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Posted under: Race & Identity Opinion

One model shares her experience with police brutality, addresses lack of support in fashion industry

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Many think that being a supermodel looks like the most glamorous and easy job in the history of entertainment professions. Just show up, look good, and pose in whichever way that exudes the aura of the collection you are modeling. Seems simple, right? Behind the camera, emotions run deeper than the pain from the stilettos on your feet or plucking false eyelashes off your eyelids. Without a doubt, we all know that with much success comes many hurdles, and being a model in the fashion industry isn’t any different from a lawyer trying to climb to the top of their firm. From wage differences to weight restrictions, models face many hardships while trying to cascade their way to editorial fame. And specifically black, Hispanic and Asian models can add racial discrimination to their long list of difficulties to face while they try to break fashion ground. Being very vocal about the discrimination toward black models and other models of colour in the industry, Naomi Campbell has vowed to never be silent in her experiences, and notices of the lack of representation. Having always voiced her opinion and concerns publicly about the lack of different races on and off the runway, the 46-year-old makes it clear to everyone in and out of the industry of the multi-million dollar business’s lack of racial inclusion. British model Jourdan Dunn has also taken a stand against discrimination in the fashion industry in many press conferences and to media outlets, and even shared one of her first-hand experiences in 2013 on the popular British talk show The Jonathan Ross Show. Dunn was told before a fashion show that a makeup artist refused to do her makeup because she has dark skin. As if experiencing discrimination in the fashion industry isn’t enough, black models are also being faced with brutal attacks from police. With the recent murders of Alston Sterling and Philando Castile, the world was at a standstill when the videos of both men being murdered at the hands of police were released.

Celebrities quickly took to their social media accounts to share their outrage on the matter, but Sudanese-born, Australian-raised international model Ajak Deng shared a personal story of her own police attack.

On the day following the Alton Sterling shooting, Deng emotionally shared her experience with police brutality while coming home from a job in New York in a four-part Instagram video series. With rage and pain in her voice, Deng recalled the horrific ordeal as she pushes through the past experience to share the events of that evening with followers. “Two years ago I was almost killed by two white officers in front of my building trying to get out of a taxi from Manhattan to Brooklyn after work. I called my agency, no one was there to answer. I called my agent, she answered, and guess what she said? ‘White people love black people. It is all in your head, relax, breathe, let it go, we love you.” As she holds up her elbows and points to her knees to revel the dark marks that are still evident from the attack, Deng continues, “Honey I’ve been through this, and that’s why it is so painful for me to deal with it! And I hate it so much and it’s so frustrating! But you know what, no one is there to protect me.” No support from the agency that monetizes off her beauty, and no support from her parents who have never been to America and don’t understand the racism that runs deep within the country, Deng, who has voiced her opinion about racism in the fashion industry earlier this year and has threatened to quit the industry, is left to fend for herself as she navigates her way through her agency and the injustices of the country. She expressed that she's forever grateful to her neighbor, who filmed the attack, and she's glad that she's alive and has the chance to share her story with others and has a platform to make a difference.   Later in her videos, Deng makes avid points about racist white people making money off others for profit, while not caring about the person they're making money off of. Especially in the entertainment and fashion world, there are many black people and other people of color who are not from America and experience police brutality and racism. It's heartbreaking knowing that Deng, a model who has graced many fashion magazines, campaigns and runway shows, was a victim of police harassment without the support of the people who endorse, promote and encourage her career. The support from the fashion industry is needed now more than ever to fairly represent their black models and other models of color. By taking a stand to support these models both on and off the runway, it will show the world that not only is fashion inclusive, but it encourages and gives a voice to all races — especially people of color. The fashion industry should open their eyes and realize that racists don’t care if you’re an international figure who has traveled internationally or rubbed elbows with the world’s most elite, all they see is color.

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