By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, mgreen@afro.com

A swimwear company is taking heat after allegedly turning models away because they were too Black during Miami Swim Week auditions; yet the scandal is ushering in a new wave of wokeness as industry influencers and sites are trying to raise awareness on the importance of inclusion in fashion.

It all started when model Joia Talbott took to Facebook live to share a discriminatory experience she had when auditioning for the swimwear brand KYA.  In the video Talbott and fellow model Kacey Leggett explained she and several other models of color were turned away at an audition and their trademark, Black looks were critiqued.

“They told us they didn’t want any more Black models, and that Afros were a no-no,” Talbot says in the video.

When the Black models began packing their bags and leaving, the casting director allowed White models to continue auditioning.

Leggett is heard in the video saying, “I’m still trying to process what happened, like, honestly.”

In addition to the video, Talbott took to Instagram to protest the discrimination with a melanin magic filled photo shoot featuring Black models all reportedly turned away by KYA.  She captioned the photo saying, “When a casting director tells you they don’t want any Afros or women of color…you STILL show them just how powerful you are. YOU. CANT. BREAK. US!!”

Now Fashion Week Online, which organizes Miami Swim Week, is backing the Black models.  The online publication posted a blog that included stories from several models who support the prejudice audition claim and a statement of their own condemning discrimination in the fashion industry.

“Miami Swim Week encompasses around 100 shows, created by roughly seven production companies, most of them great people. So whoever acted in this way will be found,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, it won’t solve the larger problem of the marginalization of groups in our society in general, which I know firsthand is a painful experience,” Fashion Weeks Online Publisher Pablo Starr wrote.

The company said it’s working with other press outlets to investigate the allegations.

Fashion Week Online, which runs MiamiSwimWeek.net (currently a portal leading to our Miami Swim Week information pages), the Instagram @miamiswimweekend, and which hosts a free Miami Swim Week schedule, is working with other press outlets to determine where exactly the event in question took place.”

According to Teen Vogue KYA replied to the allegations.

“Everyone at KYA Swim is deeply disturbed by the allegations brought by Joia Talbott and other models about the casting event at Miami Swim Week.”

The company said it prides itself on “its record of diversity” and is currently investigating the accusations “to review the actions of the production company in charge of the casting call.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor