There was a moment when Brittnee Blair was on her hands and knees, in the middle of the runway of Hilary MacMillan’s Toronto Fashion Week spring/summer 2020 show when she stopped and thought, "what would Naomi Campbell do?" Blair was on her second walk in her second outfit of the show. Her first strut down the catwalk at TFW’s Fashion House in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood had been shaky, but she made it. The next time, she didn’t. Her foot slipped out of her left heel and every model’s nightmare came true — she went tumbling down to the ground as Toronto’s fashion elite looked on in shock.
"Naomi would get up and she would walk," Blair says she told herself, recalling the supermodel’s famous tumble in ’93 during a Vivienne Westwood show. "So, I got up and I walked. I thought, 'I’m not going to ruin this show. I'm going to serve lewks!''' And serve she did. The crowd's gasps turned to cheers of support as she as she picked herself up and continued her walk, which wrapped around the intimate venue and concluded by climbing up a staircase. She finished her walk with one shoe on and without breaking her model-stare, to a roar of applause.
Afterwards, I found the 30-year-old Calgary native leaving Fashion House dressed down in a denim skirt and sweater (and bravely, a pair of high-heeled boots). Despite having just fallen on her face in front of about 100 people, Blair was laughing. "My shoes just got hot and sweaty," she shrugged. "There’s only a thin strap — very Kim K — and I popped right out of them. She makes it look flawless, but I slipped right out." She added: "I couldn’t believe they were clapping for me. I was like, 'Thanks y’all. I needed y’all right now!' Ultimately, I’m disappointed that it happened but I’m happy I got back up."
Blair isn’t the first — and definitely won’t be the last — model to lose her balance during a gig and endure the discomfort of landing awkwardly in front of a room full of strangers with all eyes (and camera phones) on you. Just Google "models falling on runway" and there are plenty of videos to peruse with transferred embarrassment. You’ll find famous faces like Agyness Deyn, Candice Swanepoel, and Bella Hadid in slideshows with names like "Worst Runway Wipeouts of all Time" that prove falls can happen to even the most established and experienced models.
As for Blair, she’s been a working model for eight years, mostly in New York, but this was her first fashion week show — and her first fall. When I ask her about the pressure leading up to the show, considering she was one of the few Black and plus-size models to walk the runway, she gets serious for the first time in our conversation. "There’s definitely a lot of pressure on you and a concern that comes with being a Black woman and being a plus Black woman walking in a fashion week. What just happened was the worst-case scenario."
Blair says the concern revolves mostly around the fact that she feels like she doesn’t have as many chances to fail as her thinner, white counterparts. Still, she adds, "I’m not going to allow one moment to define me. I just have to roll with it, not only for me but for other plus women and for other plus Black women."