The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum presented a special screening of the Youtube Originals series Supreme Models: The Documentary and a panel with an array of A-list fashion industry panelists.
Among the participants were stylist, journalist and author of the book, Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion Marcellas Reynolds; supermodel Veronica Webb; DuSable Black History Museum Director of Cultural Services Danny Dunson; and fashion icon Ikram Goldman. The panel was moderated by Fashion Fair Cosmetics CEO Desiree Rogers.
The six-part series was based in Reynolds' book and features interviews with a host of Black female models and industry icons including Iman, Zadaya, Precious Lee, Olivier Rousteing, Sessilee Lopez, Joan Smalls, Ann Wintour, Jamal Williams and many others. Both the book and series explore in detail the racial and political barriersand seeming impossibilitiesfor Black models, and how these models not only broke through but also reconfigured what being a Black model really means.
"I am thankful for my friends," Reynolds said after the screening. "I am thankful for being Black, I am thankful for being gay ... When you grow up Black and gay, you're not always told that you are special or good."
Reynolds later recalled his inspiration from publications that were place produced and aimied at the Black community: "I grew up about four miles from here and outside in the world I was bullied...but in my grandmother's house I found Ebony (Magazine)and Jet and Sepia."
Dunson then spoke about growing up and searching for images of Black men and women in fashion media, crediting Ebony and Johnson Hair Products as the only companies that presented them.
"We're not giving boys and girls the tools they need to be the great designers or artists they could be," Reynolds added. "...We're not giving them the opportunity to showcase what they are doing and what they can do."
Webb offered her advice for someone just starting out in the industry: "To begin with, I would always encourage someone 100%, but I'd tell them, a dream costs more than a dollar. … You've got to have a business plan."
Ikram said that the industry had not made enough progress, adding, "We needed to start a long time, ago and start educating young people and inspiring them from an earlier age than [we do now] now."
When asked about the docu-series being on YouTube Originals, Reynolds said, "I had a choice of all kinds of platforms to air the series. ... We had HBO and Netflix. But I decided it's not going to be behind a pay wall. … On YouTube it's not going away. I wanted little Asian kids, little Black kids, little white kids...all to see it and watch it with subtitles whenever and wherever they are."