Joan Smalls calls being black in the fashion industry ‘a constant battle’

Joan Smalls is calling for major change in the fashion industry.

The Puerto Rican-born model, 31, is speaking out about discrimination she’s faced over the course of her career and calling on those who’ve pledged inclusivity to put tangible practices in place.

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more black men and women, Smalls says she felt compelled to call out the lack of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This has been going on for far too long and we are tired,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “How many times have I been told that my hair was an issue and told to control it? How many times have I had to share campaigns or editorial when I saw my counterparts achieve those milestones solo? It was a constant battle no one saw, but one that I lived daily.”

Smalls said that the fashion world “profits from our Black and Brown bodies, our culture for constant inspiration, our music (that continues to glorify these brands), and our images for their visuals,” but has “tiptoed” around the issue at hand.

“Your silence is not only insulting, it is a part of the bigger problem within this industry,” she added.

Without naming names, Smalls said that many brands have “jumped on the bandwagon” of solidarity on social media because of fans who held them accountable, but still “fall short trying to narrate our stories by toning us down or having them curated by people who haven’t lived our experiences.”

“I don’t need validation from an industry that casts me as the token Black girl while ignoring my whole cultural identity as a proud Latina as well,” she wrote, calling for the acknowledgement of systemic racism from photographers, stylists, agencies and casting directors.

Smalls is set on making lasting change herself. Not only will she be donating half of her income for the remainder of 2020 to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement, but she also plans to curate a list of models, hairstylists, makeup artists and other creatives and people of color to help brands diversify their staff.

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