As a Korean American, I never feel more like a minority than when I flip through a fashion magazine.
Granted, some progress has been made. Halle Berry will grace the cover of September's Vogue -- the September issue is the most important issue of the year. She's the first black model/actress to be on the cover since 1989.
Jezebel did a tally of black models in various September fashion issues this year. They found that these publications used black models for multi-model editorials, but not a single one had her own spread.
The tally for other minorities is probably close to or exactly the same. I'm pretty sure there's never been a Korean model on any cover of Vogue.
Magazines, for the good and bad, reflect society's view of beauty. And not incorporating minorities makes it seem like they're not "beautiful" enough to include. Which means I must be a whole bunch of ugly if I don't even make the ethnicity cut.
I know that fashion magazine models don't look like me, nor do I expect them to. Most consumers would probably pile up those magazines and, while laughing manically, burn them for sport if that were the case.
But I can't tell you the number of times I've sat down with a magazine that didn't include a single Asian model or celebrity. It's part of the reason I simply stopped subscribing (as well as being able to find plenty of fashion/beauty tips online).
You could argue that there simply aren't enough Asian models -- I say there are, there just isn't a demand for them because magazines are too afraid to feature them.
Don't believe me? How about Liu Wen, who was the first Asian model to walk down the Victoria's Secret runway (pathetically, this was in 2009)? She is also the first Asian model for Estee Lauder. Du Juan, a Chinese fashion model and accomplished dancer, was on the cover of Vogue Paris, becoming the magazine's first Asian cover-model. Korean model Hyoni Kang was the first East Asian to ever win 2008's Ford Supermodel of the World contest.
With all the progress we've made on the diversity front (our President is African American, after all) and how liberal the field of media in general is, it's amazing to me that more magazines haven't embraced beauty in minorities. I'm probably too idealistic to think that a cover with a Korean model would sell just as well as a cover with a Caucasian one -- but can't we at least give a minority model her own spread?
Of course, it all comes down to what sells and what makes money. In the US, white models, with very few exceptions, rule the fashion industry, and this business is equally as stubborn as all other businesses. If it hasn't changed by now, maybe it never will.
But with the decline of print, these magazines ought to try a new angle. Diversity is truly a beautiful thing.
And then who knows, maybe if I ever have a daughter (it'll happen someday, mom), inevitably she'll be struggling with her own set of issues about these standards for unrealistic beauty -- but hopefully there will be a couple of models in a fashion magazine who at least have the same-shaped eyes and skin tone as she does. Hey, one step at a time, folks.
Does the lack of diversity in fashion magazines bother you? Think it could ever change?
Image via Vogue