Thursday, January 28, 2016

What It's Like To Be A Mixed Race Model

Dark, tanned, black, brown?
I don't care what you call me...that's just semantics. ;)

In my seven years of modelling, race has continued to be a prevalent issue in the modelling industry.  As a result, I made a decision a long time ago, to be a freelance photographic model.

 It began the day I walked into a very renowned modelling agency to apply to be on their books.   The name will not be disclosed, as I am not a believer of naming and shaming a company for its own values and beliefs.

I was nervous, sweaty palmed and wearing my best business clothes and at the tender age of eighteen, all I wanted was for a little recognition into this otherwise...clandestine world of VIP.

Nevertheless, an immaculately presented lady sat me down and pawed over my portfolio with mildly disguised disinterest.  After a couple of minutes, she sighed, passed me back my folder and asked me,

"Look around you, what do you see on our walls?"

I glanced up wearily, already knowing my answer, met with images of tall, blonde, blue eyed beauties.  Their beauty was not the first thing that stood out, like a sore thumb.  It was their milk and honey complexion.  Their pale faces.  Their plainly Caucasian backgrounds.

"They're all white and tall?" I blurted out.

"That's right, sweetie." the lady purred.  "See, you're very pretty, but...the truth is, you won't sell.  Our clients simply won't pay for someone like you.  You're very exotic, and that's beautiful, but it's also a problem."

After what seemed like forever, I stood up in all my 5"3 glory, thanked the lady politely for her time and, I left the agency with a full portfolio and a heavy heart.

In the year that followed, I continued to pass up the opportunity to apply to agencies that required their models to be 5"10 and over, knowing that being petite and dark in an industry where being the lightest and tallest won you a place above others, was not going to serve me well.

It didn't make me bitter, it just made me realise the constraints of being agency represented. There wasn't anything wrong with me.  My previous work with renowned but niche photographers had proven my ability to model.  With all of this knowledge, I decided my best weapon was my own knowledge, talent and confidence in myself.

Blessed with a host of talented photographic references and friends I'd made along the way, I took to self promotion via social media and decided that I was not going to 'beat them nor join them.'

I was simply going to stand alone.

Because, you see, in a world where uniformity is desirable, and the difference of us all fails to receive any recognition, it is standing alone that gets you noticed.

My mum is fair. My dad is dark.
And yet, I don't belong in either world.
I am somewhere in between.

I can't change the colour of my skin. Nor do I want too. It's my complexion against my Euro-Afro
features that got me noticed in the niche, underground world of creative photographic modelling.

I may not ever grace the covers of Vogue.  Or walk a runway. But, my works speaks for itself. And that's why I'll never give up celebrating and embracing who I am, or how I look.

Copyright Eleglance Photography (Glynn Jackson 2016)

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