When Jasmine Tookes modeled the coveted “fantasy bra” at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Monday, it marked only the third time in the show’s 21-year run that a woman of color was chosen to make the brand’s ultimate fashion statement.
That disparity reflects a pattern rampant in high fashion, where diversity is on the rise but startlingly far from the norm. The lack of representation in prominent fashion advertisements prompted Liberian-born, L.A.-based model Deddeh Howard to take matters into her own hands.
Howard’s aptly titled “Black Mirror” photo series captured her recreating some of fashion’s most iconic advertisements, replacing the likes of Michelle Williams for Louis Vuitton, Kendall Jenner for Calvin Klein and Candice Swanepoel for Victoria’s Secret.
The project, which Howard told the Huffington Post took about three months from concept to completion, aims “to show the world what diversity is capable of.”
Howard further explained on her website that she used the images to present her race in a more positive light than what is typically put forth by the media.
“In a time where black people too often are in the media for being underrepresented at important events such as the Oscars, or make headlines for being targeted by the police, I felt it was time to do something positive and inspiring about my race,” she said.
Howard said that while researching for the shoot, she and photographer Raffael Dickreuter were shocked to realize how many brands “truly never or almost never use black models.”
Howard has firsthand experience with the struggle to diversify the industry. She said she’s been turned away from modeling agencies who told her they “already have a black model.” Calling this experience “bizarre,” she used the shoot to help emphasize the reality of the world we live in.
“We live in a globalized world with nowadays many interracial couples producing mixed babies. Why can’t the big brands not embrace our diversity more and give all of us visibility?” she said.
While she says she wasn’t prepared for “the big wave of response” to the project, which has been featured in the Daily News, Mic and Yahoo and has garnered a slew of positive feedback on social media, Howard is hopeful for what may result.
“It almost seems it started a movement,” she said.
Head to Howard’s website, Secret of DD, to see more of her work.