Indya Moore has been getting creative. The model and Pose star has been turning laundry bins, chairs, and pieces of Styrofoam into makeshift camera stands to shoot socially distanced campaigns. Moore is just one of many models who’ve become their own photographer, stylist, and/or glam team during the lockdown. Moore has enjoyed the creative freedom, but has also felt sudden pressure to present a backdrop that’s on-brand, stressing about not being “in an aesthetically fashionable quarantine space.”

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Indya Moore attending Prabal Gurung’s fall 2020 show.

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It’s easy to romanticize modeling as a career, but many models are living paycheck to paycheck, just like any other gig workers. Sara Ziff, founder and executive director of the Model Alliance, is helping guide them through these strange times, whether that’s making sure they’re receiving adequate compensation for the many new skills they’ve been required to master, or helping them file for unemployment. A survey the group conducted with Cornell’s Worker Institute earlier this year found major financial gaps between respondents of color and their white peers. “Black respondents, in particular, were far more likely to say that they wouldn’t be able to cover their basic needs without [new] income,” Ziff says.

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Models walk the runway at Givenchy fall 2020.

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The question of inclusion also looms with regard to runway shows and photo shoots, whenever those return in their non-socially-distant form. It’s just as crucial for those working behind the camera as it is for those in front of it, says Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models & Fashion. “When a model is on set, I think it’s important for them to see people with shared experiences, to see themselves. Our part is to sign Black talent, [promote] visibility, and absolutely focus on equity in pay.”

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Kenneth Ize fall 2020.

Thierry ChesnotGetty Images

Says Moore: “I hope that fashion designers and creators are taking the time right now to learn about real folks’ circumstances, so they understand why it’s so important to represent these people on their runways and in their brands. Fashion can change in so many ways, but one way that it hasn’t changed is in its representation; it’s always one or two Black people. Not seeing myself on a runway for so many years, not seeing myself in media, not seeing myself anywhere? It really makes you question your self-worth.”

This article appears in the September 2020 issue of ELLE.


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