That “Adut Akech David Jones” Situation & Why Diversity Is More Than Skin Deep
ADUT AKECH. Height. 5’10 / 178cm; Hair. Brown; Eyes. Brown;
Skin Colour – Unapologetically irrelevant,
“Although I think your use of the beautiful black model is very attractive….. (Whenever a sentence begins with although, usually what is about to follow is less than favourable and any compliment simply a decoy used in an attempt to soften an ugly blow) I don’t feel it represents the general population of Australia”, declared Elizabeth Ballard on David Jones Facebook page.
“How on earth am I expected to relate to this cover? I can’t wear any of her make-up; I don’t know ANYONE who looks like her. She could have been used on the back page…. “ And so it continues…
Unsurprisingly there was instant outrage and disgust expressed in response to Ms Ballard’s insipid and racist comments in relation to DJ’s decision to feature Adut as the face of their SS17/18 beauty campaign, but the media’s attention equally if not more so, focused on David Jones for the and I quote, “whimpering reply” offered by way of an apology to Ms Ballard, expressing that they were sorry she felt the way she did and that her feedback no less had been passed on for further consideration… clearly an automated response but unfortunately for David Jones, just like a first impression, a first response is a never to be repeated opportunity.
Just prior to the David Jones SS17/18 launch, Adut wrote a piece for Vogue reflecting on her journey from Kenya to Australia and in it she speaks of the fact that as a 6 year old girl she was confronted with the reality for the first time of having to look at the bigger picture and this week’s exchange between an apparent representative of Australian consumers and a retail giant have simply added fuel to the fire on an issue that is part of a much bigger picture… and one with a-lot more relevance and weight than a public relations stuff up.
The colour of Adut’s skin unapologetically irrelevant? Absolutely.
The core issue at the heart of an ugly attack on Adut’s relevance and representation of diversity in the fashion industry? Shamefully, yes.
In a previous article published by AMFAM, I suggested that diversity’s permanence in the fashion industry was dependant on both industry influencers being bold enough to challenge the status quo and the pubic voice continuing to speak up and demand balanced representation. Diversity is at risk of remaining a token gesture if our automated response is not to immediately shut down any hint of the contrary. No apology required, especially when the voice as in this instance echoes a position that has no interest in anything that challenges the comfortable position of the so-called majority.
Change requires more than diversity on the catwalk and on our covers; it has to go beyond a pretty picture because although it might tell a thousand words the picture doesn’t always tell the truth behind the story.
Our words are powerful and our automated response often representative of our deepest held values. Perhaps that is our greatest challenge.
And for all the ‘haters’ because there will be haters… and many of them women…. May I suggest you read Vogue’s article about Adut’s story and look for something you can relate to that is far more than skin deep, because to me Adut represents a brave and courageous young woman who has already lived a life beyond her years and proven she can meet diversity head on. Maybe you can relate to that?