Diversity – by Zoey Ivory

Diversity should be a given when you look at the multicultural society of the Netherlands. With so many cultures, different origins, sexual orientations and skin colours, diversity is everywhere around us. But in modelling, representation and diversity have not always been easy.

Eight or nine years ago I started modelling fulltime. I was scouted on the street by an agency and decided to contact some other agencies as well to see if this was just random comment, or if I could be a “real” model. Reactions like, “We already have a model with your look on our board” were not uncommon.  Luckily I was invited to a number of agencies based on my Polaroids and many were initially enthusiastic. But then came that tape measure around my hips, and agencies decided that unfortunately I was “too fat”.  My options were limited to either losing or gaining weight, to see if I could be a plus size model. Both of these were incredibly unhealthy for my body type. But there was no other category, so decided to lose weight. For my agency I could never lose enough weight, even though I still got work. If only I would style my hair. My curls were too distracting for clients. My agency said that I would get more jobs if I looked more “normal”, meaning with straight hair (Their words, not mine). 

Fortunately, years have passed, and we are seeing a big and positive change in the modelling world in terms of diversity. Curls and textured hair are celebrated, different skin tones are booked and all sizes are used these days. Not one extreme to the other, but from skinny, plus size or inbetween to white, black and asian to models with different beliefs or disabilities can be seen on images, in magazines and on the catwalk. Nowadays, your character also adds something. Clients don’t only look at your portfolio, but also at your social media and what you have to say. It matters if you are vegan, it matters if you are committed to Black Lives Matter. Your voice matters. 

And that makes me so very happy. It is so important to see yourself & society reflected in magazines, on TV, on billboards and advertisements. It matters for a positive self-image. We are not there yet, because there is never enough representation. But the modelling world has grown tremendously, and we should be proud of that. You too can bring about changes to create even more diversity. Speak to your employer, talk about it in your community and let your voice be heard! 

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