At 5ft 10,5in, with feline features and legs like a gazelle, Leomie Anderson makes quite an impression when she enters a room. With her hair tied back and wearing no makeup, the 18-year-old has the kind of beauty that is both knockout and approachable.
“I’m flattered people compare me to Naomi Campbell, because she’s done so much in the modelling industry, but I don’t want people to think I’m going to be ‘the next Naomi’. I want to be my own person. I want to be known for my writing, not just modelling,” says Anderson, who blogs for US magazine Essence.
Of course, there is room for more than one successful black model, but it does seem that popular culture can only deal with one at a time.
“It’s a lot harder to start a black girl than a white girl, for a number of reasons,” says Carole White, Premier’s founder.
“There’s not so much work for them, and sometimes photographers and makeup artists are scared. They don’t know how to light or make them up properly so it takes a lot longer . . . It’s a slower process.”
White first called for greater diversity in the fashion industry in 2008. “In the last couple of years there’s been a movement of trying to get more black girls into the business, but it’s an attitude. Right now everyone is scared — they think, if I take that risk, will she sell my products? So they go with the tried-and-tested white girls.”
Is the fashion industry racist? “I don’t think the industry is any more racist than anywhere else,” says White. “It’s driven by what sells and, in general, white blonde girls sell, that’s the mindset. In actual fact, black girls do sell but they’re not given as many openings. It is safer to go with a white girl, and in a recession people are very conservative.”
Booker Annie Wilshaw puts it more strongly: “Yes, I’d say the industry is racist. In Milan black girls never work. In Paris it’s still the same. It’s 2011 and that’s quite disgusting, really.”
— Guardian UK