With more and more curve models and models of color walking the runway at major fashion shows every year, there’s no question that the fashion industry has improved in diversity and inclusivity. However, that doesn’t mean that the work is done. In an interview with Coveteur, Victoria’s Secret angel Lais Ribeiro explained that many black models are still being discriminated against and turned away from castings because of the color of their skin.
The 27-year-old model, who is from Brazil and is one of two black Victoria’s Secret angels (the other being Jasmine Tookes), revealed that she no longer models in Milan Fashion Week after two experiences with racism. After she was told twice that Milan had reaches its “quota” for black models and that she wouldn’t be allowed to walk, Ribeiro said that she stopped auditioning for the Italian fashion week.
“Of course [representation] has to be better every year, but it still has a ways to go,” Ribeiro said. “For example, I don’t go to Milan anymore. I used to love Milan, and they’re just like, ‘Oh, we have enough black girls here, you don’t need to come.’ There were two times that they said that, and I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ It has to be better, but it’s a little bit more open for us.”
On the flip side, Ribeiro also believes that there are many leaders who are trying to improve diversity in the fashion industry. One pioneer she named was British Vogue editor Edward Enniful who cast her and several other black models in an all-black issue of Italian Vogue.
“Edward [Enninful] was always a supporter since I started my career, so it’s exciting to see him being so successful. I did Italian Vogue with all the black girls,” Ribeiro said. I loved that editorial. It was really beautiful, and he was just so nice. I didn’t speak English yet at that time, and there were a couple girls I already knew at the job speaking Spanish with me. I think Arlenis [Sosa] was there and Ajak [Deng], Iman. He’s always trying to represent and to help push through because it’s a little hard to be out there.”
There’s no doubt that diversity is improving, but as Ribeiro proves, it’s not a time to be complacent. There is blatant discrimination in the fashion industry to this day. Thank you Ribeiro for reminding us of that.