Common in Dolce Gabbana, Chris Rock in Burberry, Kerry Washington in Versace photo: Getty Images

Thoughts From a Designer: Dear Black Actors, Opportunity Works All Ways

Its Oscar weekend, one of the most important red carpet moments for the fashion industry. Weeks of preparations have gone into this after the nominations were released and the most important questions started by the late Joan Rivers: “Who Are You Wearing”? Many designers will follow the coverage just to see the glitz, the glam, and the looks that each celebrity will adorn for the evening.

This year’s Oscar show has been branded with a new hashtag, #OscarSoWhite, because of the lack of diversity in the nominations. I had many friends ask me, are you going to watch, are you going to boycott? I was unsure to be quite honest because I have been dancing the line of this conversation for a number of years and to simply choose not to watch is not enough of a statement.

There are actors who have made profound statements about opportunity. First it was Viola at the Emmy’s, Kerry Washington on the red carpet, and then Chris Rock, the host of the 2016 awards, called it out again: “It’s just that we want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities”. That statement struck a chord with me because the word opportunity coming from black people in positions of influence has been on my mind for a while. One person who made an interesting quote that used the word opportunity who said it best was First Lady, Michelle Obama:

“when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

Here’s the problem with this year’s Oscars- outside of the nominations being #sowhite. The fashion was #ohsowhite, as it’s always been. Many of the black actors and actresses who attended the Oscars this year were not giving opportunity to those who in fact need opportunity. Where was the representation and opportunity for designers of color and independent designers? Designers who are in the positions that they were once in, looking for that one opportunity. Many of the black actors and actresses that attended the Oscars all required the modern day “Glam Team” consisting of hair stylist, makeup artist, and a wardrobe stylist. So why is it that the same people who are asking for opportunity, never stop to think about the opportunities that their positions could give in this situation?

What do I mean exactly, I find it interesting that black actors who are asking for opportunity may have a black hair stylist, may have a black makeup artist, but very rare, almost never wear a black designer.

What about the designers?

There is a population who seem to always get the shade when it comes to which designers are dressing these celebrities. This issue was recently called out by NY Times, Alexandra Jacobs in her articled called “Missed Opportunities on the Oscars Red Carpet”.

Here we are, award season full of events, February, black history month, the beginning of fashion season, yet…we always have the same discussion, the need for opportunity for people of color amongst actor/actresses and models. But it always seems to be voiding a level of creativity that plays a major role, fashion designers. There is a large demographic of black designers out there that don’t get the spotlight. Celebrities step out, get glammed up, and never think am I supporting a fellow black artist by wearing a black designer? No, instead, it’s Calvin Klein, Versace, Dolce Gabbana, etc.

So actors, you may say, “I never thought of it, or I haven’t found a style that’s right for me yet”. But the seeking of opportunity for people of color works all ways and celebrities of color play a major role as well that could give opportunity to other black artist as well.

If actors and actresses of color want opportunity, maybe they should consider giving it too. I am sure there are many black designers who could have created an amazing red carpet style for these celebrities. We are stronger together as black artist overall, not divided.


“Thoughts From A Designer” are weekly reflections from the creative director of Bien Abye, Dayanne Danier. If you interested in learning more about the author, go to www.dayannedanier.com and if you like this article please hit recommend.

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