Meet Sharon Quinn
Is It Time For A Plus Model Coalition?
With the end of 2008 rapidly approaching, I thought I would for go my
usual "Model Behavior" series and leave a little bit of "food for
thought" with you to chew on to nourish and fortify you for the new
At the beginning of 2008, a few of my close friends got special invites
to a very exclusive meeting at an undisclosed location. I found
out later from these friends that this meeting included most if not all
of the African-American movers and shakers in the modeling
industry. It was a resurrection of the Black Girls Coalition, an
organization determined to change the status quo in the fashion
industry. This particular meeting's mediator was none other than
one of BGC's founding members Bethann Hardison.
Check out the excerpt from a story that ran in The Observer:
"It's been the biggest fashion story of the year and it's had nothing
to do with harem pants, the coat versus the cape, or the alluring
comeback of the brogue. An industry not known for its crises of
confidence has been forced to ask itself some uncomfortable questions.
Might there be something nearing apartheid inside the pages of the
glossy magazines and on the runways of the international designer
collections? Is fashion racist?
The debate - some say long overdue - would not have been kick-started
without a woman called Bethann Hardison. The first black saleswoman in
the Garment District of New York in the Sixties and a runway model in
the Seventies, she spent the Eighties and Nineties as one of the few
black women with her own modeling agency (for black and white clients).
She's so celebrated in the business that she's known mostly by her
first name only, like Naomi and Iman, to each of whom she also happens
to be a long-time confidante and mentor.
Over the past 14 months she's held campaign meetings in New York to
speak out about a subject that has been largely taboo in the fashion
industry. These are protest groups like no other - a cross between a
rambunctious church service and the coolest party you have ever been
to. Here, the likes of Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Iman, Tyson
Beckford and Veronica Webb squeeze into a room with some of the fashion
world's biggest players such as André Leon Talley, editor-at-large of
American Vogue and designer Vera Wang, as well as casting agents,
stylists and representatives from the modeling agencies.
At each meeting, Hardison sits at the front and beckons people she
knows to stand up and speak. 'I knew I could make things happen,' she
says. 'I knew I could make the rest of the industry feel self-conscious
about what was going on.'
I wholeheartedly agree on the need for the BGC, I saw the need when it
was conceived and I see an even more urgent need for it now!
Someone HAS to monitor the "shot callers" who consistently send out the
ridiculous message to the majority of the population that "beauty
begins at a size zero". Black models have long been discriminated
against in fashion but plus-sized models are literally ignored across
the board in fashion, music and media. It's as if we don't even
exist and (if we are seen at all) the bigger you are the fewer
opportunities you are allowed. But what really puzzles me is that
I know for a fact that there were several representatives of the Plus
Model industry in attendance at that meeting; yet whenever someone
tried to bring up the issues concerning plus-sized models-- I am told
that at every turn the conversation was abruptly shut down and after
several attempts; they were told quite rudely that no one was
interested in hearing the plight of plus-sized models at this
It is interesting that the last paragraph of the above excerpt says
that "she sits at the front and beckons people she knows to stand up
and speak" but what of those people that she DOESN'T know, those whose
interests include subjects that hold no interest for her. Do the
voices of those that they represent not deserve a moment to have the
This puzzled me. Black women are known for their diversity and
most of all for their luscious curves Statistics show that over 2/3
of the population is a size 14 and larger, therefore how can you NOT
include plus models in a coalition for models??? That doesn't
make sense to me at all to exclude a certain group of models from a
so-called "coalition" of models IS discriminatory in itself.... Isn't it?
Perhaps a name change to "The Skinny Black Models Coalition" is in
Initially, these reports incensed me but once the stories had a chance to marinate within me, it got me to thinking...