Model Seynabou Cisse is a beautiful example of the stream of dark skinned faces that are beginning to emerge on the modeling scene. With deep ebony skin, high cheek bones and legs for days, Cisse’s look is the budding standard for black women in the modeling and entertainment world. Whether it’s Alek Wek on the runway or Lupita Nyong’o on the Oscar’s stage, the visibility for African women is becoming a widespread occurrence.
I’m sure I speak for other black American women when I say that I share a sense of pride when seeing these striking beauties. After all, we share the much of the same features, heritage and experiences with being underrepresented, marginalized and scorned for our appearance. However, even Cisse notices that dark skinned black American women in particular are still struggling, more than anyone, to get a piece of the pie and we are grateful that she spoke on our behalf.
In her recent, JAG Model interview, Cisse recalls speaking with a fellow model who can’t land an agency because she is a “regular black woman” meaning her look isn’t considered “exotic” enough for the industry.
We see this kind of demand and mentality running rampant all over the entertainment industry – In order to get a spot in a sitcom, movie, video or magazine, a black woman either has to be light skinned and racially ambiguous, or very dark skinned and African. There seems to be very little room in entertainment for the dark and brown skinned American women to the point we’re almost invisible or fighting one another for a spot. This reality became painfully apparent in TV One’s Hollywood Divas where the black American actresses constantly spoke of their struggles to land roles. This refusal to hire and promote more black women trickles down from the big screen to the walls of of retail department stores and product packaging.
This is concerning considering black American women, our influence on mainstream consumerism and our billion dollar buying power in this country. It is rightfully troubling that we are the overwhelming upholding consumers in the market, but rarely good enough to be the face of the brands.
Our lack of representation and feelings of mainstream unappreciation causes us to voice our concerns, but they often fall on deaf ears. Just like in the workplace, our contributions, talents and voices are deemed inferior to our non black counterparts.
This immense pushback and blatant disrespect however, has seemingly empowered black women to become their own bosses. According to a U.S. Census Survey, from 2007-2015, black women had a 67% growth rate in entrepreneurship owning more than 1.5 million businesses that generated over $42 billion dollars in sales. Everywhere you look on social media, you see black women and girls creating their own brands and unapologetically using other black women to be the face of them.
This surge of black female ownership is empowering indeed but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Our ever increasing spending habits in the black community show that black women especially continue to be the most loyal buyers, with the least representation.
To be frank, black American women need to stop complaining and get pickier on where we spend our coins. Who better to hold these companies accountable than the most voracious consumers in the country? The ball is in our court ladies and we hold the power to impair any company that refuses to promote the likeness of our image. As cliché as it all may sound, it’s worth repeating unit it’s done.