Supermodel Anok Yai Calls Out Zara for Racism in Explosive Tweet

In an era where social media can topple giants and ignite global conversations, one tweet from supermodel Anok Yai has sent shockwaves through the fashion industry. On May 19, 2024, Yai took to Twitter to call out fashion powerhouse Zara, accusing the brand of perpetuating racism during a campaign in 2019. 

According to sources close to the campaign, the alleged incident occurred during a high-profile photoshoot. Yai reportedly faced discriminatory remarks and treatment from key members of the production team. 

In a series of now-deleted tweets, the supermodel claimed that a photographer referred to her as "a cockroach" during a 2019 photoshoot for the Spanish retailer.

Anok stated she remembered being called a cockroach by a photographer. On the second to the last day of the shoot, the makeup artist started powdering her face and the photographer put down his camera and yelled 'lotion la cucaracha' while everyone on set started laughing.

"I can't react the way I want to react because at the end of the day I'm young, I'm alone, I'm Black...anything that I do will affect me, my family and other Black models," she tweeted.

Anok Yai, known for her groundbreaking presence in high fashion and as the first South Sudanese model to open a Prada show, is no stranger to the industry’s challenges. However, her recent tweet reveals the dark underbelly of glamour.

This isn't the first time Zara has faced accusations of racism and discrimination. Over the years, the Spanish fast fashion chain has been denounced for racially profiling Black customers, reached a $30,000 settlement with a transgender shopper who was denied access to fitting rooms, and faced a $40 million discrimination lawsuit from a former employee.

Is Fashion's Embrace of Diversity Just Performative?

The controversy surrounding Yai’s tweet raises a pressing question: Is the fashion industry’s embrace of diversity and inclusion merely performative? While brands showcase diverse models on runways and in advertising campaigns, the structural issues and day-to-day experiences of racism suggest that much of this inclusivity might be superficial.

Yai’s tweet is more than a call-out; it’s a rallying cry for an industry that often prioritizes image over integrity. The world is watching, and it’s time for the fashion industry to step up and prove that its commitment to diversity is more than just a passing trend.


photo credit: Getty

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