Watch almost any runway show in the US and Europe, and you'll find black models in extremely short supply. That's the dirty secret of fashion, say many critics. "The industry is racist. In Milan black girls never work. In Paris it's still the same," British model booker Annie Wilshaw tells the Guardian. "It's 2011 and that's quite disgusting." You "know straight away" when clients are "not talking about a black girl," she adds. "They say they want 'a girl with long hair, who looks like a fairy' or something. When they want a black girl, they will say 'looking for mixed-race girl, tribal-prints location, desert scene.'"
Some in the fashion world blame practicalities like lighting and makeup, which are different for black models, and therefore more time consuming. Model choice is also "driven by what sells and, in general, white blond girls sell, that's the mindset," says the founder of a modeling agency. "In fact, black girls do sell but they're not given as many openings. It is safer to go with a white girl, and in a recession people are very conservative." But why blame fashion, some wonder. "How can you expect fashion not to be slightly racist when the world is still racist?" asks black model Leonie Anderson.