olivia bee's call for radical diversity in the land of trump

How fashion photography can actually make a difference, starting right now, with you.

by Olivia Bee
28 November 2016, 4:30pm

Photography Olivia Bee

On election night I stayed in a cabin in rural Montana. Watching the country get painted red, I sobbed my eyes out. And the tears were heavy. I thought about the people in my life who Donald Trump ignores or insults or threatens: those who identify as LGBTQ, those who are black, those who are Muslim, those who are Asian, those who are Latinx, those who are immigrants, those with disabilities. I thought about the people I loved. And these tears grew even heavier because so many people who look like me -- white, cis-gendered, even women -- voted for Donald Trump.

It's terrifying and tragic how his campaign and victory have earned the support of white nationalists including ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (who lost a Senate bid this year) and Rocky J. Suhayda, head of the American Nazi Party. He has unearthed a layer of hatred in our country I did not believe still existed. It was especially hard for me to wrap my head around, considering I have lived in liberal cities in America my whole life. I did not expect his victory because I have lived in a bubble.

Within that bubble, we are hurting. The election has been heartbreaking for me and my friends: young, creative people who live in those liberal cities. We are devastated, as the Donald Trump presidency symbolizes a major divide in our country, the exclusion of so many wonderful humans, and violence towards those who don't fit a certain bracket. But we can't let our devastation prevent action.

If you work in fashion, like I do sometimes, I know it can often feel like it's not working towards a greater good. Even sometimes when I am making my personal work I feel like it doesn't actually do anything for humanity.

But I make work about emotion and honesty. And I have realized with this election, that it is more important than ever to make work that is emotional and honest. So much of the white patriarchy is based off of resisting emotion and pushing away how you really feel. In this challenging time, I will only make more emotional work.

This is the time to chase your dreams harder, to love those around you more passionately, and to lift those people up, most importantly, those ignored/insulted/threatened by the upcoming Trump presidency.

If you have a voice, it is your responsibility to use it now. If you have the privilege to make work and share it with others, this comes with a need for awareness and responsibility.

If you have white skin like I do, you have the responsibility to end white supremacy.

I know that a lot of my past work has featured predominantly white subjects. I am changing this. I am making a promise to include less white and cisgendered people in my work, especially in fashion editorials.

I shoot a lot of couples, and I am making a personal promise that I am going to shoot less white and straight and cis couples.

If you work in the creative industries, if you call the shots of what a campaign/editorial/album cover/music video looks/feels like, cast less white people. Cast less cisgendered people. Cast people with disabilities.

Everyone deserves to be represented. Everyone deserves to see someone in a piece of art or a magazine or a book or a music video that they can relate to. The awful reality is that so many people don't.

If you are someone that works with others (are you a photographer? A DP? A producer? A stylist?), hire people who are not white. Hire women. Hire trans people. Hire people with disabilities. Everyone deserves the opportunity to work and to do what they love, and not everyone gets to experience this. We are going to change that.

If you work at an agency or a production company, start representing directors, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, casting directors, and set designers who are not white men. Represent women, most importantly women of color. Represent men of color. Represent immigrants. Represent the Latinx community. Represent the Asian community. Represent trans people. Represent people with disabilities.

If you see someone on the internet who is making amazing work, share it. If you are in the position to, show the work to people that will hire them.

Make work that celebrates people who are not white. The election was a whitewash and we have to fight this. It is our absolute responsibility to promote diversity in all forms.

It is now that we have to be each other's allies. Love your brothers and sisters.


Text Olivia Bee
Photography Olivia Bee

election 2016
youth culture
olivia bee