Models of Color Matter (MOCM) was founded by former modeling agent Nicole Doswell in 2018. Her current role as a casting director, producer and publicist at The Riviere Agency has provided a unique position allowing her to see multiple sides of the industry as a woman of color. She founded the organization as an initiative to increase diversity and equity in fashion and media. The organization aims to initiate more conversations about the underrepresentation of people of color in the media and fashion spaces. Due to systematic racism and built in bias, models of color (BIPOC) are often overlooked for castings, modeling opportunities, and mistreated on sets and backstage in the modeling industry. MOCM aims to be a confidence booster, a safe place, a wealth of knowledge and a connector for models of color and those in the industry that support them.
Meet Nicole Doswell
(Inline Photos: E. Mackey)
Q: Tell us about your background and professional journey.
My journey in the fashion space began in Atlanta and Miami as a modeling agent; this is where I gained a lot of my compassion and protectiveness over models.
I was a modeling agent for about 4 years and then transitioned into event and fashion show production in both Miami and New York. This allowed me to have a voice and hand in the selection of models, but also hear the resistance from brands on casting diverse models; this resistance led me to create Models of Color Matter (MOCM), first on social media (@modelsofcolormatter) to showcase melanated and diverse models in a beautiful, colorful, and editorial-worthy light.
This allowed me to hear the resistance from brands on casting diverse models
Today Models of Color Matter Inc. is a non-profit organization creating safe spaces for Black & Brown models in the fashion industry fighting for texture hair inclusivity and helping to tip the scale by casting models of every shade for shows and shoots.
Q: What crying need did you see in the marketplace that helped spark the creation of MOCM?
There was a instance that happened while I was doing casting for a NYFW show years ago where an Asian designer requested all “very very light models”; this really hurt my soul, because not only was this not representative of the market in which they were showing, but to me it screamed self-hate, for you as a designer of color to say you don’t even want to have one model in your show that looks like you or your mother or your sister made me sad and want to see better.
Some may say “aren’t you doing the same thing by casting all Black models in a runway show?” and my answer to that is no…that is done to create industry balance in a time where many runway shows still consist of mostly white faces with a handful of token black and brown models to appear inclusive and avoid backlash.
Q: What are MOCM’s primary goals in terms of the industry at large?
The main goal of MOCM is to create representation for all.
There is an organization called The 15% Pledge and they call on retailers to have their shelves stocked with at least 15% black brands to represent the approximate Black population in America.
I would love to see the same thing in regards to modeling campaigns, runway shows and commercials.
The 15% Pledge calls on retailers to have their shelves stocked with at least 15% black brands
Not only do I want to see an increase in diverse faces in front of the camera, but also behind the scenes. Diversity behind the scenes helps to create safe spaces for models, companies and also us as consumers.
Q: In terms of the models you work with, what are your goals in terms of creating a safe space, confidence booster, and serving as a connector?
Creating a safe space speaks to safety emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially.
We want to ensure when models come on set their beauty is catered to by skilled professionals and there is a conversation about catering to their beauty (texture, complexion, etc.) also making sure they are not the only person that looks like them in the room gives them the ability to speak up and ask for what they need.
And finally, paying models for their work is also a part of safety. All of these reasons are part of why we do our show at Miami Swim Week with BFyne. I am backstage with the models, checking in on them and hyping them up to ensure they know they are beautiful and heard!
paying models for their work is also a part of safety
Safety behind the scenes for models has been a big part of what we have been fighting for and we have partnered with organizations like the Natural Hairstyle & Braid Coalition to ensure that individuals like stylist have the education they need to promote a more inclusive, diverse, hygienic, safe and sustainable environment for models and consumers alike.
Safety behind the scenes is a big part of what we have been fighting for
Something as small as getting your hair done can become traumatizing for models and the damage it can cause both emotionally and to their scalp can be difficult to fix.
Q: What advice would you give BIPOC models looking to break into the industry?
My biggest advice is to love yourself, know your worth, and pick an agency who knows your worth and fights for you.
Models don’t have a union like actors do and in many cases feel like they don’t have rights, but you DO have rights and it’s important to know those rights and protect yourself. I recommend signing up for an organization like Model Alliance to stay abreast of modeling rights and advancements.
I recommend signing up for an organization like Model Alliance