BUZZFEED UK: “I love diversity, full stop”
Like most unexpected blessings, my introduction to the body positive movement happened by accident. It started with Nadia Aboulhosn. A fashion blogger, model, and designer from Florida, she runs a self-titled blog that I began following in 2011 and was the object of my utmost adoration.
Her blog led me to several other women in the plus-size fashion industry, even though Aboulhosn admits she’s technically not plus-size, but is seen as such due to not being straight-sized. However, as the movement began to grow in the UK, and body positivity was picked up by brands and repackaged for mainstream consumption, one glaringly obvious omission repeatedly came to mind: Where the hell were all the black women?
BuzzFeed spoke to five women who are just the beginning in discerning the answer to that question. Here Stephanie Yeboah, Lauren Nicole Coppin-Campbell, Olivia Campbell, Olakemi Obi, and Rachael Sealy tell us about their own experiences as black women pushing body positivity in the UK.
- GENA MOUR BARRETT , Journalist For Buzzfeed
Olakemi Obi’s modelling journey began four years ago when she was scouted for a plus-size competition called Ms Curvaceous UK, and made it to the final five. From there, she realised she had the potential to pursue modelling, and she started two years later.
Prior to her being scouted, modelling had never crossed Obi’s mind, but she does remember when she saw her first black plus-size model: Toccara Jones on America’s Next Top Model. “I was like ‘whoa, what is this? Hold on a minute, I could be like her!’” While it didn’t play on her mind so much then, Obi says that after the Ms Curvaceous competition, she remembered people like Jones, and said “Yeah, I can do that.”
But breaking into the industry isn’t easy, and while she gets many messages from black women asking how to do what she’s done, Obi admits it’s difficult to advise others on where to start. “Are the modelling agencies even really taking black plus models?” she asks. “It’s like you have to sort of push and do it yourself.”
In the spirit of “doing it yourself”, Obi created the Plus Is Diverse campaign with three other women – Philippa Ann, Danielle Nash, and Aliya – with the aim of showing “that plus-size women are diverse too”. “They always talk about plus-size women being diverse in regards to size, but let’s have racial representation too,” Obi urges. “Let every female out there know that they can relate to someone who’s in the spotlight somehow. So that’s how it was born.” According to her, “it wasn’t meant to roll on as much as it has”, but people seem to love the campaign and want to support it.
Despite her own diversity campaign, the industry is still largely devoid of black women and, worse still, dark-skinned black women. “A recent shoot I did, the client that I shot for was like ‘Yes! I couldn’t find any black plus model in the UK. When I found you I was so happy. I was like, You’re amazing!’
"I was like, oh wow, was I really the only dark-skinned black plus-size model you could find?”
The stories don’t end there, however. Obi also recalls being told by a designer that she’d have to work harder because her light-skinned model friend was more likely to get signed than her, which she sadly acknowledges as the truth. “It can be disheartening if you’re not quite strong-willed, but you hear those things all the time. It’s life in general, the colourism thing.”
After being accused of being an “angry black woman” by an acquaintance, Obi momentarily considered putting an end to her blog posts on diversity, but thankfully decided against it, declaring she’s “not gonna stop”.
“I love diversity, full stop. I think it’s so vibrant, I don’t know how you couldn’t like diversity. For not just myself, but all women out there, it’s good to see someone you can relate to.”
Full interviews in link below