Joan Smalls Says Inclusivity Is ‘Not a Trend’ in a Powerful Statement About Discrimination Within the Fashion Industry

Joan Smalls Says Inclusivity Is 'Not a Trend' in a Powerful Statement: Watch
Joan Smalls. Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock

Joan Smalls is speaking out against discrimination in the fashion industry.

Amid the George Floyd protests, on Thursday, June 11, the Puerto Rican model posted a video to her Instagram feed asking the industry she works in to put their money where their mouth is and “give [black people] a real seat at the table” in a five minute clip titled “We Are Not a Trend.”

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“It is time for this industry to do more than post a black square and say they’ll ‘Do Better!’ It’s time for us to see the change starting from the ground up,” she writes in the accompanying caption. “Give us a seat at the table, include us, give us a chance, because we are worthy, talented and unique.”

 

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The recent and long standing acts against the black community have been saddening, frustrating and unacceptable. I feel these same emotions when I think about how my industry, the fashion world, is responding. It is time for this industry to do more than post a black square and say they’ll “Do Better!” It’s time for us to see the change starting from the ground up. Give us a seat at the table, include us, give us a chance, because we are worthy, talented and unique. There have been so many times where I’ve had to face issues against my race within this industry because I was their token black girl. The campaigns and editorials I had to share while my counterparts got to achieve that on their own. Or that my hair was an issue or that I made a show or campaign too ethnic, the list goes on and on. This industry that I love has profited from us but has never considered us equal. This. Stops. Now. It’s time for the fashion industry to stand up and show their solidarity. Time for you all to give back to these communities and cultures which you draw so much inspiration from. I do want to thank those that did see me for me and gave me a chance. Those that helped me fight my way to where I am today. Thank you, thank you for doing what you knew to be right versus what others said should be done. You will help us be the leaders of change. In saying all of this, I also pledge to donate 50% of my salary for the remainder of 2020 to Black Lives Matter organizations. I know I can’t just talk about change, I have to be a force for it. 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. These battles are long from over but together we’re stronger and together we can accomplish what is needed. #WeAreNotATrend #blacklivesmatter

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The 31-year-old is one of the leading industry favorites and was named number eight on Forbes’ highest paid models list in 2019, earning $8 million last year. She starts the video saying that she wrote down some things she “needs to get off her chest,” taking aim at brands, agents and fashion publications for profiting off of “black and brown people” and using their culture as inspiration without truly supporting it.

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“You are part of the cycle that perpetuates these behaviors.” She continues, saying that many of the brands who “jumped on the bandwagon” only did so because they were being held accountable on social media. But she says that the “empty apologies” are not helping change the situation.

While recalling negative experiences such as being told her hair was “an issue,” she says “I don’t need validation from an industry that casts me as the token black girl while ignoring my whole cultural identity.”

What she does ask for is recognition of the systemic issues that exist within “her beloved” fashion industry. She continues, urging companies to give back monetarily to the black community while also implementing policies within their own walls to help ensure more diversity and inclusivity. Smalls also announced that she will be donating 50 percent of her income for the rest of the year to support Black Lives Matter organizations.

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