Joan Smalls made a passionate plea to the fashion industry. The 31-year-old supermodel took to her social media to call out the fashion industry for their lack of support for the Black community. In a video, posted on her Instagram feed, the Puerto Rican supermodel read a letter of her own words, which encouraged her industry to do better and do more when it comes to supporting the Black community. “What is the fashion industry actually going to do about it,” she said. ‘The industry that profits from our black and brown bodies, our culture for contestant inspiration, our music and our images for their visuals has tiptoed around the issues, you are part of the cycle that perpetuates this conscious behavior.”
The message comes weeks after the fight for racial equality was amplified across the world, following the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old man was killed in police custody after an officer had his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. Joan went on to speak about the “industry that loves stereotyping us,” as she noted the injustices that she has faced during her career, which range from comments about her hair, her removal from campaigns and the racism from photographers, stylists and campaign managers. The model noted that within the industry, she was constantly marketed “as the token Black girl,” while her “cultural identity” was ignored.
Joan encouraged the industry to take their solidarity outside of social media and make a broader change. “This is your chance, the moment that when you speak up and show that you really care,” she said. “We see you do you see us now. I urge you to use your voice, use your infrastructure to help us. I urge all of you to stand with us, together we are stronger.”
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The recent and long standing acts against the black community have been saddening, frustrating and unacceptable. I feel these same emotions when I think about how my industry, the fashion world, is responding. It is time for this industry to do more than post a black square and say they’ll “Do Better!” It’s time for us to see the change starting from the ground up. Give us a seat at the table, include us, give us a chance, because we are worthy, talented and unique. There have been so many times where I’ve had to face issues against my race within this industry because I was their token black girl. The campaigns and editorials I had to share while my counterparts got to achieve that on their own. Or that my hair was an issue or that I made a show or campaign too ethnic, the list goes on and on. This industry that I love has profited from us but has never considered us equal. This. Stops. Now. It’s time for the fashion industry to stand up and show their solidarity. Time for you all to give back to these communities and cultures which you draw so much inspiration from. I do want to thank those that did see me for me and gave me a chance. Those that helped me fight my way to where I am today. Thank you, thank you for doing what you knew to be right versus what others said should be done. You will help us be the leaders of change. In saying all of this, I also pledge to donate 50% of my salary for the remainder of 2020 to Black Lives Matter organizations. I know I can’t just talk about change, I have to be a force for it. I encourage and will continue to encourage brands within this industry to do the same and give back. Let’s all be the change we want and need to see. These battles are long from over but together we’re stronger and together we can accomplish what is needed. #WeAreNotATrend #blacklivesmatter
For Joan, as a major face in the industry, she pledged to do something more. “I also pledge to donate 50% of my salary for the remainder of 2020 to Black Lives Matter organizations. I know I can’t just talk about change, I have to be a force for it,” she said. “I encourage and will continue to encourage brands within this industry to do the same and give back. Let’s all be the change we want and need to see. These battles are long from over but together we’re stronger and together we can accomplish what is needed. #WeAreNotATrend#blacklivesmatter.”
After posting her poignant message on social, her supermodel and celebrity friends came to show their support of the IMG model. Ricky Martin, Bella and Gigi Hadid, Justine Skye, Jasmine Tookes, Cara Delevingne all re-posted and commended her for being so candid. Joan responded with an Instagram Story: “I’m truly overwhelmed by the support and the love shown. To my friends, my family and my Gaaaang! I love you more then you’ll ever know. I was nervous about this and had a lot of sleepless nights so my heart is def touched.”
A week after her letter, Joan announced the launch of DonateMyWage.org where she encourages everyone to give a percentage of their salaries to causes. “I am excited to announce the launch of DonateMyWage.org, a project that I have been working on to further my support for Black Lives Matter organizations,” she shared on Instagram. “The site helps you calculate donation opportunities based on your annual salary, whether it be a month’s, week’s, day’s or hour’s wage, or a custom amount. I have chosen 11 organizations to feature at this time that span a wide range of focus areas from education and women’s empowerment to inclusivity and media. Our list of organizations will continue to update based on the evolving needs of the Black community. I am also thrilled to announce that @imgmodels will be joining this collective effort and will be our founding donation with a pledge of $250,000! Together we are stronger and can make the change we need to see. #donatemywage”