Lineisy Montero or “How the afro returned to the catwalk – and why it matters”

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Kenya Hunt writes that Prada may have turned the afro into autumn/winter 2015’s most surprising runway trend – and launched the career of a previously unknown model: the 19-year-old model from the Dominican Republic, Lineisy Montero. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

[. . .] It’s a known fact within the fashion world that where Prada goes, the rest of the industry follows. And so the very same brand that ushered in an era that shut out non-white models helped bring models of colour back in. But this season, Prada introduced a surprising new dimension to the subject of diversity in fashion: a tiny little afro.

In theory, wearing one’s hair in its natural state should be a non-event. Black women have been doing it since the dawn of time. But throughout history, black hair has been alternately celebrated, reviled and politicised to the point of exhaustion — becoming the stuff of women’s magazine articles, music, literature, art and even headline news, as proven by the recent Oscar night controversy in which Giuliana Rancic quipped that a dreadlocked Zendaya Coleman looked like she should smell of “patchouli oil or weed.”

Black hair is so rarely seen on the catwalk without having been blown straight or pressed flat – let alone in a show as influential as Prada’s – that the sight of it not only set off a wave of enthusiasm on social media, it also launched the career of Lineisy Montero, who became the season’s most talked about new model.

“I truly didn’t understand how important that show was,” says Montero, over email through a translator. The 19-year-old speaks Spanish, and relied on an interpreter to help her navigate Milan and Paris. A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, she only began modeling three months ago when an agent for Next Model Management signed Montero after seeing her in a competition. Prada was her first ever runway show. That’s the fashion equivalent of an actor winning an Oscar for her first feature film (hello, Lupita Nyong’o). “I had not walked for any designer, ever,” Montero adds.

Whatever the thinking from Prada (the show’s casting director, Ashley Brokaw, could not be reached for comment), one can’t deny the power in the image of a single afro among 41 slick ponytails and the message it conveys to women who have faced enduring, yet completely erroneous notions that the kind of hair that swings and blows in the wind is most beautiful.

Style.com – the fashion industry’s most influential website – featured Montero as its homepage cover photo the next day. “I think Lineisy represents something completely new to what is in the beauty conversation in fashion at the current moment,” says Kyle Hagler, the president of Montero’s agency Next Models, who famously guided the careers of Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls during his days as a manager at IMG Models. He adds: “I do feel that Lineisy’s appearance with natural hair on the Prada runway is important. It speaks to the range in beauty and the importance of embracing one’s own natural beauty.”

Montero is hardly the first model to shun the flat iron, pressing comb and weave. Bethann Hardison did so in the 70s, paving the way for models such as Roshumba Williams in the 1980s, Alek Wek in the 1990s and Rose Cordero a decade later. [. . .]

Read full article at http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/mar/12/prada-lineisy-montero-and-the-black-hair-debate

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