Many, many eons ago, in what seems like a different lifetime, I was signed to a local modeling agency here in Charlotte. I had a lot more free time back then, was (relatively) physically fit, was more interested in those sorts of endeavors and, even if I would have never made any money from it, felt like it was something fun to try and say I did.
The way it worked, the agency would send an email to all of the signed models with any upcoming casting calls or promotional model requests. The models would respond back with their interest and availability, and the agency then forwarded their information and photos to the client for selection.
Each email contained various selection criteria for the gig: preferred height, preferred body type, preferred weight, preferred age, etc. One criterion I noticed that seemed, at least to me at the time, to be listed in disproportionate and overwhelming frequency was this: “Must Be Caucasian.”
A couple times, irritated models would broach the issue with the agency, and the response was always the same: “These are the client’s demands, not ours.”
And I get it. If there’s a certain brand image they’re trying to convey and maintain, then they have to go with what they feel better identifies with their brand.
But from the perspective of the rest of us non-Caucasian models, it gave the notion that not only was being White the golden ticket to paid work, but that the corporate world viewed White employees as a better investment for their dollar.
That may seem like a stretch. After all, it was only modeling and needless to say, Charlotte, at least in 2009, has never really been any type of fashion mecca. But I think it’s a reflection of a bigger picture; and a much bigger problem. In certain industries such as this, you can openly say “Must Be Caucasian” and can come up with every type of justification for why that needs to be so. But what about those industries that don’t say that, but do it anyway?
The My Brother’s Keeper Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an endowment fund targeted to Black males majoring in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at UNCC. Learn more at www.unccmybrotherskeeper.org.