February 8 is Lineisy Montero’s birthday.
I like Lineisy Montero a lot. The first time that I ever caught the model in profile, I gasped because she has the most incredible cheekbones. But it was her hair that everyone else noticed.
Walking in the Prada F/W 2015 show, Montero had “the only afro in a line of 40 slick ponytails,” according the link above. I remember how excited everyone was about this fresh face and what she brought to the Prada show. i-D wrote this about Montero’s debut for the brand:
“In the 15 years between 1993, when Naomi Campbell took to the catwalk, and 2008, when Jourdan Dunn did the same, not a single black model graced Prada’s runway, and before Malaika Firth became the face of their campaign in 2013, Naomi was the last person to hold that accolade in 1994 – the year Malaika was born. Since then Prada’s been a frontrunner in the race for cultural diversity within fashion, and this season they raised a new subject; natural black hair, and Lineisy was the main talking point.”
Frankly, this all pissed me off. Prada was the last label that deserved praise for being a frontrunner in runway diversity. I remember Jean Paul Gaultier shows from around the time that Lineisy Montero was a toddler that made me believe that a lack of runway diversity wasn’t even a problem. A simple Google search took me to this S/S 1998 show where I saw memorable faces of almost every color.
Gaultier was always the man when it came to giving different girls a chance on his runway. It was labels like Prada that started to use the “baby doll” faces of the early aughts and turned the tide towards runways that featured nothing but white girls. Gaultier has even used size diversity and gender diversity on his catwalks. He was doing street-casting before anyone else even knew what street-casting was. In the meantime, Prada was putting those poor, underworked Victoria’s Secret models on their “high-fashion” runway and being praised for their “visionary” nature.
My stomach turns when I read about how wonderful Prada has been to models like Lineisy Montero. Prada was one of the reasons why Dominican girls with naturally curly hair didn’t work for a couple of decades. Prada does not deserve accolades.
I should be discussing today’s Aquarius birthday girl, but I really don’t know enough about her to bother looking at her chart. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, anyway — this has been boiling up in me for a while. So, next time you read something about runway diversity, maybe you’ll go back and watch some of those mid-nineties shows — the Gaultier shows especially —and learn why we didn’t talk about it back then. It’s because we didn’t need to talk about it back then.