calvin klein model ebonee davis demands cultural accountability in fashion
After a five-year career laced with racism, the model has had enough.
Model Ebonee Davis first saw her prints for Calvin Klein's 2016 campaign on the same day as Alton Sterling's death. At first blush, the two events don't seem related, but to the black model who has dealt with rampant racism throughout her five-year career, they were inseparable. In an open letter, Davis describes feeling proud of the Calvin Klein images, which show the model "nostrils wide, lips full, hair defying gravity in all its natural glory," after years of being told "that brands only booked black girls if they looked like they'd been 'plucked from a remote village in Africa' or like a 'white model dipped in chocolate.'" Davis' good day was short lived, unfortunately, as hours later, she watched the video of Sterling being gunned down by the police.
"It was only then I realized the importance of the Calvin Klein image staring back at me," Davis continues. The model had decided to wear her natural hair just one year ago, and her essay continues to use black beauty as an allegory for systematic racism ("It is the same systemic racism that sees beauty products for 'black' hair end up in a section of their own.")
Davis calls for immediate change in the fashion industry towards inclusivity and cultural accountability. "My advice to makeup and hair artists: rebuild your repertoire of techniques. My advice to models, fashion designers and public relation agencies: use your personal platforms to speak out against injustice and show your support rather than standing by in silence. Most importantly, love black people as much as you love black music and black culture." Read the full essay here.
Text Annie Armstrong