The world’s axis is changing. A 2015 Census Bureau report shows that by 2044, whites will no longer comprise a racial majority in the United States. By then, the nation will be made up of a kaleidoscope of racial groups, including Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans and multiracial Americans.
Pop culture, much of it originating from the US, is already dominated by diversity’s children, from the Kardashians, the reality stars of Armenian heritage; to the king and queen of music, Jay-Z and Beyonce, who are of African-American heritage; to the Hadids who dominate modelling and are of Palestinian extraction.
Hollywood has been slow to shed its dead-white male image, but television is revelling in discovering diversity, increasingly casting Asians, among them our very own Priyanka Chopra, in significant roles. More importantly, in terms of spending on luxury, the focus is no longer exclusively on the US. According to Knight Frank’s annual Wealth Report, 2015, China, Qatar and India will be among the top five luxury spenders in the world.
As David Abraham, a senior designer, says in the cover story written by associate editor Chinki Sinha, the "inclusion of non-white minorities in the cultural notion of beauty has less to do with ethics and more to do with the purchasing power of the new inclusions. At the end of the day, India is going to be one of the largest consumer markets in the world".
Much as in 1994, when Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants respectively and heralded renewed interest in the post-liberalised middle-class Indian’s wallet, diversity has become more than a buzzword on global runways. It has become good business. India is one of the biggest markets for luxury, fashion and beauty, and also one of the most culturally varied in the world.
India Today cover story, Swadeshi Supermodels, for October 30, 2017.
Over the last year, 10 models from India have walked the ramp for some of the world’s biggest labels, and graced the covers of some of the best-known global magazines. From Radhika Nair who became the first Indian model to walk for Balenciaga to Pooja Mor who appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia, Indian women are everywhere. Rasika Navare, who has done print campaigns for Smashbox Worldwide Cosmetics and Sephora Canada, is from Pune, but now lives in New York, and was shot for the cover of this magazine by group photo editor Bandeep Singh in New York’s Times Square.
What is common to almost all of them is their origin, mostly from small towns across India, and their use of social media to capture eyeballs in the new increasingly universal attention economy. What has changed is the notion of beauty and its embracing of inclusivity, whether colour, gender, size, or age.
In July 2017, US beauty magazine Allure featured Halima Aden, a Kenyan-born Muslim model sporting a black Nike hijab. In 2016, CoverGirl signed 17-year-old YouTube star James Charles as its first-ever cover boy; Redken’s 2014 campaign featured Lea T, the first time a transgender model was part of a big beauty campaign; and Nars, L’Oréal Paris and Marc Jacobs Beauty have all had campaigns featuring models over 60 in the past few years. It’s a long way from the first milestone, in 1992, when Revlon hired Veronica Webb, an African-American model, as its face.
Indian women started to make appearances on global runways at the dawn of the noughties, with Ujjwala Raut, Padma Laxmi and Laxmi Menon becoming successful, but it is only now that the stream has become a river. Sinha, who has been covering fashion for over a decade, says nothing can be more revolutionary than Balenciaga, the Spanish luxury fashion label which was hit by a Black Models Matter protest at the Paris Fashion Week earlier this year for its lack of diversity, casting two Indian models, Nair and Dipti Sharma on its runway shows.
Our women on the international ramp make us proud. More power to them.
On that note, a Happy Diwali to you all.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for cover story, Swadeshi Supermodels; October 30, 2017.)