Posted May 26, 2010 in Arts | 1 Comment

Renee Thompson – The Colour of Beauty

I recently had the pleasure of being able to ask Renee Thompson of the NFB’s “The Colour of Beauty” a few more questions on her dealings with the fashion industry.

1) Beyond the obvious racism when it comes to castings, do you feel that models of colour are also treated differently once they are booked?

I have had experiences where even after a client books me, they don’t make it a point to make sure the make up and hair are as beautiful as the white model I may be shooting with that day, or the other girls featured on the shoot get more upfront camera visuals than I do. For example: I remember when I did a shoot for Pellicce Moda in Italy, and all the photographer would let me do is play a background role as if I were a prop to the featured model (who happened to be white in this shoot).

For the most part, I determine how I am treated based on what I put out and the energy I put into my work. The client may not always be so confident when they hire me, but they never regret it when I have completed the job.

2) At 25, do you find that helps or hurts your situation?

In the major markets like Milan, Paris and New York, I am reminded all the time that I am “no longer 17 years old” and that “shows are for the new fresh face girls… Young and fresh.”  I feel cheated out of the advantage of having experience, having a good book and having a discipline about myself and my body that the young girls don’t have.  I also think that as an ethnic model, clients, photographers, and agents don’t realise the timelessness of black skin. We don’t age the same way. We mature, but we don’t age.  Like the saying goes “Black don’t crack!”

It’s true, look at Naomi (Campbell): Almost 40 years old and still doing all the big shows! As she may sometimes be the only black model on the runway, she still is working side by side with little 15 year old girls. As is Liya Kebede after two kids at the age of 35, and Yasmine Warsame, after one child and by now 30 years old, if not more. And outside of black only, the beautiful Indian model Lakshmi Menone, now 27 years old, only began her international career at 25 and still she looks amazing. What I do know is that I am a better model now than ever, I am in the best shape of my life, and I am more driven now than ever.  Yes, I can legally do beer commercials and liquor ads. But let’s face it, fashion is obsessed with youth!

3) How often are you booked with other black models for shootings or shows?

For shootings, almost never! Only when I was in South Africa were there even other black models on set. It is common there to have three or four black girls doing one 10 page fashion story.  Even so, I remember doing a cover for Elle Magazine and the other girl I shared the cover with was white.

I only ever shot with other black girls in Paris one time for a “BLACK” story with Albert Elbaz and Jean Paul Goud for Harper’s Bazaar.

It was about Lanvin‘s new Soul. And of course we, the sistas, got soul! It was myself, Ayan Elmi (Next Canada) and two other Black models who shot the story.  We were the modern day Supremes and Albert was Berry Gordy.  It was wonderful!

In shows, I rarely get to work with other black models. We usually never get the same shows together. It was so bad that one year we bullied a designer to hire us all for a Paris Couture Runway show last July.

We told him “pick us all or nothing.”  With great reluctance he eventually did. But all the while he was hmm and huh, and trying to reason with himself as to how different we were from each other. Although we know we don’t look at all the same it was still a fight to get him to recognize that we were not the same, we were all stars in our own way.  But we were all three black nonetheless and that for some designers this is hard to get past.

4) What campaigns have you done so far?

Only this year, did I book my first major campaign with L’Oréal’s Dark and Lovely hair relaxer. That is a major beauty job. And what a coincidence, it is for a black hair product. I have always been a show girl.  I have been the lead face for a couple of brands but I have yet to land that major clothing campaign and/or fashion magazine spread.

5) Top 5 favourite clients so far?

Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Albert Elbaz, David Dixon, and Andy The Anh.

6) What’s in your Kloset?

I always have a silk head scarf, my favourite pair of blue suede Christian Louboutin pumps, and my biker jacket.  I love rompers especially silk ones from, and Carrera Champion Sunglasses all day for the summer!

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  1. HHP Konstantin V says:

    Renee Thompson is very unique, talented beauty. Everything, she have today was done through hard work and “head up”.

    It’s not just interview – it’s very educational “two in one” – interview-story of female-model life, which gives hope to be discovered and deserve success in the modeling word.

    Perfect life lesson based on experience, for any girl, who wants, trying and working for becoming a model. Unfortunately, but true, colored models have harder time to get booked and it’s social mistake, because we are blind and do not see unique beauty in people other then white.

    Modeling world, suppose to be world of unique beauty, colors, happiness new and unusual art.

    What do we have today? Boring, bloody, blind empty world.

    I think, very soon, some one will “awake” and make revolution with reforms in the modeling world.



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