Harlem World Magazine recently wrote an article on the trending and influential use of albino models on catwalks across the globe. The article expressed and gave insight on problems individuals with albinism face, such as often being teased as children for the way they looked. Then you have the extreme cases like those in African countries whose limbs are cut off and used for witchcraft and rituals, and they are also highly at risk of being abducted. The article praised British-based South African designer Jacob Kimmie for using US albino supermodel, Diandra Forrest, a native of the Bronx Community, in his line and challenging the standards of beauty in the fashion industry. While it is commendable that Harlem World Magazine sought to shed some light on the new albino model trend, we wanted to add a footnote or two. Bill Witherspoon, a designer based in Harlem, was one of the first to use albino models, in 2011’s Africa Fashion Week in New York. A designer in Harlem World’s very own backyard is one of the pioneers of fashion and is positively contributing to this change in the fashion industry. Here is an exclusive interview with Mr. Witherspoon, and some of his opinions on the perception of black beauty.
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty is what arouses me. Not in a sexual sense, but I believe we can all find that special something in everyone that we deem beautiful.
What are some of the physical characteristics you look for in the models you use?
Some important things characteristics I look for in my models would be; skin clarity, grooming of their hands and feet, muscle definition/tone, and lastly confidence.
What was the inspiration/reason behind you choosing the albino model for your 2010 Africa Fashion Week collection in New York?
For Africa Fashion Week 2011 it was very important to me that I show the range of color in the black race, I wanted to show the world how different my family is and that, we are all BEAUTIFUL.
What was some of the feedback you received from your decision in choosing to use this model?
Lol……..Many people were shocked and awed, which is often how beauty leaves people! The model I used—O’Brain, whom I nickname “ICE”, no matter what goes on backstage, his temperament never changes. He’s AMAZING!
Do you believe the fashion/modeling industry is color blind in their perception of beauty?
Sometimes, but, I think true beauty can never be denied; you can’t hide it, cover it, or color it. It is a gift from GOD, and it is of extreme value!