Kanye West’s Yeezy collections, with their all-encompassing flesh-colored palettes, have been praised for championing a more inclusive definition of the word “nude.” His Fall 2016 Yeezy Season 3 show, made up completely of models of color, was the most diverse of the season. In addition, his was one of the few runways to feature an aged model (in this case, veteran supermodel Veronica Webb).
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 3, 2016
That said, with a single tweet, Kanye has managed to disrupt his legacy of inclusion. On Saturday, the rapper, designer and provocateur issued a casting call for his upcoming Yeezy Season 4 show that requested only “multiracial women” show up. Needless to say, people of all ethnicities were up in arms.
Yeezy Season 4 casting
“they want black features not black girls” pic.twitter.com/0QFJfF4hPK
— Aquamarine (@ladybreec) September 4, 2016
While the tweet certainly implies we have another diverse Yeezy runway to — err — look forward to, Kanye’s decision to exclude those of full black, white, Latin and Asian descent represents a new, troubling kind of exclusivity. Many Twitter users (and later, protestors) took “multiracial” to mean “black features, but hold the black skin please.”
A casting call for ‘multiracial women only’ how do you expect to determine that?
— DarkSkintDostoyevsky (@daniecal) September 3, 2016
Others pointed out how impossible it would be for West to assess models’ ethnicities.
— tiocfaidh ár lá (@PepeWillsIt) September 3, 2016
Calls of reverse racism left us unmoved. After all, the majority of working models are white. The issue here is that Kanye’s show was formerly one of the few (up until this year — let’s hope the CFDA’s call for diversity doesn’t fall on deaf ears) runways on which black models were reliably given an opportunity to work.
kanye always trying to paint himself as a futurist/the alpha progressive but that misogyny & those colorism issues in him way too strong
— Bri Malandro (@BriMalandro) September 3, 2016
It is worth noting that, although many took West’s use of the word “multiracial” to connote a sort of Chanel Iman or Naomi Campbell-esque character, the term can refer to any mix of ethnicities, is not synonymous with “light-skinned black girls” and does not necessarily exclude the very fair or very dark. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second here: It seems likely that West, ever the “futurist,” is staging his show in post-racial utopia. Whatever the case may be, at present, his creative choice overlooks (and diminishes) the pressing racial issues at hand.
Casting director James Scully’s words for Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, who notably cast no models of color in his debut show, could easily be redirected at Kanye: “So if you’re the designer the whole world is looking to right now, how great that your message is one of exclusion which is never in fashion. It must feel like a slap to all of the people of color who line up to buy your clothes that your message to them [is that] you don’t see them in your world.” One thing’s for certain: Wednesday’s Yeezy Season 4 show is sure to get people talking.
Update: Turns out Kanye’s casting call was not only controversial (and wearying to those who waited in the 6-hour line for naught), but also illegal. “Under the laws enforced by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (‘EEOC’), a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (either an applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in particular, prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin,” explains The Fashion Law. Therefore, since Kanye excluded individuals of just one race, he broke the law. As the casting is already finished and the show is tomorrow, the rapper has dodged the hassle of issuing a new, non-discriminatory call — though a serious slap on the wrist is in order, if you ask us. Non-“multiracial women” who wish to do so can file a complaint against Kanye with the EEOC here.
[ via Mic ]