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Three Models at Casting Clarify Miami Swim Week Experience

N ot everyone felt that Miami Swim Week was discriminatory — although they did have a lot to say about a certain casting — as three models who appeared in the now-viral “melanin appreciation photo” posted by Joia Talbott have contacted FWO to clarify their experience.

Kate Citrone

“My name is Kate Citrone, @Kate_Citrone and I am a runway fashion model currently based in Miami, signed to FRONT Model Management.

“I’d like to apologize for myself and a handful of the other models featured in that now-infamous photograph of melanin models for any inconvenience involved in this Swim Week scandal.

“The overall truth to this story is that we were all turned away from this casting. Whether it was for our skin tone or because we genuinely “didn’t fit the look” the designer was looking, for remains a mystery.

“It was evident in the end that this particular designer did not include a single Afro-American, African American model in her lineup this year or in the previous years. Yes, we all attended this casting, and yes we were all turned away, but this photo was not taken to bash KYA Swim or the entity of Miami Swim Week.

this photo was not taken to bash KYA Swim or the entity of Miami Swim Week

“My overall experience with Swim Week and designers in general worldwide has been very positive. I have been blessed to work with a very diverse group of designers and have had rewarding experiences. I’d be lying if I said I never encountered an ignorant comment of situation based upon skin color or ethnic origin, yet I believe to rise above said comments and focus on my overall image and brand.

“First and foremost, all of these women included in the photograph are beautiful!

“Regardless of their hair texture, their measurements, their height, or their skin tone, each of the models in this photograph is different and each deserves the same opportunity as the next. It is unfortunate that this industry favors one skin tone more than the other. I truly believe that the system is revolutionizing and African American models and “dark skin models” are given more opportunities than before in the fashion world, and I’d like to see it continue.

I truly believe that the system is revolutionizing, and I’d like to see it continue

“However, there are designers who are still stuck in the past and refuse to move with the times. KYA Swim, the designer in question, accused of turning away dark skin models, including myself, and models with Afro hair during Swim Week, is guilty of doing the same.

“After hours of waiting at the base of the stairwell, wondering if I should leave or stay, pursue another casting, check that my car had not been towed, or go grab a bite to eat, a group of AA models descended the stairwell and announced “don’t bother going up, they said they aren’t choosing any dark skin models or girls with afros.”

“Soon after, a casting agent announced that the casting was finished and we were all dismissed. Not only was the casting cut short upon the dismissal of dark skin models, but upon leaving, I noticed the designer still accepting models of a fairer skin type at the door, bringing them upstairs, comp cards in hand.

we were all dismissed, but I noticed the designer still accepting models of a fairer skin type

“Instead of getting down about it, myself and the other band of dark skin models retreated to the pool to enjoy ourselves. We started taking photos to show we are still strong, we are still powerful, though the system is against us, we are still here. The photos were originally taken to uplift each other and show appreciation to the girls who look like us. We are models, we rarely see one another. At that moment in time, taking a group photo to remember the day seemed innocent. It never crossed my mind what would become of the photos once air-dropped to each of our devices. Clearly, someone had other intentions.

It never crossed my mind what would become of the photos

“The very next morning, I woke up to the buzzing and chiming of my phone, notification after notification, all captioning the photo that was taken the day before. Suddenly, the story is “rumor has it, group of dark skin models turned away at Swim Week for their skin color.” And “black Models not booking swim week,” etc. I read on.

“Thousands of comments, retweets on Twitter, shares on Facebook, and repost upon repost on Instagram. My IG account blew up because of it. From the outside looking in, this was now focused on Swim Week as a whole, rather than the views of ONE designer.

this was now focused on Swim Week as a whole, rather than the views of ONE designer

“I thought nothing of it, until I began receiving messages, comments and calls all asking how I was being treated by Swim Week, and are the stories true. It got out of hand once other models I never met or encountered found their way to me and wanted to know is there hope for them in this industry.

“I immediately wanted to share, in the hopes that it inspires someone to continue on their path toward their dreams. For the record, several of us, myself included, booked multiple shows during Swim Week and we enjoyed the experience.

several of us, myself included, booked multiple shows during Swim Week

“Swim Week in itself is incredibly diverse, and we love working the runways for them each year. Going forward, we can only hope this doesn’t happen again with other Afro/African American models. No one deserves to feel like less of who they are.

No one deserves to feel like less of who they are

“It is very understandable when a designer doesn’t pick you. it is very rare you will walk for EVERY designer and EVERY show, especially when there are 100 shows going on. This industry requires a model to have thick skin. Not every casting director will book you. You might book one season and not make the cut for next season. You might walk in the room with 10 other girls and be let go because you are an inch taller. In most circumstances, you will be let go if your brand is not compatible with the brand you are hoping to represent. In my own experience, I have encountered statements such as “Where is our Black Lives Matter model?” “We need pepper in this salt.” And backstage I have been purposefully placed in photos being called a “token.”

backstage I have been called a “token”

“This year, I traveled around castings with my two good friends, Claire @nefertari_iv and Quiyona @q_salmon both included in this photo. In fact, we are some of the darker models included, and each of us booked different shows for different reasons.

“We are highly appreciative of designers such as Tammy Rivera, Gigi C Bikinis, Pikai, Black Tape Project, Acacia, Wilfredo Gerardo, Luxiesle, Nash Beach, Poema Swim and all of the other designers we each were able to walk for this season.

“We each uplift one another and keep going. There are a handful of designers I would have loved to walk for this season and didn’t make the lineup, but I am grateful for the designers who decided within moments of meeting me that they wanted to instantly book me to represent their line on the runway. I am grateful for the teams I get to work beside during Swim Week. They look out for me and my brand and appreciate the time and efforts I make as a model.

“However, designers who have no intention of opening their line to women of color should have no place in the lineup of diverse shows. Discrimination is never ok and should not be justified.

designers who have no intention of opening their line to women of color should have no place in the lineup

“Let’s keep opening doors and creating opportunities for models like myself in similar situations. There is so much talent being overlooked that needs to be seen. Thank you to Miami Swim Week, Art Hearts Fashion, Planet Fashion, and Paraiso!”

Claire B

@mikoh @mikohswimwear @paraisofashionfair

A post shared by Nefertari?? (@nefertari_iv) on

“Hello, my name is Claire B, I am writing this statement in regard to the “melanin appreciation” picture that I am a part of that has since became viral and associated with “racism” of Swim Week!

“I would like to start by saying that Swim Week is made of hundreds of shows, some of which I was booked for, so no, I don’t believe that Swim Week was or is discriminatory in general!

Swim Week is made of hundreds of shows, some of which I was booked for

“I am the blackest in this picture, and I never felt any kind of discomfort around anyone during the castings or shows!

“The designer where the incident took place was KYA Swim. (Last year they had a show as KOA Swim.) Even though I wasn’t directly told by this designer that they weren’t seeing black girls anymore, I was told that at the moment the where looking for “shorter, white blondes.” I wasn’t offended by this at all, because it’s okay not to fit the criteria wanted by the client (in this case KYA Swim).

it’s okay not to fit the criteria wanted by the client

“But then I went back and looked at their show from last year. To my astonishment, they didn’t have any dark skin models at their show then! So I went further and watched their show this year again. They also didn’t have any dark or brown skin models at their show.

they didn’t have any dark skin models at their show last year, either

“So no, I don’t think Swim Week is discriminating anyone, but I do think KYA Swim is.”

Quiyona Salmon

“Hello my name is Quiyona Salmon (@Q_salmon) and I am one of the models pictured in the photo.

“On July 12, two models and myself showed up at the Plymouth for a couple of castings, and one of the castings was for KYA Swim.

“We patiently waited downstairs while signing in, and Kate Citrone and I saw a group of maybe 5-6 girls go upstairs while Claire finished signing in, so in our head we were excited because the line started moving.

“A couple of minutes later they stormed downstairs upset, and we asked what happened. They immediately started saying “KYA isn’t looking for any more dark models,” so we were all shocked.

“Joia proceeds to mention the issue with the Afro, because I have a natural ‘fro as well. She said the casting team told her they weren’t looking for anyone with ‘fros. She also said that they pointed at her hair and shook their finger.

“We did not bother to go upstairs because of what they said.

“That’s when they all wanted to take a picture, and we agreed, because who wouldn’t want to take pictures?

“The photo was supposed to be used in a positive way, not negative. KYA didn’t book any black models, and we waited. But KYA not casting black models for two years straight isn’t right. We all are different.

The photo was supposed to be used in a positive way, not negative

“KYA is to blame, not Swim Week. Besides all of that, my experience was amazing during Swim Week.

“The designers and other directors were amazing.”

KYA Responds to Claims

KYA told the New York Post: “Everyone at KYA Swim is deeply disturbed by the allegations brought by Joia Talbott and other models about the casting event at Miami Swim Week. KYA Swim is proud of its record of diversity and we are in the midst of looking into the events of last Thursday to review the actions of the production company in charge of the casting call.”

[Editor’s Note: Pictures of the KYA show can be seen here.]

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With love,

FWO