Jourdan Dunn with Naomi Campbell for Burberry SS15© Copyright Burberry/Mario Testino
Jourdan Dunn has never held back on the diversity issues that still plague fashion, but her latest interview is her most revealing yet. According to her, black models still have it especially tough in the industry – and a lot of them end up dropping out because they have to "deal with all the rejection". In an interview with the Sunday Times, she says that only the "big dogs" in fashion can solve the "bullshit" that goes on.
"We're talking baby steps [but] it is ridiculous that in 2015 we are still ranting about this," she said. "It’s hard for black girls. A lot do give up, because if you don’t have an agency who is going to push you, you are just there doing nothing and having to deal with all the rejection."
Model agent and Premier founder Carol White told Dazed in March that makeup artists often did not know how to work with black skin – a sad state of affairs that Dunn backed up. In fact, Dunn's own mother advised her: "Jourdan, you have to make sure you are really prepared with your hair and your foundation, because if they don’t know what they are doing, you need to know what you are doing."
According to Dunn, makeup artists would only have two foundations for her: a dark one, and another that was too light. "You end up looking grey," she said. "I would sneak off to the bathroom and put my own stuff on."
Even worse, hairdressers would actively avoid her backstage. "I remember walking in and they would be free but they would turn their backs as though they were busy doing something else, because they didn’t know what to do," she remembered. "They were scared. My thing was, ‘Look, it’s only hair.’ If you are a hairstylist you should be able to do all types of hair. It isn’t hard to know that too much heat is not good, that water makes it frizz."
Despite the kind of institutional racism she was up against, Dunn chose to soldier on. Last year, Naomi Campbell and her were the first black models to jointly star in a Burberry campaign. Dunn was also anointed by Forbes as one of the richest supermodels in the business. "In the end, I felt like I don’t want to be that girl [who gives up]," she said. "And I feel like, I owe it to other little black girls and other ethnic-looking girls to carry this on. You know what? It is hard but I had to, like, get over it."
There are promising signs that fashion is slowly becoming more representative: 2015 is turning out to be a banner year for model diversity, from Rihanna becoming the first black Dior girl to the rise of casting agency Lorde Inc and its roster stacked with models of colour. Is change in the air? You tell us.