It's no secret that Nicolette Mason is one of our favorites here at R29. The fashion blogger, Marie Claire contributor, and creative consultant is both devastatingly stylish and funny as hell, so any interview with her is well worth a read. But, her latest sit-down with The Huffington Post actually stunned us — in more ways than one — and started at least two conversations that really need to happen in fashion more often.
Overall, the interview focuses on Mason's feelings about the sometimes-reductive term "plus-size" and her experiences with discrimination in straight-size stores. But, it begins, as most interviews do, with a straightforward question about how Mason broke into the industry. Cue the usual platitudes about hard work, heart, and hustle, right? Actually, no. Mason chose to answer this question with a nuanced discussion of the privilege she was born into, specifically mentioning that her white skin and "affluent background" represented "a huge foot in the door." She also cites "access points" that served her career well, such as living in New York City and attending Parsons School of Design.
Of course, Mason does go on to mention her own hard work — and, in an industry as competitive as fashion, it's doubtless that she had to put in plenty of that. However, she says, she feels a responsibility to discuss the ways privilege intersects with talent to create success. And, when people don't recognize the advantages they've grown up with? "It's really frustrating for me, and that's something I see a lot in the fashion world," Mason notes. "I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with being privileged, but you have to acknowledge that it's a factor in a person's success."
Mason could have easily answered the "How did you make it?" question in a self-serving or myopic way. That she instead chose to respond with a frank discussion of her racial and economic privilege frames her success in a way that's both graceful and humble, and it also acknowledges the hard truth that the opportunities she's had may not have come as easily to a similarly talented person from a less privileged background. We wish more people in the industry were as clear-eyed about its racial and socioeconomic biases. If Mason's brand of truth telling caught on, fashion as a whole — and the many people who love it — could only benefit.