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Did supermodel Ajak Deng just quit because the fashion industry is too racist?


Our take on what everyone is talking about right now.

Did supermodel Ajak Deng just quit because the fashion industry is too racist?

Jessica Vander Leahy

Model Ajak Deng has announced she is fed up with the “fakes and the lies” that dominate the fashion industry and said she is retiring from modelling.


In a lengthy Instagram post this week the young Australian model, who has walked for the likes of Chloe, Calvin Klein and Lanvin, gave a rather frank explanation about her somewhat premature departure from fashion.


Under a picture of herself on the runway at Thakoon's spring 2016 show the 26-year-old model wrote:


“Put your best foot forward. I am happy to announce that I am officially done with the fashion industry, I will be moving back to Australia In [sic] order to live the life that I fully deserved. Which is real life. I can no longer deal with the fakes and the lies. My life is too short for this dramatic life. I am thankful and grateful for every sweet souls [sic] that I have crossed path with.”

While Deng doesn’t directly mention the issue of race in her post it is likely be a significant factor for the outspoken model in her decision to retire.

For years Deng, who was born in Sudan, North Africa, has been a fashion favourite for the likes of Lanvin and Louis Vuitton but not one to be silent about issues surrounding diversity the Melbourne-raised beauty also garnered attention for calling out brands who struggled to use models of different races.

Her retirement announcement came right after a post of Deng holding a “Black Models Matter” bag - referencing black model and artist Ashley B Chews’ diversity campaign – most recently embraced by designer Zac Posen.


And Deng has a history of getting respect for her no holds barred approach to calling out fashion’s BS.


In 2014, Deng sent out some heated tweets about being cut from a Paris Fashion Week show:


"This is how it feels when you get kicked out of Balmain for being Black and that their [sic] didn't invited you. F--k you and f--k you. Balamin," Deng wrote. The model shortly after deleted her Twitter account - allegedly at the request of IMG, her agency at the time.


About her decision to quit her Australian manager Stephen Bucknall of FRM, also echoed the undertones of racism in the industry that his client has struggled to accept.

Bucknall admitted to The Herald Sun that getting work for Deng in her adoptive home of Australia is tough – obviously  not because she’s lacking a great portfolio of work but because Aussie brands would rather spend the money on her fairer skinned peers.


“Ajak has said to me many times, it saddens her there isn’t more work for dark skinned girls in Australia, as she would like to book more work here,” Bucknall said.


“The budgets probably aren’t big enough for (Ajak), because she’s a big money earner, but they will spend the money on a Miranda Kerr or a Jess Hart.


“They’ll book the big caucasian girls, spend the big dollars, and fly them in from LA, but I’m yet to see them book a dark skinned girl in that way,” Bucknall said.


He added: “The Australian market doesn’t want to take the risk of using darker models as mainstream models. But if you go to New York, you’ll see African American, Asian, and all these diverse cultures. Australia just doesn’t get it.”


In the wider media climate diversity is a hot topic at the moment but as Viola Davis rightly pointed out in her Emmy’s winner speech it is certainly “not a trending one.”


While there have been gradual improvements in embracing ethnic visibility within the fashion industry it is clearly not enough when top models like Deng are complaining about blatant discrimination and willing to walk away from successful careers because they don’t see the right kind of equality coming soon enough. 

What do you think? Do you think the Australian fashion industry in particular lacks diversity? 


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