“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.”

George Orwell

So, let me give everyone the quick run down of what I have been up before I jump into answering the pressing questions everyone has asked after my last blog post.

In case you had not heard, my endeavors as a model recently took a detour down a path towards acting. More specifically, the road had taken me back to Africa. After my recent trip to Morocco, I returned my focus towards studies of South Sudan.  In June I was asked to feature in a film titled, “Sons of War”. The film focuses on the war in South Sudan, personal values, and the importance of fighting with honor. The opening scene of the film has been completed and shown to the government of South Sudan for approval. I am honored that many of you thought I would make a great actor. But for those of you who are familiar with my understanding of the subject know that it was thoughts of Darfur that carried me through the scene.

Scene from ‘Sons of War’ directed by John Kanno

I hate to tease but I will share more details about ‘Sons of War’ later since I really want to get to answering your questions. So let’s get to it, shall we? Over the last few months, I have been confronted with the question of diversity and how it has affected my goals as a model. Now, i thought it was rather coincidental that I was interviewed by the Republic of China’s New Tang Dynasty  Television on the state of diversity in television, film, and fashion only a few weeks ago. Shortly after the interview, I told you about model and actor Djimon Hounsou and how inspirational he has been in my modeling career. Apparently, you, the readers had been paying attention and want to know more about my opinions on race as it applies to the modeling industry.


Hopefully this will be the blog post that opens a discusion often ignored around the world:

How important is diversity to you?

Diversity is extremely important to me. Like I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I always find it encouraging when I see luxury brands embrace models from ethnic groups we are not used to seeing… especially when they are featured as “the face” of a brand. Buyers should be able to see themeselves reflected in advertisements, storefronts, or publications. When I see models in advertisements that reflect me, I am more likely to consider what the luxury brand is trying to sell. I also pay closer attention to the message the luxury brand is trying to promote. We learn from diversity. During my short tenure as a model, I have had opportunities to travel to different countries and see a cultures nature, their likes, and their dislikes. I have made many friends who are of races and cultures different than my own. It is through diversity my life has been enriched. Being open to diversity has increased the value of my network and has helped me grow. I have made friends all over the world and talk to them quite often. During our talks we share opinions and exchange ideas. The way I see things is not just shaped by what is going on in my immediate environment but what is happening in the world. I have a greater understanding of people and a true appreciation for what makes us different. And learning what is important to another culture can be eye-opening.

Is diversity in modeling alive and well or is it at a stand still?

I believe there is change. It is not approaching as fast as I would like to see, but there is change. I feel like diversity is treated more like a check off box. Our society is more diverse than what we now see in magazines, advertisements, and billboards. The magazines, advertisements, and billboards should reflect everyone who exist in the world. Afterall, any ethnicity could potentially be a consumer if the brand is good enough.

Do you believe your race is stereotyped?

I have to confess that my chances of being in an urban photo shoot are a lot higher than being chosen as the face of a european cologne or high end clothing brand. And if the purpose of the photo shoot is to show an active lifestyle, chances of me being chosen for the role of “basketball player” are a lot higher than being chosen as a luxurious sailor, champion golfer, or polo player. My best talents are hiking, swimming, and dancing Argentine Tango. My most frequented hobbies are traveling, touring, and camping. Are brands asserting their biases behind the scenes by automatically assuming only a certain race can portray a particular lifestyle?

I think this is largely due to an odd relationship between luxury brands and the ethnic market. A majority of luxury brands want the ethnic market money. But the luxury brands have a problem with the message of the ethnic market.

Do you have any advice for luxury brands wanting to be more diverse, but don’t know how to approach it?

In addressing diversity, have an example for your market and decide whether it has a valid place in the company. Is it only to make money? Show you’re diverse? Or promote diversity?… I hope that more luxury brands actually want to show the world that people of color are just as capable as any other race represented in market. Don’t give in to the idea that using people of color is, by default, “controversial”. In 2012 it should be thought of as “acceptable”.

Why do you think brands are slow to embrace more people of color in their advertising?

I think about the percentage of publications and luxury brands owned by people outside of color. Most luxury brands are owned by people who are non-ethnic. The way things are set up, people of color are naturally cut out.

Do you have any advice for people of color wanting to model for major brands, but don’t know how to approach it?

I do have some advice for ethnic models wanting to be embraced by major brands. The opportunity comes with finesse, appreciation, and hard work. Models of color have to be comfortable with being the face of the brand. Models of color also have to be comfortable with the lifestyle, look, and feel the brand promotes. At the end  of the day, if you’re good at your craft and your working hard at it. opportunities will open. But you have be willing to work hard at it.


Magazines and billboards are invasive. It is in our personal mail and hanging in our public streets. They shape the choices we make through visuals, and therefore, influence what we buy. The luxury brands want us to buy their product. Just because the brands are owned by one single person, do we not have a right to demand that their advertisements reflect people of color? It’s fully okay that the owner of the brand has his or her own vision but if the owner of the brand is not culturally intelligent and diversity does not resonate with him or her, the diverse consumer does not feel engaged to buy the brand because they do not see themselves reflected in the brand. They can not relate to the brand.

There are not just one or two good models who are of color. My wish is for agencies to embrace and build the talent equally. I like the idea of agencies and brands embracing the specificity of the race and using models in a way where the target consumer sees an example of themself in ads and publications. In my experience, people I have met from various ethnic backgrounds do not want to be European. They want to be the ethnicity they are and see representation of who they are in their local advertisements.

I can not leave you without mentioning companies and fashion industry professionals I feel have embraced diversity and adapted on local levels. Some of the companies I feel have adapted well with advertising include:

Coca-Cola - In my opinion, a global brand that is the master of diversity in advertising. I can’t think of any other company or brand that has incorporated diversity more successfully than Coca-Cola. If you see a Coca Cola advertisement in your country, there’s a high likelihood the models used in the ads reflect the culture in the region. (http://adage.com/article/special-report-cannes-2012/cannes-coca-cola-s-pollard-praises-diversity-creative/235610/)

Oyster Magazine – “Nu Clean” spread photographed by Milos Mali. (http://www.dapperlou.com/2009/06/oyster-mag-nu-clean.html)

Yves Saint Laurent – the first designer to use black models in his catwalk shows. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Saint_Laurent_(designer) )

Photographer Nick Knight – staged a multi-level film and essay project, encouraging creatives to use the medium of fashion to convey their political beliefs, agendas and thoughts. (http://showstudio.com/blog/post/untitled_by_nick_knight)

Calvin Klein - “A fashion house founded by American fashion designer Calvin Klein. The company is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City[1] and currently owned by Phillips-Van Heusen.” Campaigns now feature models Zoe Saldana, Djimon Hounsou, Liu Wen,  Eva Mendes, and David Agbodji. (http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2009/02/lyndsey_scott_first_black_mode.html)

CoverGirl – the first major cosmetic company to sign a black model to an Exclusive contract. Canadian Lana Ogilvie became the first black woman to represent a non-ethnic cosmetics company, and opened the door for traditionally Caucasian-focused brands to embrace different cultures and ethnicities in their brand. (www.fashionmodeldirectory.com and Clarke, Caroline V. [1993])

Photographer David LaChapelle - LaChapelle’s striking images have graced the covers and pages of Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Rolling Stone and i-D, and he has photographed personalities as diverse as Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Madonna, Shakira, Amanda Lepore, Eminem, Philip Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Pamela Anderson, Lil’ Kim, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Taylor, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, Jeff Koons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and Britney Spears, to name a few. (http://www.lachapellestudio.com/)

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  1. Andrej says:

    D’Andre I really enjoyed reading this post! As an HR professional working in a corporate world the diversity is on my daily agenda. Now you have made me think of the fashion industry and how do they approach the diversity. And what I value most is your very personal experience as a model who is fighting hard for finding your place in this industry which has clear development opportunities.

  2. Taneika Quiller says:

    I like this article, It’s like an extention of the one about Dijamon, which I really enjoyed. I’ve experienced ur growth as a person first-hand, so I know that ur not just talking out ur ass when u say that cultural diversity has enriched ur life. Good job =)

    • Thanks Teneika. And thank you for being a continous reader and contributor. You know what’s up and you know my personal story. As a consumer, how do brands influence your buying decisions?

  3. Darwin Urbina says:

    Well said D’Andre. Im really happy to know that everything you do has a purpose. I admire that from you and couldn’t expect less. Keep going my friend. You are one of the few people who are true to their beliefs. I’m proud to say that you are my friend for your honesty and character.

    • Darwin, thanks a lot for your continuous readership. And I’m glad I’m leaving a lasting positive impression. I really enjoy reading and responding to every piece of feedback I receive whether it be from the blog, personal email, facebook, or twitter. These are the topics that concern us all but often are not addressed. I appreciate you too my friend. :)

  4. I’m really inspired with your writing talents and also with the structure on your blog. Is that this a paid theme or did you customize it your self? Either way stay up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a great weblog like this one these days..

  5. Denni says:

    Interestingly enough, lighter skin seems to be desired in some “non-white” countries. Skin bleaching creams are huge business in some Asian cultures. If we look at the magazines, tv, film etc. in those markets, “beautiful” people are mostly of lighter complexion while “character, comedy” etc. actors may not necessary be. I don’t know what’s the reason for that trend over there. I know that in Europe, before industrial revolution, lighter complexion was a sign of nobility. Cause only common folk had to work outdoors and get a tan as a result… lol. Who knows, maybe that applies in cultures of color, too.

    • Hey Denni. Welcome to the blog. It’s nice to see you sharing your thoughts. Perhaps the issue of light skinned vs dark skinned is another topic to explore. In casting these groups are referred to as Ethnically Ambiguous. It would be interesting to hear some feedback on the term. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Denni says:

    Hmm… Ethnically Ambiguous. I guess the term was carefully crafted to be used here in USA since it is a melting pot of nationalities, etc. But I am not sure what is being avoided by using this term? What is behind coining this term? Interesting topic….

    The buying experience in Serbia, where I come from, is very white oriented since 97 or so percent of the population is white. The remaining 2,3 percent are Roma who are of darker complexion. Everything is geared towards “whites”. Lately, I’ve been noticing that more “color” has been introduced in pop culture over there, which is very refreshing.

    (There is absolutely no racial/color issue with African or people of color in general, because we always had students from Africa coming to Serbian universities to study medicine, business etc. So it’s kind of a treat to see a black person. I know when I was a kid, I loved it because it was rare and soooo different and mystical and what not. However, we do have a bit of an issue with attitude towards the Romas and I am not sure whether that is due to their darker complexion or is it due to some other historical/cultural differences. So, discrimination, when present, is mostly geared toward that minority.)

    D’Andre, you got me very intrigued with this “ethnically ambiguous” business.

    • Ha! This is what makes this blog entry special. Denni. I really appreciate you giving another layer to the discussion. So, “Ethnically Ambiguous”…. As I thumb through my castings here, I see the term quite often. Here’s how a casting notice would normally read: “Ethnically Ambiguous, Caucasian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native American,”

      That’s a short description of an actor a casting director would be looking for. Anyway, if we break down the term, it means…. unable to determine what ethinicity a person is. So basically, they are able to present themself as more than one ethnicity. But I want to point out, I have yet to see, “Ethnically Ambiguous, African American,”

      I’m really glad you gave us a detailed description of what we’d see in Serbia. Based on your account of the shopping experience, I wonder if the lack of diversity is because of the lack of darker ethnicities.

  7. Jake Way says:

    “I feel like diversity is treated more like a check off box. Our society is more diverse than what we now see in magazines, advertisements, and billboards.”

    This just blew my mind.

    The knowledge and ambition D’Andre has is making his presence breathe both in and out of a still frame.


  8. This was an exceptional article – inspiring, truthful and full of thought provoking ideas. At Models of Diversity we are the first ones to shout out about the need for diversity within the fashion industry and we champion those brands that use models of colour, plus size, mature models and those of varying ability. It is fantastic to know we are not alone in this campaign and that others are willing to speak out about these issues! I loved the part about the ‘check off box’ – its true that brands use diverse models purely to shock or to tick a box – diverse models should be part of our daily life and media spectrum – we love your voice and hope to hear more from you!

    • Thank you Harriet Crome. And thank you for taking the time to read it. I’m glad I was able to provide you with a clear and concise opinion on diversity as it relates to the modeling industry, branding, and advertising. I’m also happy to hear that your agency also promotes diversity in the industry. It is a very sensitive issue so I was surprised and proud to see readers embracing the post and being open to discussion. Pass this link along: http://dandrelampkin.com/2012/07/24/a-diverse-perspective/

  9. Rahni Porter says:

    I love how you are trying to expand and uplift the true meaning of diversity versus tokenism (being token)! An accurate representation of ethnic diversity should be demanded from fashion,global brands, and media. Often ethnic models are shown in interpretation (from people ignorant to their history and background) instead of representations of themselves.

    Thank you for documenting your path and displaying your perspective of the model environment and now a large part of your life. You are already making a difference!

    • Hey Rhani. Andrej Juriga shared with me some information about the quaterly earnings of Ambercrombie & Fitch. They are down by 1/3 this fiscal year. The article was published at the beginning of August. I couldn’t help but think that, had they read A Diverse Perspective, they have found answers for what they should do to make the public come back to their stores.

  10. daniel jombo says:

    Interesting… You have really touch an important topic that has been an issue in the world ever since its beginning. Luxury brand advertising is almost taking our culture and ethnicity away. Many thanks to people like you who strive to make the world see diversity in a positive way and appreciate people no matter their colour (culture).

    • Many thanks to people like you Jambo for reading and letting me know that this is really an important topic. Receiving feedback like this lets me know that I’m not off topic. It lets me know that I am not alone on this issue and that this topic truly is a relevant and important one.

  11. Tami says:

    Nice interview! Definitely a lot to think on and great to hear it from your perspective. Eye opening for sure!

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