Ohwawa Owusu, 26
When did you first begin your modeling career?
I first began my modeling career four years ago. This was when I didn’t know how to model; I bought my own clothes, my own makeup. It was a quick shoot. That’s when I first started Instagram, so when I first got the pictures back, I posted them on social media—Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr. It actually went viral. And then I realized that maybe I should take this seriously.
Have you experienced any hindrances or setbacks in your career because of your race?
Yes, as a model, a lot is already hard; it's already a competitive industry. As a black model, though, we have to work 10 times harder, because with agencies, as long as they have that one token black girl, that’s all they want. If they have a model that looks like me already, dark skin with a little haircut, they don’t want me. But while the agencies want just one girl that looks like me, they also want 10 to 15 white girls that look the same. When it comes to us, it's different. The industry is very much racist, so it's really hard for us to get noticed and to show the agencies and the fashion industry that there is more to us than just being a token black girl.
Do you think that you would go further in modeling career if you were another race?
If I was any other race, I feel like I could have gone further in my career. I probably would have already been signed, probably would have gotten a lot of ad campaigns. But with me being a black model and having dark skin, I have to show them what else makes me unique; I have to show them more, something that grabs their attention.
If there were one issue you could change in the modeling industry, what would it be?
Diversity. When I mean diversity, I don’t mean just putting more black girls in ad campaigns; I’m saying diversity as a whole—black girls, Asian girls, Indian girls. I want to see everyone as a whole. I look at a lot of shows and still you don’t see a lot of designers showing full diversity. One person I do see using diversity with is Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. Calvin Klein is slowly doing that too, but we don’t see it as a whole. I really want designers and casting directors to push and pull for all ethnicities.
Do you have any advice for any black models, whether they're up-and-coming or established?
Keep working very, very hard, don’t give up, and be consistent with your work. Don’t ghost—get out there, and go to these networking events. Try meeting people in person, it is more genuine.