Ebonee Davis' TED talk is about being a black woman in fashion business
Model Ebonee Davis has never shied away from talking about the issue of race in the fashion industry. This week, Ebonee Davis’ TED Talk she gave on the subject at the University of Nevada was ~finally~ released to the public and it was spot on. Davis, a model, writer, and activist spoke candidly about the diversity issues in the fashion industry while offering solutions to make it a more inclusive industry as societal notions of beauty begin to evolve. Davis has been featured in campaigns for Adidas, Calvin Klein, and has been featured in Sports Illustrated. She’s a badass and she’s made channeling #blackgirlmagic one of her missions.
<<TED TALK LINK IN BIO>> About a week ago, I got an email from Bret at University of Nevada TEDx program, informing me that my talk was edited and would be up online within a few hours. I waited and waited and checked the TED site compulsively to see where my talk was but, even after days, I couldn't find it. I started to worry that there was something wrong. I had worked so hard and I was anxious to see the outcome. What was the delay? Was there a problem? Then, yesterday, I got an email. "Ebonee’s video was chosen by our editorial team to be notified to our 6 million subscribers tomorrow at 2:00pm. It will be live then." I busted out in tears!!! (Keep in mind I'm backstage at a fashion show so I'm looking crazy by this point and trying not to destroy my makeup lol) MY talk was CHOSEN! If you knew how much I've overcome to get to this point, you'd understand what I'm feeling right now. You'd understand what this moment means. I didn't even love myself a year ago. I was still trying to be something I'm not to fit a mold that wasn't made for me. This journey, this evolution into self-love is something I wish for each and every person on this planet. Keep dreaming. Keep pushing. Keep resisting. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP! Don't let anyone tell you your dreams aren't valid. I dedicate this to Malcolm, Martin, Assata, Pac, Lauryn, my great-grandfather 'Big Daddy' rest in peace and above all GOD. Thank you for giving my life purpose. Thank you for the platform. Thank you for the mic. Thank you for the voice. Thank you for the words. Before I stepped out on stage I said, "use me." and that's exactly what he did. All glory to God. I AM MY ANCESTORS WILDEST DREAM. <<TED TALK LINK IN BIO>>
In the TED Talk, Davis was open about her struggles as a black woman in the fashion industry. “I figured that once I got a contract, the industry would open up for me, But at every turn, I was met with resistance. I had white agents with no knowledge of black hair care run their fingers through my hair and tell me things like, ‘We already have a girl with your look.’ Translation: All black girls look the same.”
You know what's crazy? My first Calvin Klein campaign came out on the day that Alton Sterling was killed by the police. That day, I went home and wrote a letter to the fashion industry, expressing my feelings on police brutality and the duty fashion media has to help change the perception of black people. After seeing my letter, the company brought my back to shoot for them a second time. On the day of this shoot, the CFO of Calvin Klein walked up to me as I was getting my makeup done and told me her two mixed daughters read my letter and they felt so beautiful and proud. I was so moved and immediately brought to tears. Yesterday, the day Donald Trump was voted into office, my second campaign came out and I felt all the same things I did on the day Alton Sterling was killed. As a queer black woman, it is frightening but I will not succumb to fear. Despite all of the messages that tell me I should hate myself and feel insecure about who I am, all of the messages that tell me I am less of a human, all of the messages that tell me that we are not made equal, I am so proud to be EXACTLY who God created me to be. Let's keep spreading this awareness, love and positivity. ❤️
After being told repeatedly by her agents that they “didn’t know what to do with her,” Davis was hurt and disheartened. Her hurt was only deepened when on July 5th, 2016, Alton Sterling was murdered by police…the same day her Calvin Klein campaign launched. She was moved to speak on the issue, penned an open letter to the fashion industry telling them “it is no longer acceptable for us to revel in black culture with no regard for the struggles facing the black community … The time for change is now.”
In the months since her letter, Davis’ belief that the industry still has a responsibility to diversity and inclusion has not changed. She still firmly believes that they have work to do. “I don’t want to be hired so I can fill an HR box. I want to be hired for my unique contribution to the industry. Instead of forcing my beauty into your pre-existing box and asking me to change, expand your definition of beauty to be inclusive.” Exactly.