When it takes place in November, the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will be the most racially diverse it’s been in years. But a new video clip featuring five-year veteran Devon Windsor reminds us that some of those on the catwalk have a hard time understanding that life isn’t as homogeneous as the tall, blonde, size zero models that appear in the show.
Windsor appears with models Daniela Braga, Olivia Culpo, Hannah Ferguson, Ping Hue, Nadine Leopold, Caroline Lowe, Ashley Moore, and Shanina Shaik on E!’s new limited-run docu-series Model Squad. The show follows the nine women around New York Fashion Week, from castings to test shoots. In one episode, the girls are seen sitting around talking about their experiences in the industry. Four of them — Braga, Hue, Moore, and Shaik — talk openly about how hard it is to work in the fashion industry when you aren’t white.
“What are you guys talking about?” Olivia Culpo asked. “Diversity,” Hue says, as Shaik recounts how she used to be bullied because of her skin colour, and was told that she would never be able to book high-fashion jobs. “A lot of Black girls would have to miss Milan because we wouldn’t be able to walk in the shows because [designers] didn’t want girls that colour,” Shaik explained. It’s an honest conversation that's refreshing to see in front of a TV camera. That is, until Windsor says she can relate to Shaik's struggles — she says she found living abroad for months at a time to be “hell” because she didn’t speak “Paris” or Italian.
Hue offered that she didn’t think Windsor could relate to the turmoils of being different, to which she replied, “Do you know how hard it is to be blonde?” Windsor continued, adding needing to get highlights every month to her perceived strife. “Oh my God, tiny violin,” Hue said.
Culpo defended Windsor against criticism with a tweet on Sunday, asking viewers to understand that things can be taken out of context because of how the show is edited. “I can assure you Dev has an immensely kind heart and anything that portrays otherwise is a manipulation of her true character,” she said. Windsor apologised on Twitter, saying: “It goes without saying, that the comments in the show are incredibly insensitive. The majority of the conversation was edited and if a peer of mine wanted to discuss such a serious subject, I would never follow it with a joke.” She goes on to say that "she has an immense amount of respect for my peers" and knows "the struggle of diversity and inclusion...isn’t one to be taken lightly."
Comments like Windsor’s (and those made by Kendall Jenner just last month) trivialise how hard some models really have to work — and the obstacles so many models without privilege (be it racial or financial) face to simply earn a pay check. Though we understand Windsor may have been deflecting her lack of knowledge on the situation by trying to relate to Shaik and Hue, her ignorance is part of what stalls the industry's progress in terms of diversity and inclusivity.