Several black models are accusing fashion brand KYA Swim of making racist comments toward them as they stood in line for the brand’s casting call during Miami Swim Week. Reports from Cosmopolitan say Joia Talbot and 10 to 15 other models were in Miami to participate in the swim fashion event when they allegedly experienced racial discrimination from a KYA Swim’s casting director.
Talbott says while in line she noticed there was one woman “directing traffic” and allowing models into the casting room; during this process she says the casting director pulled the woman off to the side to have a private conversation. When the woman returned, Talbott says the woman pointed to her and said, “You, your hair, no.” Talbott, who sports her natural afro, was surprised by the comment and responded, “Wow, really?” but according to Cosmopolitan, the woman was not swayed.
Talbott also says the woman then returned to the line and informed all the waiting models that they would not be allowing “dark skin” models into the casting room.
Talbott documented her experience in an Instagram story which was then reposted by Facebook user Macaroni Tony. In the video, Talbott can be heard saying that the woman in charge of the casting call even said that casting was now closed, but after the black women exited the line, the woman reopened the call for casting.
The video also featured model Kacey Leggett, who was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model.
“I’m at a loss for words. I’m still trying to process what happened. All of us had to get out of the line — they told us they didn’t want any more black models,” Leggett said.
KYA Swim has since responded to the allegations.
“Everyone at KYA Swim is deeply disturbed by the allegations brought by Joia Talbott and other models about the casting event at Miami Swim Week,” the company said in a statement. “KYA Swim is proud of its record of diversity and we are the midst of looking into the events of last Thursday to review the actions of the production company in charge of the casting call.”
The Miami Herald is reporting that Funkshion, a Miami Beach-based production company hired to run the casting call, also released a statement.
“As much as we push for diversity and inclusion in our shows, ultimately, it is the individual designers who make the final decisions on the model selections for their brands,” Funkshion’s CCO Natalija Stojanovic said. “While the incident that has been reported is unfortunate, we encourage the dialogue about representation of models of all types to happen. It is our goal to further push to break down existing barriers wherever we can.”
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However, Talbott still feels those in positions to inspire change in the industry should be doing more when it comes to hiring dark-skinned models. She thinks that fashion houses and designers should make the effort to create and meet diversity quotas.