4 Black Fashion Models on Social Media, POC Designers and Confidence
Every New York Fashion Week a new study reports a 0.4% uptick in models of color on the runway. Seriously: “The good news: The percentage of models of color was up 37.3% from 36.9% last season,” wrote Refinery29 in February. (Shout out to whoever held down that extra 0.4% being booked and busy last winter.)
Although these reports are useful—they allow us to to see both how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go—I’m always way more interested in the people who are creating opportunities for more brown and black fashion models, stylists, photographers, journalists, and designers to break into the industry. Designers like Telfar Clemens, Kerby Jean-Raymond at Pyer Moss, Rihanna for Fenty x Savage, and the ladies of Chromat. By reflecting their own worlds on the runway and beyond, these designers are creating space for the four models who appear in this portfolio, below.
“The industry looks like it’s changing up, and it’s our time to show that we can do this,” says Cozy, one of the models who walked in Pyer Moss’s Spring/Summer 2019 show at the Weeksville Heritage Center, which commemorates one of the first free-black communities established in the U.S.
Below, meet Cozy, Briana Michelle, Kree Murad, and Sharahya Carter, four models who are relatively new to NYFW, as they recount their Spring/Summer 2019 experience and reveal what social media, diversity, and today’s beauty standards mean to them.
Here’s what it feels like to be young, black, and fly in fashion:
Meet the Models
“The Pyer Moss show was very iconic. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into until I was walking the runway. It was basically all black empowerment: Every model was black. There was a choir singing, they were swag surfing. It was hella iconic for the culture. So while I was walking it, it was so hard not to bop, not to even, like, show some rhythm. I want to do that again. I want to walk one more time, just because it was a moving experience.”
Name: Briana Michelle, 20
Walked in: Alice + Olivia, Bonnie Bouche by Angela Simmons, and Calo Tulum
Signed to: Red Model Management and Industry
Hometown: Orlando, FL
“The casting directors already have the look in their head of what they want when these girls are walking in, so it’s nothing against my face or my look. There’s only one of me, so I have that against everyone else. My first Fashion Week was last September. My agency worked with me a little bit, but I felt like I was just kind of thrown into the environment. It was a lot of pressure. Even though I know myself, I felt like I was the curviest girl there sometimes, and I had to understand, that’s just my body and I have to appreciate that difference.”
Name: Kree Murad, 23
Walked in: “Soft Criminal,” a collaboration between stylist Ibrahim Kamara, photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman, and designer Gareth Wrighton at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn
Signed to: Unsigned
Hometown: Newark, NJ
“The editor in chief for British Vogue [Edward Enninful] was there, and that was something that kind of threw me off guard. I did not know he was going to show up. My friends were standing right next to him, and I was trying to hint to them that he was there and they were just, like, so oblivious, but I was just loving it. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ He actually took a picture of me. But, of course, I had a mask on and he doesn’t know who I am! So it just makes me want to go harder next Fashion Week to actually book gigs where I’m able to showcase my look, because at the end of the day, everyone has their individual look and everyone’s unique. I want to be able to showcase the look that I present.”
Name: Sharahya Carter, 20
Walked in: Derveaux by Tommy Ton and Maki Oh
Signed to: Wilhelmina and Elite
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
“The main thing I really, really look for is, if you’re asking for black models are you hiring people that know how to do black model’s hair and makeup?
I have really, really thick hair, so it has been a hit-or-miss type thing, because most people don’t want to touch it. They’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s perfect, it’s fine.’ Which is, like, a blessing—as much as I would like someone to do this or that to my hair, when I’m shooting and I’ve already done it and they just leave it, it’s great. But I have had experiences with people who are either putting hair spray on it or do something weird to it. I’ve also had people who surprise me and know how to do my hair. ”