Joan Smalls Speaks Out About Racism in the Fashion Industry

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In an Instagram TV video posted today, supermodel Joan Smalls spoke out on racism and accountability in the fashion industry. The CR girl also announced that she will be donating half of her earnings from the remainder of 2020 to the Black Lives Matter foundation. Smalls is among the first within the industry to have publicly announced a long-term pledge to the human rights organization.

“I know I can’t just talk about change, I have to be a force for it,” she said in the Instagram post. “I encourage and will continue to encourage brands within this industry to do the same and give back. Let’s all be the change we want and need to see.”

The Puerto Rican model, who has walked in more than 400 runway shows, shared her experience of being the “token Black girl” for the fashion industry, stating racial circumstances where her hair was an issue or the campaign she was in made it “too ethnic.” In response, Smalls has demanded that the fashion industry change its ways and do more besides posting a black square on their social media feed.

“Many of you who claim to be all about ‘diversity and inclusivity’ jumped on a bandwagon because social media held you accountable for your lack of acknowledgment of us and you hid behind your aesthetic of creativity or so-called beauty,” Smalls said. “To my beloved fashion industry: this is your chance! The moment where you speak up and demonstrate that you care. If you truly care, then show it! Your silence is not only insulting, it is part of a bigger problem within this industry. We see you. Do you see us now?”

In her statement, Smalls asked that the industry give back, stand in solidarity, and fortify the same communities from which fashion has taken inspiration. She also said that she will encourage the brands she will work with in the future to provide financial support to underrepresented communities and to make policy changes within the companies to foster a more diverse workplace.

“If I, a single individual can do it,” she said, “just imagine what we can do as a collective to be a positive change the world needs.”

The video can be viewed on Joan Smalls’ Instagram.

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