Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Endangered Species - the African fashion model

On a light note, here's a snippet from the Independent about the 'perils' of the artificial world of the African fashion model. Ergo, the 'ebony-black' look is no longer in vogue... It's culture, it's disposable...

Falling out of fashion: why African models are so last year. When the fashion world wanted to look serious, it turned to Africa. But now the trend isover, top agencies are quitting and there are questions over racist attitudes

Western designers and fashion journalists adore the troubled life stories most African models bring with them. Alek Wek comes from the war zone of south Sudan and remembers bullets hitting her bedroom walls; Waris Dirie has written about how she was circumcised with a blunt knife, and Iman remembers life as a Somali refugee. Their history lends an aura of gravitas to the products they endorse.

But the interest has not been sustained. Elite's African business has been wound up, and Kenyan model scouts are desperately seeking sponsorship money to host the model contests and pageants that keep the new faces coming.

For many African women the interest of the international modelling agencies was a source of great pride. Model scouts made it clear they were looking for true "African looks", dark skin and full bodies, instead of a traditional European face and figure.

It was a way to celebrate a beauty that had not been achieved through skin-lightening creams and hair straighteners. "People think of fashion and modelling as frivolous businesses, but they are an essential part of an enterprise culture," Moira Tremaine, director of the fourth annual Kenya Fashion Week, said. "Last year, we got EU funding for our fashion shows because they recognised the commercial importance of promoting local designers and showcasing new talent."

Ms Nasenyana's ebony-black skin, shaved head and razor cheekbones put her at the centre of it all. But she is not as enthusiastic as she might have been. "I had never grown up desperate to be a model," she said. "I was training to be an athlete, and I told them I would much rather run."

Well back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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