Calvin Klein Model Ebonee Davis Writes Poignant Open Letter About Diversity in Fashion World

It’s no secret that the fashion world has lacked diversity for several decades, something it still struggles with today. Recently, a high-end model for Calvin Klein made her voice heard on this subject in a beautiful open essay in Harper’s Bazaar. Ebonee Davis combined her own personal story with the narrative of other models of color to encourage the promotion of more diversity in the white-washed fashion industry.

She starts by describing the pride she feels at receiving her most recent campaign photo for Calvin Klein Fall 2016 from her agent at MC2 Model Management. Davis’ photo embodies her natural beauty as a black woman, with natural hair and full lips. This decision to embrace her blackness is a new one for her. The same week the photos were emailed to her, the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shocked the nation. Davis explains how “Heartbreak instantly consumed me; a man’s entire existence had once again been reduced to a hashtag.” It was then that her Calvin Klein advertisement took on a whole new level for her.


Davis eloquently moves to the topic of the fashion’s influence in the social world. She describes the role of the industry as “set[ting] the tone for society through the stories we tell—fashion, the gatekeeper of cool, decides and dictates what is beautiful and acceptable.” Historically, natural black beauty has not been determined as beautiful or acceptable, something Davis herself struggled with for years as a model. But now her opinion has developed to one of pride, where “it is no longer acceptable for us to revel in black culture with no regard for the struggles facing the black community.”

The model details the struggles black models/models of color deal with in the fashion world, from the frustration due to lack of diversity on the runway to the literal white-washing through poor make-up techniques. Her essay then transitions as to why this happens: inequality. The same systemic racism that allows models of color to be underrepresented is the same racism that unfairly took the lives of Sterling and Castile. Davis argues that these stereotypes are perpetuated by the beauty world that doesn’t allow for positive images of blackness to rise.


Davis concludes with advice for people in the fashion industry, encouraging them to practice more consciously inclusive choices. But she also emphasizes for everyone, “Most importantly, love black people as much as you love black music and black culture. Until you do, society will continue to buy into the false notion that people of color are less than—a concept already deeply embedded in America’s collective psyche which is reinforced again and again through depictions in media.” Well said, Ebonee Davis.

[H/T: Cosmopolitan]

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