There isn’t yet enough data gathered as to how many black models there are in the world, but from what anyone can tell, there’s a plethora of them littered across the globe, each and everyone of them stunning in their own unique ways. Between those professionally active and those self-proclaimed, there’s still a lot of talent left untapped when it comes to models of colors. There’s yet to be an equal ratio of black and white models walking on major runways, there’s yet to be enough models of colors featured in major campaigns, black muses are yet to get paid the same as their caucasian counterparts- there’s so much to be done in terms of representation and inclusion.
Problem asserted, it is greatly disconcerting to find that according to celebrity photographer Cameron-James Wilson, the answer to representation for black models is the creation of a melanin doused digital model who he’s so chosen to christen “Shudu”. Shudu is the perfect reflection of what one would term “a melanin goddess”, however exaggerated- endless pins, piercing eyes, silky smooth dark chocolate-y skin, hourglass figure. No doubt, Shudu is stunning, only problem is, Shudu is not real. As described by an instagram user, Shudu is a computer generated image, made with the likeness of Duckie Thot, a REAL MODEL.
With a surplus of beautiful black women yet to be put on platforms, is there really a need for a “fantasy trying to break into reality”? should creations like Shudu be encouraged? why not promote actual black models? Because, the way I see it, there’s an overabundance of real black women fighting everyday just to be relevant in the fashion and beauty industries. A perfect depiction of under representation is Anok Yai, prada’s first black model since 1997 as seen at Milan Fashion Week 2018. While praises may have rung in for Prada for having a black woman open in show for the first time in 21 years, it’s a little sad that in 2018, black women are still sliding into firsts and seconds just for it to be said that they’ve made history.
While black beauties wade through the struggle of being recognized, Wilson’s faux muse has already garnered a strong following of 71.8k followers on instagram as has even gone on to be recognized by Rihanna’s beauty marque, Fenty Beauty after virtually sporting the brand’s SAW-C lipstick. The kind of exposure that could be actually be financially profitable to an actual IRL model in this age. Moreover, do we label it but a coincidence that Shudu was created by 24-year-old Wilson in order to represent models of today and their beauty after dark skin movement became a thing? I doubt it. It’s more the case of another white man trying to profit off of the increase in demand and visibility of dark-skinned models, a thought that can well be confirmed by Wilson’s statement;
"She is not a real model unfortunately, but she represents a lot of the real models of today," he said.
"There’s a big kind of movement with dark-skin models, so she represents them and is inspired by them."
And a significant ratio of twitter users seems to agree;
"Lol even when Black women decolonize standards of beauty and embrace Backness, generate an entire cultural movement behind it, and provide [an] inspiration to millions of young Black girls, look who capitalizes," a Twitter user wrote.
"I can't even put into words how wrong this is. Why is it so hard to just pay Black women?" another asked.
Of course there are those who feel otherwise;
"That’s like saying we shouldn’t make animated movies because it’s taking work away from real actors. I think it’s dope that this guy decided to make the model black and he did a damn good job. Do y’all want equal representation or nah? like which one is it."
For or against, Wilson has the right to create, undisputedly. Likewise, critiques the right to side-eyes. However, the unignorable fact is that the career of real black model would have been kickstarted and furthered should Wilson have poured in his talent, resources and of course, white privilege into an actual colored muse. That would have been representation enough.
Let’s get real, no one needs Shudu. No one except Wilson of course.