Culture

Joan Smalls Commits Half Her Salary to Black Lives Matter & Urges the Fashion Industry to Do More

Lead Photo: Joan Smalls attends the 12th Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park on June 01, 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Joan Smalls attends the 12th Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park on June 01, 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Model Joan Smalls has had enough of empty gestures supporting Black Lives Matters and the fight against racial injustice in the U.S. In an Instagram post this week, Smalls posted a five-minute video examining how the fashion industry has been showing solidarity to Black communities and questioned how authentic public displays of support are from agencies, magazines and brands.

She, rightfully, points out that many people only scrambled to embrace diversity and exclusionary efforts after social media held them accountable, and she urged action that fully acknowledges how much the industry has profited from Black and creativity for decades.

Beyond just calling out patterns of complicity and lip service, Smalls went on to give a clear example of the kind of behavior she wants to see: She herself pledged to donate half of her salary for the remainder of 2020 to Black Lives Matter organizations and asked that brands really engage with direct, meaningful giving. It’s the least they can do after generations of compiling wealth at the expense of Black people–something she voiced as she discussed her own experiences in the industry.

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The recent and long standing acts against the black community have been saddening, frustrating and unacceptable. I feel these same emotions when I think about how my industry, the fashion world, is responding. It is time for this industry to do more than post a black square and say they’ll “Do Better!” It’s time for us to see the change starting from the ground up. Give us a seat at the table, include us, give us a chance, because we are worthy, talented and unique. There have been so many times where I’ve had to face issues against my race within this industry because I was their token black girl. The campaigns and editorials I had to share while my counterparts got to achieve that on their own. Or that my hair was an issue or that I made a show or campaign too ethnic, the list goes on and on. This industry that I love has profited from us but has never considered us equal. This. Stops. Now. It’s time for the fashion industry to stand up and show their solidarity. Time for you all to give back to these communities and cultures which you draw so much inspiration from. I do want to thank those that did see me for me and gave me a chance. Those that helped me fight my way to where I am today. Thank you, thank you for doing what you knew to be right versus what others said should be done. You will help us be the leaders of change. In saying all of this, I also pledge to donate 50% of my salary for the remainder of 2020 to Black Lives Matter organizations. I know I can’t just talk about change, I have to be a force for it. I encourage and will continue to encourage brands within this industry to do the same and give back. Let’s all be the change we want and need to see. These battles are long from over but together we’re stronger and together we can accomplish what is needed. #WeAreNotATrend #blacklivesmatter

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“It is time for this industry to do more than post a black square and say they’ll ‘Do Better!’ It’s time for us to see the change starting from the ground up. Give us a seat at the table, include us, give us a chance, because we are worthy, talented and unique,” she wrote. “There have been so many times where I’ve had to face issues against my race within this industry because I was their token black girl. The campaigns and editorials I had to share while my counterparts got to achieve that on their own. Or that my hair was an issue or that I made a show or campaign too ethnic, the list goes on and on. This industry that I love has profited from us but has never considered us equal. This. Stops. Now.”

She added, “Let’s all be the change we want and need to see. These battles are long from over but together we’re stronger and together we can accomplish what is needed.”