Ebonee Davis has spoken about her experiences of racism throughout her modelling career.
The 23-year-old model is a rising star in the fashion world, worked with the likes of Calvin Klein, Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
But in an impassioned TED Talk published on Thursday (16Feb17), Ebonee took the opportunity to discuss her experience with discrimination within fashion, particularly from the people that were meant to be supporting her growth.
“I had white agents with no knowledge of black hair care run their fingers through my hair and tell me things like, ‘We already have a girl with your look.’ Translation: all black girls look the same,” she said during her speech. “But the most excruciatingly painful: ‘We just don’t know what to do with you’… As if representing me would be some extraordinary challenge, simply because of the colour of my skin.”
Ebonee then discussed how she had been relaxing her hair or “kinky coils” since she was a child, and how the process of gaining straight hair made her feel beautiful. But the fashion star decided to quit relaxing a short time ago in favour of her natural look, something that did not go down well with her agency.
“When I made the decision to wear my hair natural last year, ‘What are you doing with your hair?,’ ‘You need to do something with that,’ ‘Clients will never book you like that,’ was the response I got from my agency,” she shared.
Going forward, Ebonee hopes that she can use her voice as a means to dismantle systemic racism within the business. And she is adamant that industry leaders should embrace inclusivity in a meaningful way.
“Do not simply say, ‘Black lives matter,’ make a black model the face of your campaign; and not just next to or secondary to a white model,” said Ebonee. “Put a model in a hijab on the cover of American Vogue. Put a Latina model on a billboard in Times Square. Make an Asian model your brand ambassador.”