Barksdale Jones is a highly motivated change-maker in our local community who continually inspires me. A singer, dancer, actor, and model in the Seattle-Tacoma area, Barksdale Jones came to my attention two years ago, when I was starting out as a fashion photographer. I have been following her ever since on social media, and especially on her new venture, the Black and Brown Beauty Collective. Black and Brown Beauty Collective brings together black, brown, and indigenous creatives with the purpose of uplifting their collective work. The collective also encourages and invites young female artists who may have never considered stepping in front of a camera to do so in a space that is judgment-free. This access empowers these girls (and potential future creatives) by giving them the experience of being seen, heard, and represented, something that the current fashion industry gate holders do not do.
Barksdale Jones started modeling as an outlet for her own creativity, but this led to opportunities for her to work with fashion brands and inspire others to model. Five years into modeling, however, she was still finding herself almost exclusively at shows where she was the only black model. There was not a single hair stylist or makeup artist who looked like her or even knew how to do her hair. In response, she created a networking event about two years ago in the PNW to connect other black, brown, and indigenous creatives. This event evolved into the Black and Brown Beauty Collective.
Fashion industry gatekeepers are few, mostly white, and in the top 1%. They control the necessary resources and leadership roles in casting and hiring. Current industry practices are built on outdated models with deep roots in systematic racism. The perpetuation of racist standards of beauty contributes to the devaluation of black women in American culture as a whole. Creatives like supermodel Noami Campbell, to industry workers and consumers, have been calling for change for years, with a bigger push this past year for major industry brands to release information regarding diversity in their companies.
“I have been the black girl, I still am the black girl,” says Barksdale Jones, speaking to the experience of what it’s like being the only casted black or colored model and moving through life and the industry as a black woman. “Current culture is built on old ideologies and practices that continue to underserve black, brown, and indigenous girls.”
I applaud Black and Brown Beauty Collective for working to undo the damage done by the underrepresentation of black and brown women in fashion! By curating mingling events for creatives to meet and share ideas, promoting creatives’ work and successes within their social media platforms, interviewing creatives live, and putting together projects with an open call, Barksdale Jones is actively expanding opportunities for black, brown, and indigenous creatives.
To paraphrase Naomi Campbell, black, brown, indigenous women are not a trend or a token; we are here to stay. The Black and Brown Beauty Collective marks the beginning of a shift in the industry. The responsibility for change lies within all of us, starting with the consumer and leading to the industry gatekeepers. We can start simply, by being aware of how we invest our money as consumers, and whether the companies we support are, in fact, inclusive.