Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 4, 2021
In a world where white, thin women tend to rule the modeling industry, disruptions in the status quo are now being welcomed. That’s why actor and musician Yumi Nu is making waves and challenging stereotypes as the first Asian curve model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.
Posting a behind-the-scenes Instagram video with a voiceover of her story, she expresses that diversity within the Asian community is important, as Asian models “don’t have to be dainty and little” to be beautiful.
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While this is a fantastic step in the right direction, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Still More Work to Be Done in the Modeling Industry
Though SI is opening the door to more diversity, the modeling industry remains an exclusive club. Just watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show – you’ll see long-legged, 5’10”, size-0 models strutting down a catwalk in lingerie. The show is fun, and the models are beautiful, but diversity is nowhere to be seen.
In fact, Victoria’s Secret entered hot water following an interview featuring Ed Razek, CMO of L Brands. When asked about transgender diversity within the iconic event, he explained that “I don’t think we should [have transsexuals in the show]. Why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” But shouldn’t transgender people exist in fantasy as well? (He soon somewhat backtracked these statements.)
Please read this important message from Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer, L Brands (parent company of Victoria’s Secret). pic.twitter.com/CW8BztmOaM
— Victoria’s Secret (@VictoriasSecret) November 10, 2018
In this same interview, when questioned about size-inclusivity, he pushed the blame onto the models, claiming that they were competing with each other – perhaps partially true, but not a defense for their lack of diversity. As he said, “If we had done Rihanna’s show, we would be accused of pandering without question.”
Is Inclusivity Pandering or Important?
But Savage X Fenty has only been celebrated, so why would Victoria’s Secret worry about this? Are other real-women campaigns, such as Dove’s Real Beauty Pledge and #AerieREAL Life, pandering? In a world where the average fit for a woman is size 16, it seems irresponsible to claim that size inclusivity is simply a trend for women who must be “pandered” to.
And then, of course, there’s the racial disparity. While doors are slowly opening for those who do not fit the 2021 mold of light and white – such as Winnie Harlow, Liu Wen, and Jasmine Tookes – there is still a long way to go. In a report by The Fashion Spot, it was reported that 78.2% of models featured in 2016 spring advertisements were white. The industry absolutely can do more.
How Yumi Nu Is Creating A Conversation
Nu has been celebrating the news, expressing her joy about being chosen as a 2021 SI Swimsuit Rookie. On Twitter, she wrote that “it makes [her] emotional” to make a change in the modeling industry’s status quo.
Officially the first Asian Plus Size Sports Illustrated Model. 🤧🥺 it makes me emotional that I get the opportunity to be the representation my childhood self needed. @SI_Swimsuit pic.twitter.com/kLbOp8BZ8P
— Yumi Nu (@_yumi_nu) March 19, 2021
It’s a step in the right direction, but we still have further to go. Hopefully, Nu’s recent accomplishment will push other brands to face the music and the current industry – not the “fantasy.”
Are you excited to see the fashion industry becoming more inclusive? What other change would you like to see? Let us know below.
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