Model Ebonee Davis Takes On Fashion Industry Racism With This Powerful Speech

Model Ebonee Davis tackles diversity issues in the fashion industry head on in a new TED Talk filmed at the University of Nevada and released to the public this week.
Davis, a multi-hyphenate model-writer-activist that you may recognise from Adidas Originals "We The Future" campaign, a little publication called Sports Illustrated, or those Calvin Klein ads that appeared everywhere last year, spoke candidly about her experiences as a black woman in fashion and offered suggestions for how to make the industry more inclusive.

Forever grateful 🙏🏾👙#SportsIllustrated @si_swimsuit

A post shared by ebonee davis (@eboneedavis) on

Union Square 🗽 @calvinklein I am like no one else in #mycalvins

A post shared by ebonee davis (@eboneedavis) on

"I figured that once I got a contract, the industry would open up for me," Davis explained. "But at every turn, I was met with resistance. I had white agents with no knowledge of black hair care run their fingers through my hair and tell me things like, 'We already have a girl with your look.' Translation: All black girls look the same."
According to Davis, being told by her agency that "we just don't know what to do with you" hit her as the most excruciatingly painful thing of all. But while that hurt, she cited the death of Alton Sterling, a black man shot by police on July 5, 2016 — the very same day her Calvin Klein campaign launched — as her personal turning point. Upon hearing the news that very day, David went home and penned an impassioned open letter to the fashion industry as a whole, telling them and the world that "it is no longer acceptable for us to revel in black culture with no regard for the struggles facing the black community ... The time for change is now."
Almost one year later, and David has not weakened in her positioned, nor does she believe that the fashion industry's obligation to do something about racial inclusivity has lessened.
"Inclusion doesn't just mean one token black model," she argued in her inspiring TED Talk. "I don't want to be hired so I can fill an HR box. I want to be hired for my unique contribution to the industry. Instead of forcing my beauty into your pre-existing box and asking me to change, expand your definition of beauty to be inclusive."
Watch her complete TED Talk below.

More from Fashion


R29 Original Series

Watch Now
A look at the subcultures around the world that color what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Explore the world's most most vibrant cultural and culinary centers—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.