~Adapted from the book “Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models” by Barbara Summers
Little girls dream of being beautiful, and having the chance to be a fashion model or glamorous figure in society. They read fictional books and fairy-tales of princesses that fill their head with aspirations of becoming beautiful and finding a prince charming; stories which inspire them to reach for the stars and attempt their dreams of glamorous success as women. In my fashion, if I had a daughter, along with the Cinderella, Little Mermaid, and Snow White books, I would introduce my daughter early on to the book written by Barbara Summers, “Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models”. I recently picked up this book with all of its glorious photos of black women in the fashion industry who have helped to define what Black beauty is when the dominant standard for beauty was images of white women. When reading the stories of black women such as Josephine Baker, Helen Williams, Pat Evans, and Naomi Sims who were emblematic of exotic elegance, pride, seduction, and strength, I was highly inspired by the unique stories and accounts of these courageously intelligent black women who worked in an industry that gave them little leeway based on the sheer color of their skin.
This book addresses all aspects of a women’s life from a Black point of view, and the internal/external issues they have had to deal with in the modeling profession. Acknowledging women from early 1900s to the present, “Skin Deep” recognizes the Black women who stood as examples of Black beauty when it was not widely accepted that Black was, in fact, beautiful. As the industry has grown, so has the position of black women as they have fought throughout the years to gain equal respect in an industry that has catered to one promoted standard of beauty. The women featured in the book share a lot of wise insights on life they have learned that I think any girl would benefit from hearing whether they want to grow up to be models or not. In such as a cold world, instead of reading the conventional damsel in distress stories, I would introduce my daughters these uplifting stories of strong women, to some extent, in order to make them aware of the strength a women must have in life to survive. Plus the photos in the book are just as pretty to look at as any other fairy-tale picture book. After all, fashion is aspiration, right?