Unfortunately, we've become accustom to the lack of diversity reflected in the pages of the top fashion and lifestyle magazines. Will there ever come a time when people of color gracing glossy covers or landing major beauty campaigns won't be headline news? Let's hope so.
But while we wait, there are plenty of opportunities to point out the blatant lack of diversity, which is precisely what happened when the highly-anticipated new issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine relaunched this week.
The New York Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan, picked up on several reader letters that highlighted the issue's "lack of people of color," which she completely with agreed, calling it "overwhelmingly white."
One letter remarked, "There is a complete absence of any people of color in articles or fashion shoots. I assume the ads cannot be controlled, but I saw only one African-American and one Asian-American among the thousands of models in the ads. The T doesn’t look like my neighborhood or America." While another said, "I realize that it is all advertising, but doesn’t The Times have some responsibility to ensure that something it publishes should look at least a little like 21st-century America?"
Good questions--and ones that Sullivan thankfully relayed to T's editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman. To our surprise, the editrix didn't skirt the issue. In fact, Needleman concurred with the criticism and went on record promising to be more vigilant regarding diversity in the future.
It was something I noticed and regretted as we were putting the issue together. We are a global magazine and so would like the content, subjects and geography of stories to reflect that. In coming issues, we cover the people and places of Seoul, São Paulo, Kenya, Bollywood actors, Nigeria, etc. A majority of fashion models are still unfortunately mostly white, but it is our aim to celebrate quality and beauty in all its diverse forms. We can and will aim to do better, but our goal is first and foremost to deliver the best stories we find, and it is my belief that quality and good journalism appeal to all of us regardless of our specific ethnic origins.
We're left with a few thoughts.
We don't know the complete ethnic makeup of T's staff, but considering the publishing (and fashion) industry's track record when it comes to hiring people of color, it's safe to assume that there may not have been any melanin-enhanced folks in Needleman's camp reminding her to add some diversity.
Furthermore, as our friends over at Clutch pointed out, "why would she [Needleman] need to leave the U.S. to add more color to T Magazine‘s pages?" Agreed. There are plenty of gainfully employable models of color stateside, which certainly reflect the mutli-cultural makeup of the country. But unfortunately many of them aren't being booked as Jezebel.com so clearly outlined in their New York Fashion Week diversity report.
Nevertheless, Needleman's apology is a welcome one, which will hopefully force her fellow editors to take stock in what they are putting out into the world.
We'll definitely keep our eyes peeled for those forthcoming, colorful issues. In the meantime, we've rounded up a roster of beautiful black models that she can keep at the top of her "hire" list.