revel in black culture with disregard for the struggles facing the black community,” Davis wrote.

“We must ban together to neutralize the phobias surrounding black culture. Stop vilifying people of color and produce positive, accurate and inclusive imagery rather than perpetuating trite stereotypes … the Time for change is now.

Share your thoughts below!

–Char Adams

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