Top fashion stylist speaks out on racism in the fashion and entertainment industry
With racial tensions at fever pitch around the globe, the Black Lives Matter protests in the USA have created a watershed moment for conversations around race in different industries. Fuelled by the movement and messages for George Floyd, Bee Diamondhead took a stance by sharing her own experiences.
“It made me think of my own racial experiences and I felt rage and anger because I was seeing messages from white people who I know that have made me feel small, that have benefited from systematic racism and continue to benefit from it, people who perform microaggressions towards me and other black or brown people,” said Diamondhead.
“I’ve had clients and producers that will only liaise with my white assistant because they think my white assistant does all the work and I’m there for clout,” she shared in an Instagram post.
Diamondhead, who has been working in the fashion and advertising industries for over 13 years as well as working as fashion editor at a Marie Claire, was stunned by the responses she got from her followers, who started sharing their own experiences with her. She reposted the experiences on her Instagram under a “We Matter” stories highlight. Users spoke out about their experiences of racism in fashion, entertainment, film, and corporate spaces.
While working with an undisclosed white Capetonian designer, an anonymous Instagram user who sent a message to Diamondhead pointing out the lack of diversity the designer had at a photo shoot. After questioning this, the designer allegedly said that she would never use a black model as it was not aligned with the aesthetic, brand, or the customers of her clothing line.
“Fast forward two years and she’d moved to London to try take her brand international,” the anonymous entry read. “I noticed the campaign she released then featured a black model: I wondered if she’d changed her tune, then I realised she was happy to promote her brand now that she was marketing herself as an African designer in London,” said the user.
Another anonymous user disclosed how she had been fired after speaking out against the ill treatment of black cast and crew.
“I’ve been fired from many Afrikaans sets because I told people to not use racial slurs or disrespect the black crew. I was told to ‘know my […] place’ on set and not be ‘such a sensitive girl.’” While Diamondhead had no plans to launch the We Matter stories as a series, she noted the importance of getting the stories out to the public. “I feel like I opened up a can of worms and it’s been scary and hard.”
Tackling microaggressions and the systemic nature of racism, Diamondhead’s collection of stories is yet to find a permanent home as it is something she wants to continue.
“For now they can continue to share on my Instagram stories. If they are comfortable I can share them on the highlights and read other people’s stories. Hopefully we can compile them into something people can go back to. My email is also on my Instagram if anyone wants to reach out in private and talk to me — I am always open,” says Diamondhead.
Diamondhead also says she has been in talks with cultural organisation Bubblegum Club regarding a future project aligned with the work she has done. “For now, the revolution is on Instagram,” said Diamondhead.