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Millionaire model donates half of salary to Black Lives Matter

by ace

Since anti-racist protests took over the United States and the world last month, due to the assassination of George Floyd by a white policeman, members of the black movement have begun to reveal structural racism with a fine-tooth comb in various social spheres. Statues came to the ground, cities initiated police reform processes, leading figures in sports filed complaints. Now, the fashion industry is in the sights of critics, being accused of promoting systemic discrimination and of surfing the wave of protests with empty initiatives.

In response to this current climate, supermodel Joan Smalls made a bold move: for the rest of 2020, she promised half her salary to organizations associated with the black movement in the United States. Not only that: she calls on the rest of the fashion world to do the same, through the DonateMyWage.org platform.

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“As a model, sometimes the industry is all about glamor, beauty. But I don’t feel good about participating in an industry that could do much more about the problem of racism, ”says Joan Smalls to VEJA. She, who identifies herself as a “black and Latino woman”, says that supporting organizations that fight for the rights of blacks was a way of dealing with the frustration of not being able to attack the problem directly.

In a video posted on her Instagram profile, the Puerto Rican model accuses the industry of racist practices.

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“I see all the agencies, magazines and brands posting black screens on their Instagram accounts [fazendo referência a um protesto on-line no dia 2 de junho]. But what does it really mean? What will the fashion industry really do about it? Is it just another trend? ”

The website DonateMyWage.org was created in response to this protest, called #blackouttuesday, in which brands and supporters of the black movement would no longer promote themselves, posting only a black screen in a kind of strike on social networks. Initially aimed at black musicians struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, which paralyzed the cultural industry, the platform was acquired by Smalls to continue the proposal, now focused on fashion.

“This industry that profits from our black bodies, our culture of constant inspiration, our music and our images treads eggs around issues,” says the model in the video. “You are part of the cycle that perpetuates these conscious behaviors.”

Smalls was the first Latin model for the beauty brand Estée Lauder, in 2011, and the first non-white woman to appear on the cover of Porter magazine in 2015. She is one of the rare non-white models on the Forbes list of best paid by the industry.

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“Only this is a double-edged sword. While I am proud, I wonder why there are no other girls like me, why is there no equality in all aspects? ”, She tells VEJA. “There were times when I collapsed, cried and got frustrated, because I wanted to do something about it”, she adds.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1988, she says she already expected to encounter racism when she started to parade in New York, in 2007. “I suffered a lot of prejudice, there was no space for black people in the parades”, she says.

“To endure racism, I had to see myself as a product that was there to pump a brand. I tried to exclude the human factor so as not to take it personally ”, confesses Smalls.

The model paraded for the lingerie brand Victoria’s Secrets, considered one of the least diverse in the sector by professionals in the fashion world. Only in 2019, a timid campaign showing models of different skin tones started poking at a decades-old tradition of female beauty standards – which doesn’t even come close to other specters of diversity, such as sexual orientation, physical types and demographic groups.

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“Changes cannot just happen in magazines and ads, they have to be from the inside out. Teams need to be more multicultural, ”says Smalls. In addition to attacking the racist structure, the model explains which brands will be able to market more efficiently if their consumers feel represented.

The scenario already seems to be changing. According to the diversity report from The Fashion Spot platform at the end of 2018, at the Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, 36.1% of the models were not white (which includes black, Latin and Asian women). It is a leap from the 2014 parades, when only 17% of them were not white.

Smalls warns, however, that this is not enough: “The DonateMyWage movement is not just about money, but about awareness. We all need to continue educating ourselves about racism ”, he explains. More than the dollars spent, it is the time spent to unravel the knots of discrimination that permeate magazines, fashion brands, shows, advertisements and marketing – so that the initiative goes beyond 2020, too. “If we can make at least one person stop to think, I consider the project successful ”.

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