This African Model Fights for Diversity in Fashion by Remaking Some of Its Famous Ads

Does color change a campaign?

Given how much diversity we're beginning to see on TV—and the fact that a sense of exploding diversity was a sticking point in this year's election—it can be hard to remember that most media and marketing remains pretty vanilla. 

But instead of talking more about it, West African model Deddeh "DD" Howard decided to show it. Along with her partner Raffael Dickreuter, a designer, photographer and virtual reality specialist, she's created an image campaign where prominent high-fashion print ads are almost perfectly remade—with white-skinned models replaced by dark-skinned DD.

Above, DD replaces Gisele Bundchen for Vivara. Below, she unseats Gigi Hadid in a Guess campaign. And supermodel Linda Evangelista—who famously said she doesn't wake up for less than $10,000 a day—gets the boot in a Chanel ad.

"We are bombarded everyday with flashy [print], billboards and television ads that try to inspire us to buy the products that are hitting the market. Something that always bothered me [is] that very rarely you ever see a black woman on them," writes DD on her site.

"When growing up as a girl I always wondered, why the big brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Guess and many others rarely seem to use a black model? And if they do, a very small group of black models does make the cut here and there, but that group seems to remain pretty much identical over a long period of time."

Below, DD takes on a wolfish Gucci ad:

Her blog post expresses a desire to "bring awareness back to the positive side of black people," something rarely seen in 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. For too long the negativity seemed to take over in the public eye," she continues. 

The project was inspired in part by black model Jasmine Tookes, who, this year, wore "the most expensive bra at the Victoria's Secret fashion show." The bra, designed by Eddie Borgo, costs around $3 million and sports 9,000 precious gemstones, including emeralds and diamonds, totaling 450 carats. 

Here is a photo of Tookes in the bra, from her Instagram:
 

 

It's SHOWTIME!!!! Tune in NOW to CBS! #vsfantasybra @victoriassecret

A photo posted by Jasmine Tookes (@jastookes) on

 
DD called the moment inspiring. "We need more of those moments," she writes. "More equal visibility of all races, being it white, black, Asian, Latino etc would help all of us believing in our potential."

The effort could be dismissed as little more than stirring self-promotion, but DD's onto something. Advertising is an industry filled with whispers about "clients" complaining about encroaching diversity, even when a model already looks white—brunettes who get condemned as "exotic" and swapped out for blondes, or subtle changes in eye color to make faces look more Nordic.

Many such stories are shared over drinks, but rarely on the record. If DD's project actually helps her get more work, than all the better for other models and figures of color.

DD's blog post concludes with a series of links related to the fight for diversity in fashion, including Zac Posen's "Black models matter" statement, news that Misha used Beyoncé's "Formation"—a black woman anthem—to soundtrack a runway show featuring only white models, and a Vogue article about the lack of diversity over Fashion Month.

Check out more of DD's appropriations below. Targeted brands include Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and—of course!—Victoria's Secret.