Prada casts first black model in 20 years

Prada casts first black model in 20 years

Malaika Firth for Prada.

Prada has cast a black model in an advertising campaign for the first time in nearly two decades.

Malaika Firth — a 19-year-old Kenyan-born, British-raised model — appears in the luxury brand’s autumn/winter 2013 campaign.

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It is the first time Prada has cast a black model since Naomi Campbell appeared in a print advertisement in 1994.

Asian model Fei Fei Sun appears in the same new editorial, making it something of a milestone for Prada. The brand rarely employs women of other races, preferring to hire Anglo models.

The multicultural campaign has been widely applauded by most users of social media but other online commentators have criticised the brand for taking so long to embrace ethnic diversity.

“As we’ve documented repeatedly on this website, the fashion industry as a whole has a number of problems with race — whether it’s the under-representation of models of colour on the world’s biggest runways, or the spate of ignorant but widely copied trends, like blackface references in editorials,” Jenna Sauers wrote on feminist blog Jezebel.

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“Perhaps no single brand has embodied near-total whiteness more than Prada. What made the company finally hire a black model for its seasonal ad campaign? Prada isn’t saying. Let’s hope it won’t be 19 years before we see another.”

Incidentally, the same campaign features model Christy Turlington, who at 44, is considerably older than the brand’s usual spokespeople.

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