Meet Deddeh Howard.
Howard was raised in Liberia, West Africa, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is pursuing a career in modeling, but has been denied by multiple agencies who say they already have one or two black models on their roster. From her website, Secret of DD;
“Not to long ago it happened to me that I would walk into various fashion model agencies and I would immediately be compared to that one or two black model that they had on the roster. Even though I was told by those agencies that I have an amazing look and wish they could represent me, they already have a black model. Besides having an abundance of white models. It seemed as if one or two black models on the roster are enough to represent us all. When you are told that, trust me, it feels bizarre.”
So, to make a point that black models can be just as marketable for luxury goods as white models, Howard recreated 9 major fashion campaigns. This required her and photographer Raffael Dickreuter to search for props and backdrops that matched the original campaigns.
“For this project I decided to re-shoot several of the inspiring and famous campaigns out there and try to show what they could look like with a black model. Teaming up with Photographer Raffael Dickreuter it was a big challenge to reverse engineer and re-shoot these images and get as close as possible to the original. Even though it was a big challenge it was important and necessary to do it.”
The result is a stunning photo series that has gone viral online. It more than proves the point that Howard has the chops to kill it in the modeling industry.
So what is Howard’s goal with this campaign?
“I hope this project can help to bring awareness back to the positive side of black people. Unfortunately we are rarely shown in a positive light in the media, but can see countless times when yet another black person gets shot or arrested. Seeing Jasmine Tookes wearing the most expensive bra at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was so inspiring, we need more of those moments.”
Of course black women are beautiful, and of course they can model their butts off, but that isn’t exactly the point. Many brands do not (and might never) associate blackness with luxury, class or femininity. And even when brands do employ black faces, that might not be accompanied by a meaningful respect for black life. Right after a dozen black and AfroLatina models walked the runway for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a Victoria’s Secret manager in Alabama kicked all the black women out of her store after just one was caught shoplifting. In a now deleted video, one of the black women lamented that she would never expect this treatment given how much money she has spent on the Victoria’s Secret brand over the years. If representation does not lead to substantive respect, is it worth battling for?
Ladies, what are your thoughts? Do you love Howard’s campaign? Why or why not?