‘Being Mixed Race Has Lost Me Work.’ Charlotte Carter-Allen Opens up to Modeltypeface….
I’ve got a very exciting guest post today! It’s from previous ‘Only Human’ contributor Charlotte Carter-Allen. I would have never looked at Charlotte and thought she would face any great issues in modelling – she’s undeniably stunning, and I never fail to feel like a short, dumpy, pallid gnome next to this exotic, rangey, vivacious creature.
But it turns out that Charlotte has faced confidence-eroding rejection in this tough industry. Here’s her story.
During my respectively long career in modelling, (I began after my A-levels approaching 18 and I am now almost 27) there has always been one word that I have always been confronted with, and hindered by:
I am mixed race: part English, part Gambian (the smallest country in Africa). This wonderful mix has given me a very exotic, indistinguishable look of which I am very proud. Never once in my life has anyone guessed my heritage.
Now, one may think that this would be a positive attribute in the world of fashion and beauty. But to the contrary, my ambiguity has often caused me to miss out on jobs.
I have found the fashion industry to be fundamentally based on fitting in boxes. We are selling things, after all.
A consumer needs to be able to relate to a product, and to us models that are hired to sell it. When they open their shiny magazine or see a billboard, they should immediately be able to see themselves in the thing that is being sold. And in order for that to happen, the face of the brand should represent that.
Whether it be the All-American ‘girl next door’, the English Rose or Brazilian Bombshell, there is usually a part to play. But the thing is – there are so many more parts than this in the world – but they can’t all fit into these neat boxes. This is where I have found a lot of the problem lies. I’ve been turned down for jobs for being too tall, too short, too brown, too white, too exotic, too skinny, too fat.
I finally realised, after a long battle, I will always be ‘too much’ of something for many jobs.
One of the first jobs I booked when I started modelling was the Abercrombie & Fitch campaign.
That’s quite a big deal for a newbie! After finishing the job, I was flying straight to Florida to join my family on our summer holiday. I remember my agency in New York at the time telling me that I wasn’t allowed to get too brown, so I spent much of the holiday slathered in Factor 50, sitting in the shade feeling paranoid about getting a tan.
In retrospect, I realise how ridiculous this was. I was an 18 year old girl on holiday with her family, who should have been frolicking in the sun with her brother and sister rather than hiding from it’s rays. On top of this, my skin looks better tanned, anyway. A healthy glow never did anyone any harm – but at the time it wasn’t in keeping with my portfolio and the campaign I had just shot. So pale it was.
When I was 21 I had a breast reduction because my boobs were too big. Now this decision wasn’t just based on work, but also because they were bloody uncomfortable. Giant knockers can wreak havoc with your back, and it remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. However they had also caused me to miss out on jobs. Doube Fs don’t fit in the teeny samples, and besides going under the knife there is nothing you can do about that.
It’s important not to beat yourself up over things you can’t change. If the dress is too long, you can’t make yourself grow taller. If your hips are too wide for a pair of trousers, someone else’s will fit perfectly.
Keeping a strong sense of self and embracing who you are is key. It’s too easy for young girls to get chewed up and spat out in such a cut-throat industry.
Five years since my surgery, my boobs have grown back with a vengeance (cheeky buggers). But instead of freaking out about it, I’ve chosen to accept that it’s just how my body is meant to be, just like how I now bathe in the sun rather than hide from it.
Because, let’s face it: we are not going to be models forever, but we will be women forever.
You will always be too much of something to someone, but as long as you’re enough for yourself…Then you’re doing pretty good.