The Colour of Beauty

The Colour of Beauty


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Renee Thompson is trying to make it as a top fashion model in New York. She's got the looks, the walk and the drive. But she’s a black model in a world where white women represent the standard of beauty. Agencies rarely hire black models. And when they do, they want them to look “like white girls dipped in chocolate.”

The Colour of Beauty is a shocking short documentary that examines racism in the fashion industry. Is a black model less attractive to designers, casting directors and consumers? What is the colour of beauty?

This film is part of the Work For All series, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, with the participation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

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The Colour of Beauty, Elizabeth St. Philip, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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  • director
    Elizabeth St. Philip
  • producer
    Alexandra Yanofsky
  • line producer
    Aisling Chin-Yee
    Marie-France Côté

  • Ajijaak

    Making Native/First Nations models a very visible minority is this "industry." They didn't even mention us at all. That is completely disgusting. There are so many beautiful women of color and Aboriginal/Indigenous/First Nations/Native American models out there. Look at Ashley Callingbull. There is a level of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry as well. No offense to White women but move over and let beauty from all over the world stand on the stage!

    Ajijaak, 27 Jun 2016
  • kongdonkey85

    as someone that has worked in the beauty industry i think there is racism. however, it is the customers that select products associated with models that they themselves resonate with and that often reflect a desired status. the owners of these companies are only concerned with the bottom line, and appealing to their customer base.

    kongdonkey85, 5 Apr 2015
  • LSteinhouse

    How disturbing, her meeting with the man around 5 minutes into the film. He clearly thought she was too large, but didn't want to say it outright. Large? Her? Astounding...

    LSteinhouse, 14 Aug 2013
  • sushi_flower

    I was a model back in the early 2000's. Im asian and i know exactly how she feels. The onlyw ay the industry is going to change, sadly, is if black ppl/asian have more consumer power. Money influences the industry. When marketers want to sell to asians/blacks then they will start hiring ethnic models. I think this girl is better off going back to school. Anyways this whole industry is stupid.

    sushi_flower, 4 Mar 2012
  • dantonsealy

    These girls have got to be kidding? When didn't the black race have to be Jackie Robinson's in given fields dominated by the dominant culture in this society? We've always had to be better, work harder, than our counterparts.

    dantonsealy, 26 Apr 2011
  • dantonsealy

    While institutional racism exists, it continues to thrive today due to economics. The old saying is that if African-Americans were to pool all of our resources we would be the ninth biggest GDP nation in the free world still rings true. So where does the fault ultimately lie? This model is trying to "get in" with those who control the industry; while I am not blaming her for attempting to live our her dream, the emphasis is not on becoming the owner of one's means of production. I am from New York. How many years was it before Calvin Klein, who is Jewish and should have been a benefactor of blacks, a designer blacks bought clothes from in the untold millions of dollars, would even use blacks to model his clothing? Tyson Beckford is the first model to be featured in Ralph Lauren clothing (and he wasn't born until 1970) another designer blacks spend million of dollars on buying his clothing line. Latinos, generally speaking, will not buy goods and services unless they see themselves represented buying or using those services. This is why almost every Ad Agency in America, has two ad campaigns running simultaneously one in english and spanish. It is a racist world--it is even racist within the same ethnic groups--and will never be equal until the one who has the power to make it so, makes it so.

    dantonsealy, 26 Apr 2011
  • amylovesyoumore

    The modeling industry takes it cues, naturally, from the marketing industry. The marketing industry does plenty of research (as someone pointed out) to target their ideal audience and, some would argue, maintain the class hierarchy within our society. None of it is ethical in any sense of the word. And there is definitely nothing ethical about blatant discrimination in hiring practices, but the whole industry is built upon selling superficial products in the (bogus) name of enhancing or creating an identity. So, really, why should we expect differently? The "developed" world has become, by and large, an insanely consumerist and thereby classist culture. As I was watching this film, I kept wishing that Ms. Thompson would just leave the business and fight the same fight where a real difference could be made... in schools or something that is not in support of an industry that at this level is really meaningless to humanity; not unlike the gazillion-dollar sports stars that so many kids look up to... Which is not to say that I do not think that fashion is art. I absolutely do. But when an art becomes so commercialized, corporatized and marketed that there are national and even global trends that can be seen based on marketing, etc., it is no longer real art. It has turned into commodity. Fashion week is a commodity. Though thanks to Ms. Phillip, maybe Ms. Thompson **is** actually doing significant outreach through this film... Hopefully the young girls watching will see past all of the glamour ...

    amylovesyoumore, 12 Mar 2011
  • JasonST

    I dont understand why people can be so racist, we are all human so why can't we all be considered the same. I think its dumb how black people aren't chosen that often in fashion.

    JasonST, 3 Feb 2011
  • Gabe

    It's a crazy world we live in, where we pick and choose what we want. Most of the time, we do this picking and choosing at the expense of others. It's disgusting that we rate people by our own standards, rather than giving all a chance. Mankind is truly a selfish creature.

    Gabe, 3 Feb 2011
  • Jessika

    It's a shame how the fasion industry doesnt "truly" accept models of color. They are humans beings with the same dreams an aspirations as white girls. In this day and age, we should be passed the "color" issue.

    Jessika, 3 Feb 2011
  • Brandon

    I think this is bad and we should make it equal to all races, but I think the reason they put mostly white people on posters and things is because the are directing it to white people. If they were directing something to black people the would want a black person.

    Brandon, 3 Feb 2011
  • boomboxyaya

    It's crazy that people don't think the modeling industry is racist. "No black girls to this casting" is insane. Ofcourse, what if blacks stopped purchasing from designers that only showcase one image of beauty and put the spending power elsewhwere? Would the image follow the money?

    boomboxyaya, 11 Nov 2010
  • Patsy

    i feel sorry this young woman is having a hard time breaking into the high fashion world. but hey, i also feel sorry there are short-legged, or plain-faced, or plump, or normal sized, or vertically-challenged, or ungraceful women that can't make it into the modeling biz. at what point does 'racism' stop being the be all and end all of any and all rejection?

    Patsy, 7 Nov 2010
  • Nokomis

    Hello people The industry itself is not racist. Has any one ever heard of Alex Wek by chance ? What about Iman ? Both women are distinctively african looking and get tonnes of work to this day. Goodness, Iman must be over 45 years of age and is still working.

    Nokomis, 25 Sep 2010
  • Nokomis

    Hello people The industry itself is not racist. Has any one ever heard of Alex Wek by chance ? What about Iman ? Both women are distinctively african looking and get tonnes of work to this day. Goodness, Iman must be over 45 years of age and is still working.

    Nokomis, 25 Sep 2010
  • mojotalent

    IInteresting topic,However, when you have a large gay men in the fashion iindustry presenting.. their interpertation of what is beautiful in a women,then you are witnessing this propaganda. Gay men appear to choose women that look more and more masculine, like young looking boys. Most men i interview would not choose such tall thin women as an ideal representation of a woman. They would be much more shapely. This same argument could be made by women who are shorter or heavier. If blacks take offense then invest your own money in the magazine business and designing and you can appeal to those that choose to support your view. I still havent seen anyone commit their money and that is the real issue.

    mojotalent, 24 Jul 2010
  • olen

    what is she talking about? this industry is not racist. it is a world of objects. there are no people or races to consider. there are merely amalgams of features and if they cluster in the way that the client likes, then you book the job. this industry is not about race, this industry is about who has the money and who you want to appeal to and which fantasy you want to create. She doesn't have to be a model if she doesn't want to. What a boring tired argument. It's the same one a fat girl or an ugly girl can make.

    olen, 20 May 2010
  • andyt

    @SJ: While I hear you on the Canadian point, it is quite irrelevant. The modeling industry focus in New York, Milan and Paris and honestly, the model's origin, i.e. Canada, is unimportant. It's what the core of the industry is representing as a whole.

    andyt, 20 May 2010
  • SJ

    Strong racial tokenism in a film about racial tokenism. I watched this documentary at a public screening in the Vancouver museum, which was followed by an interesting and well organised panel discussion. Firstly I liked the film and so did everyone I spoke with afterwards. It is well put together and raises some important issues. But strangely for a Canadian funded film addressing misrepresentation of visible minorities in the fashion industry, it grossly misrepresents Canada’s visible minority population. The main focus of the film is about a black model trying to make it into New York’s fashion week, with most of the race related comments being about black models. Discussion of other visible minority models amounts to nothing more than tokenism. In Metro Vancouver were this was screened, visible minorities make up 41.7% of the total population but the black population is only 2.4% of this visible minority. The Chinese population by comparison makes up 43.6% of the visible minority in Metro Vancouver. Nor does it represent Metro Toronto were the black population represents 16.2% of the total visible minority, or Canada as a whole where the black population represents only 15.5% of the visible minority or 2.5% of the total population. (All figures from Statistics Canada Community Profiles 2006) This film would have benefited from considerable more research to help put Renee’s story into context, particularly a Canadian one as this is Canadian funded and she is a Canadian model. Such as how many Canadian models make it into New York fashion week, and how many of these models are from visible minorities. And how representative is the Canadian fashion industry itself?

    SJ, 18 May 2010
  • MaryRM

    I absolutely hate the images in fashion magazines, the majority are what I call the heroin addict look. The law finally had to be changed to ensure this industry doesn’t keep pushing for anorexic models. The other look they like is someone without any curves. Do they wish they could dress boys? I’m not sure. I hate the idea of quota laws, but it is disgusting that they are ‘looking for a white girl dipped in chocolate’. Fashion is so follower heavy, but I wonder if the women with money can pull themselves together enough to boycott any designer that does not have visible minorities. This is really disgusting even to have to think of ways to make these people change. Fashion can be fun but I intensely dislike the upper end of the fashion industry.

    MaryRM, 13 May 2010

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