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Name: Keva Morris
What it means to be Black in Fashion: Keva Morris felt prepared to officially enter Denver’s fashion scene after years of training, but once there, she began to realize that she was often the only Black person in the space she occupied. The word “lonely” seemed to encapsulate her feelings. “But I find happiness in hearing the sigh of relief from a Black model who was hired for a shoot/show not knowing who was doing her hair and in walks me, another Black woman,” Morris says. “I find duty and honor in making sure my Black models are taken care of, that whatever the style—edgy, sleek, classic or modern—that they are treated and styled just as well as their straight-haired counterpart.”
What she wants to see change: Morris would like to see more strides made in breaking down the systemic tools of racism in the beauty industry. “I think once we accept and respect the history of all beauty we could begin to re-imagine and include everyone,” Morris says.
Name: Alicia Myers
Profession: Model, creative director, and stylist
What it means to be Black in Fashion: Alicia Myers told us that being Black in this realm means explaining to her three kids—two of whom are boys—that they might have traumatizing experiences in their lifetime. It also means they get to celebrate the glories of having Black skin. “We are Black and we are proud. I plan to continue opening dialogue regarding racism in the industry. I am not afraid to share my experiences as a Black model,” Myers says. Most of all, she wants to be able to speak her mind without fear of losing out on opportunities.
What she wants to see change: “The Denver fashion scene can make continuous efforts to be inclusive not because it is the right thing to do but because there is underutilized talent that deserves a platform,” Myers says. From makeup artists making it a priority to learn how to work on all skin tones to hairstylists making it a priority to learn how to work on all hair types, Myers wants designers to include diverse models in their shows and shoots. “Everyone has a role to play, we all need to do our part,” she says.
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Name: Jordan Wright
What it means to be Black in Fashion: For Jordan Wright being Black in the fashion industry means that he has power. Because he believes Black representation is very limited, when Black creatives do have access, he has the responsibility to do great work, be great, and bring other people with him. “Whether it’s giving out advice, recommending them for jobs, or building community,” Wright says, “the responsibility to leave the space better than when I entered is an immense power that I don’t take lightly.”
What he wants to see change: This model wants to see more people like him in those spaces—people of color, people who are queer. “It’s time that we see art created from a different perspective,” he says. “Art that works against our own expectations.”
Name: Omo Odia
Profession: Model and influencer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: For Omo Odia, being a Black model and influencer in Denver has been quite a journey. “I remember when I first started modeling here and there were little to no jobs for me.” Being classified as an in-between model, means her sizes are above average fashion model sizes and below plus-sized model sizes. Odia says, “In addition to my race, this was another obstacle that I had to overcome. I got tired of waiting for opportunities to come and decided to pave a way for myself.” The influencer took all of the things she wanted to do with modeling and fashion and recreated them to fit her idea of beautiful.
What she wants to see change: These experiences made Odia a huge advocate for representation for all. Her experience in the industry helped spark the creation of the Mix Boutique, a place where all sizes can be celebrated. She focused on becoming the change she wanted to see when she was trying to break into fashion, and continuously pay it forward. “I hope that as the industry grows, we get more people who are willing to challenge the status quo,” Odia says. “We cannot be in the world until we see ourselves in the world!”
Name: Jasmine Lewis
Profession: Fashion designer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: “Being a Black designer means navigating a world that wasn’t necessarily built with our voices in mind,” says Lewis. For Lewis, fashion has historically been dominated by European aesthetics and design philosophies so diversity is lacking in every way—from magazine editors to designers and models. “For me, it’s important to have a diverse cast of models and to collaborate with other Black and POC creatives,” she says. Lewis hopes to uplift other people of color as she moves through the fashion industry.
What she wants to see change: Lewis believes the Denver fashion industry puts in an effort to have diverse designers and models but she would like to see more hair stylists that know how to style a range of hair textures and makeup artists that can work with every skin tone.
Name: Koya Nyangi
Profession: Fashion stylist and writer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: Koya Nyangi believes she’s in a position where she can celebrate and showcase what Black can look like and what it can be for others. “To stand firm in my blackness and my culture to celebrate black beauty and to continue to put it on a pedestal,” Nyangi says.
What she wants to see change: Nygani hopes that we can collectively continue to champion for pro-Black creatives, to have Black people in executive roles, to elevate and give space to Black writers, stylists, models, hair and makeup artists, photographers, and designers. “To have an inclusive view showcasing black stories, not just who is on the cover of the magazine, but behind the scenes as well,” say says. She also believes we should educate ourselves, sharing stories that challenge ‘the norm’ and go beneath surfaces to explore the amazing Black culture in order to break down the systematic disenfranchisement that exists within the fashion industry.
Name: Rachel Marie Hurst
Profession: Fashion designer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: For Rachel Marie Hurts, being a fashion designer in Denver comes with plenty of hardships—like struggling to keep up with white colleagues that have access to resources, connections to publications, and the ability to work for free to get into the industry. Hurts often censors herself out of fear of being labeled as problematic or difficult, in addition to bending over backwards and working twice as hard to gain respect and connections. “It means being a token person of color. It means not having that many people that look like yourself and people tend to find comfort in similarities,” Hurst says.
What she wants to see change: In Hurst’s eyes, change looks like not having to teach others how to treat human beings. She would like to see people understand that being ignorant about racism isn’t the answer and comes from a place of privilege. “Don’t erase me, don’t ignore me,” Hurst says. The designer would like to see her community being free to express themselves and to not have to censor themselves. She would like to see credit given where due and for more black fashion designers to succeed. “Most importantly we are not just entertainment, we deserve to be paid for our talent and to have our talent be seen,” she says.
Name: Blake Jackson
Profession: Fashion photographer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: “I constantly have to advocate for Black representation on set for models and crew,”Jackson says. “But I’m also looked at as the token Black photographer, so whenever a publication needs a Black person to turn to for a project or initiative, I get a call.” To some, that’s encouraging, to Jackson, it’s exhausting because it feels performative and reactionary.
What he wants to see change: He hopes to see more representation for Black people. “The change that we are fighting for in a general sense will then be reflected within this industry. Specifically, I want to see more Black photographers get opportunities with major publications,” Jackson says, “and not just during Black History Month or when it’s trendy. The same goes for Black models and crew. I’m tired of seeing Black models being shot by entirely white crews because that is wholly performative.”
Name: Tyne Hall
Profession: Fashion designer
What it means to be Black in Fashion: Tyne Hall views her place in fashion as creating visibility for all unique Black girls. She told me that the lack of representation of Black people in fashion and culture allows stereotypes to sometimes drive how we define the Black community. “Notice that in spaces where there are more black voices, you get a more complex and diverse picture of the black community,” Hall says. “I want to be a part of that conversation, showing black women in all their gothic, romantic glory.”
What she wants to see change: Hall wants to get rid of the “gatekeepers” of the fashion industry. “Imagine how much creativity has been ignored. Layouts of magazines may have changed, or how we do fashion shows. What would fashion look like if we had more black people in the room?” Hall asks.
Profession: Model and stylist
What it means to be Black in Fashion: Mikobi believes that Black people aren’t given enough opportunities to showcase what they have to offer. “I am unique in my own way but being the only black person in some of these spaces makes me feel like the token chosen Black,” Mikobi says. “From walking on set and noticing no Black MUA, hair stylist, stylist, or photographer—it is clear that those spaces are not diverse enough nor do they represent all of us well.”
What he wants to see change: Since a new study reported that Denver is in the top five in the nation for gentrification, Mikobi would like to see a space where equity is the driving force. “A space where we feel safe, welcomed, and heard.” Most of all, Mikobi would like to see Black creatives be more recognized for their true sense of being. “Remember it was ‘ghetto first before it became fashion’ so respect the originators,” he says.