Las week, AZN introduced our new series “Model Minorities” with an inaugural post on Aussie model Jessica Gomes. Now it’s my turn to weigh in, and provide some context for the decision to start this thang. After all, just because we both rep BCB doesn’t mean we have to always agree.
“Model Minorities” was in part prompted by recent articles on the heels of New York Fashion week about the declining diversity of runway shows. The idea was that we would research (google) Asian American models, see how many we could find (would there be such a dearth we’d have to look to Asian models in other countries?), promote them on BCB, and have a little fun with it.
I do wanna add a disclaimer: I have mixed feelings about even doing a series featuring models — since I think it’s a stupid institution that reinforces unrealistic expectations of beauty and body — especially impacting women. And that sometimes it feels like women of color are just jockeying for position to be equally as objectified and sexualized as white women.
That said, there’s also a need to provide more visibility for APA folks in areas typically dominated by white people — fashion and modeling included — and this is an industry that’s not likely to die out anytime soon. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a heapin’ helpin of eye candy now and then?
So I personally wanted to find a way to walk the fine line between fightin’ the power and reinforcing it — and I know I probably picked the worst topic to try and politicize, since part of a model’s job is to be ogled and lusted after.
Back to AZN’s Jessica Gomes post — I let him know I was bothered by certain parts of it — namely the identification of which parent was from where, and how “those countries sure go together like chicken and rice!” I wanted “Model Minorities” to help raise the visibility of folks who are normally not sexualized (Asian men) and post in a less predictable and stereotypical way on those who are hyper-sexualized (Asian women and mixed folks) — rather than exotifying the “Other” or valuing women based upon how they’ve been historically colonized. Equating Gomes’ ethnicity to food is too often done to Asian women and multiracial folks, and the pinpointing of her particular “mix” in direct correspondence to her attractiveness smacks of exotification (I do realize that writing about females is more challenging given the gender dynamics — with male models you can be all “yowza woohoo hawt! etc.” without coming off too creepy).
And since our goal was to feature those most under-represented, personally I would have picked a “full” Asian model (especially for the series kick-off), since mixed models are already sought after in fashion and media (in this limited sense, I agree with Yuey’s comment). So that’s my long-winded and over-intellectualized way of saying: it made me feel kinda icky.
Going forward, who knows if either of us can avoid such pitfalls when writing about models, but we’ll see where it goes. Thoughts, folks?