Chanel Iman Conquers Racism in Modeling Industry

Chanel Iman has become one of fashion’s most popular models, but the road to success was plagued with racism in the industry that almost kept her away from her dreams.

It’s not secret that the fashion industry is scarce on African American models but over the years several black models have accepted the challenge of conquering racism in the industry and have exceeded all expectations.

One of those beautiful young ladies is Chanel Iman. Despite being faced with designers who simply didn’t want a black model she has created an astounding career for herself.

Iman, 22, has already modeled for Victoria’s Secret, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and GAP.

Her strong facial features and telling eyes have earned her cover spots on American Vogue, i-D Magazine, Teen Vogue and more.

It’s clear to see that she has what it takes to be a great model, but for some people in the industry her skin color was all it took to convince them that she wasn’t what they needed.

“A few times I got excused by designers who told me ‘we already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.’ I felt very discouraged,” Iman told The Sunday Times Magazine. “When someone tells you, ‘we don’t want you because we already have one of your kind, it’s really sad.”

Moments like this only furthered Chanel’s appreciation for designers who went out of their way to get more diversity on the runway.

“I appreciate designers making a strong statement that black women are beautiful,” she said. “Black women like fashion. And when there’s more diversity on the runway, it makes our world more inclusive.”

Even with some designers pressing for diversity, however, there still aren’t enough to change the nature of the industry.

Vogue Italia’s legendary All-Black issue, which featured Chanel Iman, still decided to rely on advertising that used white models. In fact, that particular issue saw a 30 percent increase in the amount of advertising that used white models.

While progress is certainly being made in the fashion industry when it comes to diversity, there is certainly much more work to be done.

“I’ve asked my advertising clients to many times, ‘Can we use a black girl,’” famed photography Steven Meisel said. “They say no. Advertisers say black models don’t sell.”

Of course, this also brings up the question of why don’t black models sell?

Perhaps the problem isn’t just the industry itself since the industry is relying on the public approval to use certain models. Maybe we need to do more to show the fashion world that we want to see more African American models and more diversity overall on the runway and in ads.


Back to top