Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Urban Model

The urban model has always been an interesting subject to me. I can remember the first time I was drawn to her. I was watching the Michael Jackson video for "The Way You Make Me Feel," and Michael was dancing circles and stopping traffic for the curly-haired Tatiana Thumbtzen. She was a true woman in my young mind, and whenever I put on my mom's high heels, I imagined walking down the street in a spandex dress, stopping traffic just like her. I always looked at amazement at Naomi Campbell, because she looked exactly like the brown barbies I got at Christmas. Years later, when Melyssa Ford crawled out of Jadakiss' pool in "Knock Yourself Out," I was reminded of how beautiful a voluptuous Black woman could be, but it still seemed the only other people who noticed were BET executives.

Modeling is simply marketing, and as long as women of my curves and complexion are consumers, I would like to see someone I can relate to dolled up in products I will buy. I picked at the mind of Sean Rush, executive publisher of the exciting new KISS Magazine to get his take on the urban model, what she's missing, and what to expect from her in the future.

SJB: Why after all this time is the urban model not prevalent?

SR: I personally am a big supporter of this industry. This industry is still a child in my eyes. In fact I can remember urban modeling being introduced only 10 years ago. To me just like any child it has to learn and grow each year. I have seen it take many forms but it hasn’t developed the maturity it needs to maintain, just like a child versus an adult. You can parallel this industry with Hip-Hop, very similar. It took Hip-Hop several years to not be known just as a music form but to be financially rewarding. I think urban modeling gets a bad rep, because we look on the other side, and see how Europeans and Caucasian Americans flourish, but we don’t take into account that their industry is over 100 yrs old, very mature. Vogue was created in the late 1800’s. You do the math. Child verses old ass adult? No comparison. The urban model will be very successful in the future as it continues to evolve and more companies believe it is here to stay, and invest in it.

What do you see to be the biggest contradiction between White and Black models?

SR: The biggest contradiction is to hold them both side by side. Put a Caucasian and Black woman side by side and on most occasions the curves will never equal. Have you ever gone to a mall and looked in plian day at a Victoria's Secret window? You have half naked models in lingerie for all ages to see. These women of course are very slim and non-threatening. Now if you were to put a typical black woman in those same clothes, mothers would have a fit and cover their children’s eyes. Same clothing but different body types. This is why our work is sometimes considered porn. It’s not the clothing, but the subconscious threat of body shape.

SJB: Being the editor of a hot, new, industry magazine, how are you working to bridge the gap?

SR: Well what we make an effort to do is to stick to our culture, we are not trying to cross over we are proud to be an urban publication. So we will continue to highlight beautiful women of ethnicities, and this doesn’t mean light-skinned women, or exotic women, but all women of color.

SJB: Do urban women not have selling power?

Yes they have selling power, however people haven’t figured out how to sell them. Once this matures into something else and finds consistency we will see the selling power of it.

So Sean says I have to wait for them to see the success I feel they deserve. Bummer. Ah well, his publication does give me my fill. Check it out in PDF here:

Check KISS online at and on twitter @kissmagazine. One of my favorite elements of their website is the behind-the-scenes footage of a photoshoot.

The urban model above is one of my beautiful friends Tunisha Hubbard (@TunishaMeyoshi) as captured by Andrew Thomas Clifton ( Check them both out they're awesome.

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