Oh my God, look! Models—not celebrities—on the cover of a fashion magazine! And they’re black! November’s Teen Vogue published a fantastic cover story about models Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn, who spoke candidly about the racism in the modeling industry and the competition that results when black models feel there can only be “one black girl.” (Chanel is actually black and Korean—damn, she should have been in our biracial hotties slideshow!) The pair dished to Teen Vogue about the fashion industry’s flat-out racism:
Iman: “You’re being told, ‘So and so is only booking one black girl. It’s either you or Jourdan,’ So we’ll be sitting in the lobby looking at each other like, ‘Okay, I want this job, and she wants it too. Which one of us is going to get it?’”
Dunn: “I remember last season, I was about to go into a casting, and my agent phoned and said, ‘Turn back. They decided they don’t want any black models.’ I was like, ‘They’re actually telling you that’s the reason? Are you serious?!’”
It’d be really cool if this piece got Teen Vogue some attention. But there’s just one teeny-weeny little problem for some folks: 19-year-old Dunn is pregnant with a baby boy, due in December.
Despite a swipe in an AP article from the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, who said, “Teen parenting isn’t glamorous, even if you are a teen model,” Dunn doesn’t sugarcoat her teen pregnancy in Teen Vogue at all. She told the mag:
“All I could think about was what my mom was going to say, my agency, my boyfriend. When I told my mom, she started crying and blaming herself. She got pregnant with me at the same age, and she said, ‘I don’t want you to have to go through what I did.’”
Still, her pregnancy story has been picked up everywhere, from The New York Times to the Guardian. It will be really crappy if the two women’s story about racism in the modeling industry gets overlooked (especially since Teen Vogue‘s editor-in-chief, Amy Astley, said the magazine wasn’t aware of the cover model’s pregnancy until after the shoot). All of Teen Vogue‘s editors deserve big ups for keeping Dunn on the cover and sending the message that her bun in the oven could be a teachable moment. In a statement Astley said:
“Teen pregnancy is a difficult, real-life issue that Teen Vogue readers (with an average age of 18) are mature enough to be exposed to. Teen Vogue felt it was important to support, not punish, Jourdan Dunn.
Besides, putting teen mothers on magazine covers isn’t anything new: Jessica Valenti pointed out at Feministing how teenage Bristol Palin and her son, Tripp, posed for People. Or was that somehow OK because Bristol was a “spokesperson” for abstinence?
I think Teen Vogue and Jourdan Dunn handled the teen pregnancy matter quite well. Now, can we all focus on their startling comments about racism instead? [Teen Vogue]