Joan Smalls Pledges 50 Percent of Her 2020 Salary to Black Lives Matter
"This industry that I love has profited from us but has never considered us equal," the supermodel wrote. "This. Stops. Now."
As protests against racism and police brutality continue around the world, people in all industries have been taking companies to task for perpetuating racist practices in the workplace. The fashion industry, long known for its resistance to change, has received some of the harshest scrutiny, and now one of its own is speaking out to make sure designers and brands follow through on their promises to be more inclusive. On Thursday, Puerto Rican supermodel Joan Smalls shared a message for the industry on Instagram, asking what those in fashion plan to do beyond sharing a black square.
"Is it just another trend?" Smalls asks in the video, referencing #BlackoutTuesday as well as various industry statements acknowledging past discrimination. "This industry that profits from our Black and brown bodies, our culture for constant inspiration, our music, and our images for their visuals, has tiptoed around the issues. ... It's now time to give us a real seat at the table. Because we are worthy. Because we are talented. Because we are unique. I stand by my words — I live them as a Black and Latina woman."
Smalls, who has been modeling for over a decade, goes on to share some of her own experiences in fashion. "How many times have I been told that my hair was an issue and said to control it?" she recalls. "How many times have I had to share campaigns or editorials when I saw my counterparts have the achievements by themselves? It was a constant battle no one saw, but one that I lived on a daily basis."
The model has discussed racism in the industry before, and back in 2016 said that she'd always had difficulty booking a hair campaign. "It’s mind-boggling," she said. "I’ve been on option, and they dropped me at the last minute. And the excuse was, ‘We were afraid to try something new.’ And by ‘new,’ they meant, ‘We’ve never shot a black girl.'"
In her new video, Smalls promised to donate half of her remaining 2020 salary to charities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and called on others in fashion to keep working for change. "I will be encouraging brands that I work with in the future to give back to these communities monetarily as well as encouraging them to implement policies within their company to further racial inclusivity," she says. "If I, a single individual, can do it, just imagine what we can do as a collective to be the positive change the world needs."