Black Models Tell Teen Vogue How Hard It Is To Be Black Models

Teen Vogue has not one but two black models on the November cover. Inside, Chanel Iman says of Jourdan Dunn: "I could sit here and tell you, 'I love Jourdan! We've always been the best of friends!' But we haven't."

She continues:

"Until recently, we barely even spoke. We went from being superclose in the beginning," she says, "to dead silence if we saw each other backstage at a show." Not even a hello? "If we did say hi, it was hi, and that's it."

Why was there tension between the two ladies?

"It's competition," Jourdan says. "There aren't a lot of us, but instead of sticking together, we're pitted against each other. People will say things in Chanel's ear like, 'Jourdan is taking your spot,' and then they'll say to me, 'Don't trust Chanel.'"

Though Vogue's recent history with models of color has been to (mostly) ignore them, little sister Teen Vogue has been more inclusive: An Asian model appeared in the January 2009 issue; in November 2008, two brown-skinned models had a multi-page fashion spread. (At the time, we called them "black models," but Selina Khan is from the French-speaking Caribbean island Martinique and swears she's not black, but "Indian, mixed with Arabic and Creole, and Vietnamese." As for Austria Alcantara, she's Dominican. The point is: They're models of color and a change from the blonde women who are staples in Vogue publications.)

Even though the ladies on this cover are incredibly successful, they're quick to point out how hard it is to be a black model in the fashion industry. Jourdan says:

"I remember last season I was about to go into a casting, and my agent phoned and said, 'Turn back. They decided they don't want any black models.' I was like, 'They're actually telling you that's the reason? Are you serious?!'"

Part of me wishes she would name the designer, so we'd know who ought to be ashamed of themselves. Since we counted models of color at New York Fashion Week in February, we know it could be any one of several designers: The shows for Alexandre Herchcovitz, Behnaz Sarafpour, Costello Tagliapietra, Erin Fetherston, Halston, Marchesa, Max Azria, Milly, Miss Sixty, Monique Lhuillier, Nicole Miller, Philosophy, Reem Acra, Tibi, TSE, United Bamboo, Vena Cava, VPL and Vivienne Tam had zero black models. Then again, maybe Jourdan was talking about London Fashion Week. Or Paris.

Hopefully, the fact that Teen Vogue has black models on the cover means that diversity is finally becoming a priority for the Vogue brand. After months and months without any black models, Chanel Iman was on the cover of Vogue in May 2007 (under the fold); Liya Kedebe was on the May 2009 cover (but not alone). And Jennifer Hudson, Michelle Obama and LeBron James have landed Vogue covers recently, even if black models have not been so lucky.

Since Jourdan Dunn is pregnant (yes, Teen Vogue put a pregnant teenager on the cover) we can't be sure what kind of magazine spreads she'll book right now (although a maternity-wear shoot would be a great idea!) But Chanel Iman seems optimistic about the future:

"I don't want to be known as the black model. I want to be recognized as Chanel Iman, a personality. Five years from now I see myself still working hard to get where I want to be, because I think big. I think the best. Maybe I think too large."

Double Whammy [Teen Vogue]
Chanel Iman And Jourdan Dunn Teen Vogue Cover Shoot Photos [Teen Vogue]

Related: Chanel Iman And Jourdan Dunn's Greatest Runway Hits [Teen Vogue]
Orange You Glad I Met Selina? [Tia Williams]

Earlier:
Vogue's Not Racist; Three Black Models Prove It!
Is Vogue's "LeBron Kong" Cover Offensive?
Analyzing The Absurdist Art In The New Teen Vogue
13 Horrifying Images From The New Teen Vogue
Black Models: Teen Vogue Goes Where Vogue Will Not
How Did New York Fashion Week's 116 Shows Treat Models Of Color?