With the noticeable lack of minorities in high fashion, it has been a sweet surprise for many to know that 19-year-old Kenyan, Malaika Firth, has been cast as the new face of Prada. This hasn’t happened since Naomi Campbell was named the face of the high fashion label’s ads in 1994 – almost 20 years ago.
Over the course of the years it seems there has been an almost blatant exclusion of women of color from high fashion runways, fashion spreads, and print ads for any number of reasons. Things have even become so sparse that folks have gone as far as to have white models in blackface for certain fashion spreads or white models with arms painted black for runway shows. And though much uproar has been made about this or that, things have seemed slow to change as even Firth has admitted that she has been dismissed from model castings because she was “non-white.”
But with Firth’s casting, and model Joan Smalls dominating runways, changes are happening. Fashion designer Raf Simons seems to have received the memo that we are living in a progressive age as he also recently cast six minority models for his recent runway show for Dior. He hadn’t used any non-white models prior, and because of that, Simons has been criticized for the lack of color in his castings in the past.
One can never really be sure if these changes are happening as a result of designers trying to cover themselves after allegations of unfair casting due to race came up, or if they really are trying to be progressive and incorporate more cultures into high fashion in a non-stereotypically offensive way. Either way, we’re glad to see more models of color being showcased, including this Kenyan beauty.