Black models in Melbourne, Australia, are taking a stand against racism in the fashion industry. According to the BBC, they said they are boycotting Melbourne Fashion Week to bring awareness to the blatant mistreatment they experience while at work.

The models shared that they’ve seen staff use racial slurs in front of them, and hairdressers are not not shy when it comes to making derogatory and degrading comments about their hair. Two models said they discovered they were grossly underpaid compared to their white counterparts.

The city of Melbourne has addressed the boycott, stating that Melbourne Fashion Week prides itself on being one of the most inclusive fashion events in the world, championing those “from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTIQ+ community and those with disabilities,” according to the BBC.

“We were not aware of any concerns relating to diversity or race involving Melbourne Fashion Week. Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated,” a representative said in a statement, per the outlet.

However, 29-year-old model Jeffrey Kissubi told the BBC that the event is just “one of the fashion bodies within the industry” that he and his fellow models are standing up against. He hopes that the boycott will encourage international attention and a dialogue about the reality of being a person of color in the fashion industry in Australia.

“I worked with someone on set, and they used a racial slur in my presence thinking it was okay,” he explained. “That racial slur had to do with the oppression of Black people, and I’m not sure if they understood that you can’t use that kind of language.”

He added that he and his colleagues have “come forward” and “broken this story not because it’s something we wanted to do — we had to do it because it can’t keep happening.”

Kissubi also provided some insight on how the models organized the boycott. He revealed that the idea for the boycott was brought up a few months ago, after a group of Australian models of color came together and swapped stories about discrimination they’ve faced at events and jobs.

“I felt like in the past when one of us has come forward to talk about our experience, it’s always been dismissed. But when a group of us comes forward, it has more impact,” he told the BBC.

Nyaluak Leth, a South Sudanese model who was raised in Australia and who participated in the boycott, told the BBC that she decided to speak out because there’s “nothing worse than having a false sense of representation at the forefront of an industry that does pride itself on individuality and cultural acceptance.”


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“I think it’s just time for the industry to turn the lens on itself and take accountability and put forward initiative to be what they say they are,” she added.

The 26-year-old also opened up about an experience she had, during which another Black model asked her to braid her hair before walking the runway at a major fashion event.

“In 2019 behind the scenes at Sydney Fashion Week, one of the Black models approached me and asked me to braid her hair and I said, ‘But darling, there are so many empty seats in the hair section,’ but I could tell that she was really reluctant to even ask for help … because she didn’t trust that anyone knew how to do her hair, and she was definitely right,” she said.

Awar Malek, another model, told the Sydney Morning Herald that working in fashion down under as a Black woman is “a form of self-destruction.”


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Nylow Ajing, a South-Sudanese-born model, said, “In London, New York and Paris, you could not get away with what the fashion industry is doing here and how it treats Black models, but they don’t seem to care or want to change,” according to the Herald.


Despite their efforts, Leth thinks not much will change.

“We’re not going to really know what change is until we see it … because they can have their quotes, they can say that models are getting paid the same and have the representation, but darling, give us the receipts,” she said.