Model Deddeh Howard holds up a “Black Mirror” to the fashion industry’s lack of diversity and slays
Liberian model Deddeh Howard turned the fashion industry’s rejection into action. Tired of hearing “we already have a black model” from modeling agencies that refused to represent her, Howard teamed up with photographer Raffael Dickreuter to recreate high end fashion ads featuring white models like Gigi Hadid, Kendell Jenner, Gisele Bundchen and Kate Moss. She brilliantly titled the project “Black Mirror.”
Howard recreated ads by Chanel, Calvin Klein, Guess, Gucci, David Yurman, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabanna. In every single ad her hair, accessories, clothes, makeup and pose is meticulously identical to the original. Her dedication cut no corners as she even found the same props used in the high fashion ads. It was hardly easy.
“For this project I decided to re-shoot several of the inspiring and famous campaigns out there and try to show what they could look like with a black model,” she wrote on her site. “Teaming up with Photographer Raffael Dickreuter it was a big challenge to reverse engineer and re-shoot these images and get as close as possible to the original. Even though it was a big challenge it was important and necessary to do it.”
Howard told the Daily News the biggest challenge was tracking down a 1939 Indian Chief motorcycle. “The most challenging photo to recreate was the Gigi Hadid Guess campaign,” she told the Daily News. “To figure out the motorcycle and then actually track down one was a real challenge.”
Imagine being so passionate about the fashion industry’s pervasive exclusion of models of color that you track down a very specific motorcycle just to re-imagine the look flawlessly. This woman’s phone should be ringing nonstop with job offers.
Even as a young girl growing up in West Africa she wondered why black women were rarely seen in ads for big brands like Gucci and Chanel. “In a time where black people too often are in the media for being underrepresented at important events such as the Oscars or make headlines for being targeted by the police I felt it was time to do something positive and inspiring about my race,” she wrote on her website. “For too long the negativity seemed to take over in the public eye.”
Howard was most recently inspired by seeing black model Jasmine Tookes sporting the most expensive bra during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Paris. It was the first time in nine years a black woman had done so. The photos are stunning to look at but Howard is very clear on her message to the fashion industry: diversify now.
“The visibility on these commercials and billboards matter as much as having elected a first black President,” she wrote. “The next generation can only get inspired and reach for the stars themselves if they believe they can do it too. For that reason diversity in ad campaigns is in my opinion much more important than you might think. The same goes for representation in movies and politics as well, but that’s a different discussion. There are Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell and maybe Iman, but they are the exception to the rule.”
She concludes that she is fighting for more representation for all minorities (but especially blacks) in ads, billboards, movies and commercials. Her hope is to inspire young girls who rarely get to see anyone who looks like them in media. Sadly, these criticisms are not new. Iman and Naomi and Bethann Hardison have been fighting this fight for decades with the industry being very slow to progress.
These photos are so well done. Howard deserves more than one day of viral attention. Her “Black Mirror” project proves she can slay high fashion with the best of them. And she’s clearly not afraid to put in the hard work — even if the reward is only awareness. The fashion industry needs to get its shit together. Fast. Start by hiring Howard to sprinkle a lil’ black girl magic in their ads. Then do it again and again until its normal.