Instagram Addresses Diversity In Fashion (& The Lack Of It) With #RunwayForAll

Instagram is getting in on the conversation about inclusivity in fashion, thanks to a new hashtag. Yesterday, the app rolled out a new initiative, #RunwayForAll, to highlight diversity in the industry, specifically in terms of modeling. Each day, a different model’s story is being shared on the app’s namesake handle (and, thus, reaching a whopping 162 million followers). The five models included were chosen for “redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll,” according to an Instagram rep. Yesterday, the initiative kicked off with Mama Cax (@caxmee), a Haitian blogger and model whose leg was amputated at age 18. “The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty...Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs,” Cax writes in the caption.
Today’s post is about Shaun Ross (@shaundross), a gay male model with albinism. “I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” Ross writes. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like @winnieharlow, @jilly_peppa, and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.” Ross also shares the challenges he faced as an openly gay model during the early years of career: “Agents always told male models to be masculine, but that was never the case for me. I never wanted to hide my sexuality,” he writes. On Wednesday, plus-size model Clémentine Desseaux (@bonjourclem) will be featured, followed by Black model (and former autopsy technician’s assistant) Londone Myers (@londonemyers) on Thursday, and Jillian Mercado (@jilly_peppa), a model with muscular dystrophy, on Friday. “Our goal is to highlight some of the bravest and most creative models on Instagram who are building their own audiences and telling their own stories,” Kristen Joy Watts, fashion and arts community lead at Instagram, told Refinery29. “These breakout stars aren't conforming to the industry's traditional mold, and in fact, are redefining it."
Other Instagram created hashtags akin to #RunwayForAll include #WhyIMove, celebrating dancers all over the world; #MyStory, which highlighted inspiring women on Instagram, and (on a decidedly lighter note) #TinyCanvas, a series of images of nail artists and their minuscule masterpieces. Anyone can create a hashtag to contribute to the discourse about diversity and inclusivity on the catwalk — and the lack thereof — as we’ve seen before with the likes of #BlackModelsMatter and #NYFW4All. Most notably, the photo sharing app, which has become pretty much integral to the experience of going to or vicariously, remotely experiencing a fashion show, has created a hashtag (in effect, a virtual “space”) to address the dearth of diversity in the industry.

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