IS THERE ENOUGH DIVERSITY IN FASHION & BEAUTY IMAGERY?
Growing up I was well represented in the media. I'm white, average height, able bodied and, during my 20's and 30's, a UK size 12. Having turned 40 I'm now less represented, and so realise how drawn I am to seeing images of people who look like me. Seeing women who are in their 30s and 40s, with a size 14 ish body looking happy and sexy make me feel, for want of a better word, encouraged. I've always been aware of a lack of diversity in many fashion campaigns and have applauded those who have used models who are different to the usual 5'8 blonde size 8 type - those 90's Benetton adverts have always stayed in my mind. But though I empathised before, I understand it more now that I'm experiencing the subtleties of it a little myself. I've also realised that as an illustrator, who is regularly commissioned to illustrate slim young white women, that I'm helping to reinforce this narrow minded view of what it means to be fashionable and beautiful.
And so on this blog I'll often be painting the same garment on 3 different models, a simple idea but one that, I think, is effective. It allows me to feature people who aren't represented as well in campaigns alongside those who already are, and should, in turn, help people to make buying decisions too. I'll often be illustrating on a UK size 8, 14 and 20.
There's a brilliant Guardian article by actor Riz Ahmed in which he talks about the various stages he sees for actors portraying ethnic minorities on our screens, "stage three is the Promised Land, where you play a character whose story is not intrinsically linked to his race. There, I am not a terror suspect, nor a victim of forced marriage. There, my name might even be Dave". And that's my intention for the illustrations on my blog. Sometimes I might draw someone in a wheelchair or with a headscarf, but unless it's a specific feature I won't mention it.
Whilst I've been working behind the scenes to put all of my initial posts together, some pretty amazing things have been happening on Instagram that help me realise that the time is right for this particular part of my blog.
For a start, positive images of Mums sharing photos of their bodies post baby on Instagram have reached the national press and it's clear that many find these images empowering. And many bloggers in general are talking more openly about how life isn't as perfect as those social media squares can make it appear.
And so the line up above are of people I follow who make me feel happy when I see their posts, because I see something of myself in them. So, thank you Alison, Clemmie, Natalie, Emily and Megan for being awesome.
It's possible of course that my approach to this is naive. On Twitter this morning I saw Nikesh Shukla RT this from Bolu Babaloa, "The collective noun for a group of well meaning white people is called a 'diversity panel!" and I'm aware I could well fall in to that category and just have lots of my peers (who are also mostly white and privileged) telling me what a great idea it is. But I'll only know once I post this and see the reaction.