Fashion Industry – Is There Discrimination & Racism?

Mariconera, maricón. These two simple words sound harmless enough, in English. They are almost indistinguishable words, except one is a slur; the other, an item, a man’s bag. How harmless can they be? It’s January, any Sunday morning, and fútbol is on the television in the living room, where dad sits watching, mamá by his side. You’ve always had an interest in fashion, but now you want to take it a step further so you tell your parents you’ve decided you want to be a model. Dad looks up and says, “What?! You f…” only to be interrupted by your mother yelling inquisitively, “Did I do something to cause this??” Your father asks her, “What are you talking about? He wants to go to school, he wants to be a model! I couldn’t be happier!” Mom, still stunned by the news that you want to do something that is considered a career only chosen by homosexual’s, maricones. Your dad finishes his initial reaction, stating cheerfully, “You finally decided to do something positive with your life!” This is of little consolation since your mom is having a full on panic attack.

Anything To Do With Fashion Makes You Gay

That sounds a bit far fetched, but it happens, it happens too often in many Latin American homes. Anything to do with fashion makes you gay, and no one convinced will believe otherwise, you just want to go to school, you’ve decided on a career path, but the stigma is too much. Your father says he understands you, but your mother doesn’t, “She thinks you’re maricón.” he says. I know you’re not, but for her sake… You know your cousin, Gilberto, he’s going to law school. Maybe, maybe you can go to be a firefighter or something else, eh? C’mon, and we talk about it later. I have to finish letting your mother braid my hair.” So you do find another line of work, and a potential model has lost his dream. Stigma is a huge killer of dreams, thank goodness, not all fall for this madness. A video recently surfaced, purportedly of actor Vin Diesel dancing alone for about seven minutes. Some on social media sites immediately scribbled out that he must be gay. One of the greatest falsetto balladeers to hold the mic, El [Eldra] Debarge, is routinely, but incorrectly, criticized on social networking sites as being gay because his voice is incredibly beautiful. Fortunately for the public, both of these gentlemen brush off the antics of a silly few, and continue to persevere.

 You Tell him it’s a Fashion Website. He says, “That’s nasty! Muthafucka, you’s a faggot!

It’s a Monday morning, and you’re on the bus on your way to high school, with about 30 other kids from your neighborhood. You reach in your backpack and pull out your tablet, and immediately go to your favorite fashion page when some kid comes over to you and asks disgustedly, “What you lookin’ at?!” You tell him it’s a fashion website. He says, “That’s nasty! Muthafucka, you’s a faggot! ” Which immediately draws laughter from the other kids. You turn off your tablet, and put it away. Then just stare out the window knowing that you could be a model, you had to be able to do it somehow without anyone knowing you were practicing to be the next face of the top designers! Later, your brother comes home from school. He’s taking classes at the university, majoring in mathematics and science. He also happens to play soccer [fútbol], is physically fit, and the ladies love him because they say he looks like [fashion model/actor] Tyrece. Even the girls on your bus say your brother looks like the top model. You can’t figure it out, it’s okay for him, but not you?

Cultural Impediments Still Exist

Understand, those are cultural impediments that are dying, but they still exist to a large extent. Demonize the entire LGBT community, and scare you to death! Ask psychologist, radio talk show host, and fighter for the LGBT community, Dr. Isabel @DraIsabel. They are attitudes born of ignorance, hate, selfishness, and fear, nothing less (well, maybe envy too?) Keep in mind, relatives are very powerful influences on a young person’s life. It would be easy to say get over it, and move on, however the fear that your family can make you feel is insane! It takes strong family and friends to stand with you, and to say that whatever this young man aspires to is his business, it is not up to us to judge, only to support (there might be a few male nurses in the states that can relate, but the stigma is dying). By the way, the term “gay” is used intentionally, it’s not coincidence by any means, that it crosses cultural and racial borders. A fear of the unknown remains a powerful tool used to control and divide.

Celebrities Influence Trends

Famed soccer [fútbol] player, David Beckham models; perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan, models; actor/musician/ fashion designer, Marc Anthony, has no image issue. The fact is that if you watch television or movies, it’s likely that the actors are modeling the latest lines from some big name designers. (I bought a leather jacket because it resembled the one worn by Tom Cruise in “Minority Report”. The financial aspects I choose to leave out because lack of finances, poverty is universal. Many people are restricted from doing what they would like to do because they just need to survive. Some overcome that and achieve their goals.) Please note that none of the persons mentioned above are known to be gay. Their names were used to point out the contrast and hypocrisy that exists in society, around the world. Remember actor Rock Hudson? My uncle told me that as a young man growing up in another country [he, my uncle] said Rock Hudson set the standard for fashion, what it meant to be cool, and all the while, Mr. Hudson was gay. Now why was it that when they didn’t know that, Rock Hudson was cool? In later years, sadly Mr. Hudson became ill and chose to disclose his sexual orientation only then. His name, his movies are rarely found on any television channel. Stigma?

Fashion Industry is not Immune from the Ignorant Forces of Hatred

Those who understand that racism still unfortunately plays an ugly role throughout the world in so many areas of life, know that the fashion industry is not immune from the ignorant forces of hatred. Just to explain why I say this, here are several examples of what females have faced, and still face: September 2013, seven-year old girl who was crowned “Little Miss Hispanic Delaware (USA)” had her crown revoked because certain members of the audience resented the fact that she was Black. They said they felt the little girl didn’t quite fit the stereotypical “Latin beauty” image they’d prefer to see. Back further, Italy, 1996, the winner of the Miss Italy beauty pageant, a Black woman [Hispanic, from the Dominican Republic, like Little Miss Delaware], was insulted by a number of high-ranking officials, members of the fashion community and others, as not being a”true representative of [Italian beauty]”; finally actress and singer, Brandy, was told in her childhood, by a school staff member, that [Brandy] was not pretty enough to be a model. So far, this criticism has gone largely ignored by its intended victims. It has been reported that Brandy has been able to harness the criticism, and use it to assist others who have been affected by damage to their self esteem due to racism and discrimination.

Remarks Regarding People of Color, Religions, and Various Nationalities

About 15 or so years ago, someone decided to spread a horrific rumor about world-renowned fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. The vile rumor was spread across the internet by email stating Mr. Hilfiger made highly offensive and derogatory remarks regarding people of color, religions, and various nationalities. The rumor was so malicious and persistent, that many consumers refused to buy this designer’s products. Mr. Hilfiger himself appeared on the most watched television program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, to explain the truth (the email included Ms. Winfrey as the person who chased Mr. Hilfiger from her show, purportedly for using the slurs. Needless to say, none of the rumors were correct.) This, however, had an effect on young people – I know because I heard the rumor myself and believed it. It was discouraging to me because I had always loved the fashion industry, and it made me angry to hear this [lie], and coupled with the chase for the Fabios, Dicaprios, Depps and Beckhams, many people of color simply go under the radar, ignored by the mainstream media. But remember, this is about modeling, why so much focus on the media?

The Media is not the Fashion Industry

That’s just the problem, the media is not the fashion industry nor are they the fashion editors and reporters who do not adhere to the mainstream media’s fixation with race, religion, etc. However, fashion editors and reporters should make more noise about what’s seen and not seen – Please don’t think for one minute that racism and discrimination come from one side only. The offenders are of all races and both genders, and closing your professional eyes to obviously poor practices, it’s just as bad.

Is there is Discrimination, Racism, in the Fashion Industry?

Yes, there is discrimination, racism, in the fashion industry, but not to the point where young men of color should feel they don’t stand a chance, and should not aspire to a career in modeling, or fashion design. The catwalks and runways are filled with people of color, granted they are also disproportionately White. The designers and show/production coordinators that contribute to exclusionary tactics should be held accountable for their behavior, and exposed to consumers. Internet rumors, stigmas, ignorant family members, they need to be ignored, and all aspiring models must pursue their dreams regardless of racial or cultural hysterics and lies. Everything written here represents obstacles that can and must be overcome, it’ll take members from all sides. But mostly, it will take you. If you choose to become a model, nothing can stop you.

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