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Black Model Says She Was Pressured To Wear Racist 'Monkey Ears' And Oversized Lips For Runway Show

Bennett Raglin / Getty Images

Somehow, in the year 2020, we are still having to deal with very blatantly racist things.

If this is going to keep happening, can we at least leave Black History Month alone?


Amy Lefevre, an African American model, was pressured to wear incredibly weird and horrifying accessories for a runway show at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

The accessories were oversized lips and ears, meant to embody "ugly features" but instead just felt really racist.

The event took place earlier this month as part of New York Fashion Week. FIT held a show for its graduating students, including one Junkai Huang, who designed the concept.

Amy Lefevre said that Richard Thornn, the producer of the show, tried to strong arm her into wearing the accessories.

Lefevre told The New York Post:

"I stood there almost ready to break down, telling the staff that I felt incredibly uncomfortable with having to wear these pieces and that they were clearly racist."

An example of what Amy Lefevre was asked to wear. Bennett Raglin / Getty Images

Trying to force someone to wear the obviously offensive ensemble is horrible.




The show was directed by FIT professor Jonathan Farmer and produced by Richard Thornn. Speaking of Thornn, he is specifically called out by an anonymous student who spoke with The Post.

"We brought it up to [Thornn] multiple times. We said, 'She cannot wear this. This is wrong'."
"He screamed in my face, 'You need to back down and get away.' It was such a grave lack of judgment."

Several other students also made their objections known to Farmer, the director.

Despite assurances she would have to "feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds," Lefevre stood firm, and walked the runway without the fake lips and ears, before immediately leaving the event.

Amy Lefevre is a hero.




After news of this event spread, FIT gave an official response. The president of FIT, Dr. Joyce F. Brown, put out a statement about the incident.

"Currently, it does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories or the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race; however, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome."
"For that, we apologize—to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw."

While she doesn't mention Farmer or Thornn by name, she does state multiple times that the school will look into how this was allowed to occur, how it was handled and why there was no follow-up to this egregious incident.

Some might say this kind of action is necessary, but there are those who still fail to understand why this is a problem.



It would seem the fashion industry is gaining a reputation for this kind of behavior.

Last year, in February as well, Gucci came under fire for a blackface sweater. The black clothing had a portion that pulled up over the wearer's mouth, which was then outlined in red, giving the appearance of blackface makeup which exaggerated the lips.

It looks like many people need to do some studying of United States history, covering the Jim Crow era and the racist imagery used widely in pop culture including products, logos, mascots and advertising.

The book Outdated Advertising: Sexist, Racist, Creepy, and Just Plain Tasteless Ads is available here.