Fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski has created a fashion book called ‘Diverse Beauty’ which celebrates beauty in many shapes, colours and sizes and away from traditional ideas of beauty as a young Caucasian woman.
When Lubomirski was shooting actress and Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o she asked him to “make sure that in post-production that they don’t lighten my skin”. Lubomirski was unaware of the practice until he looked back on his previous work and noticed that a lot had been lightened in some way. Until Alex Wek came on the modelling scene, Lupita had not seen anybody who looked like her, with the same rich, dark skin.
After this encounter Lubomirski set himself the task of celebrating a diverse range of beauty. He featured Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Kerry Washington and Demi Lovato in his book. These stars were featured alongside transgender models, older women and women who are muslim.
To explore notions of beauty and to get past the stereotype of pigeon holing people by their race or age, Lubomirski asked each of his subjects to describe themselves in five words. In this way these words like “fighter, brother, sister” become empowering rather than labels like “black, Asian and gay”.
Often in the modelling world there is only one beauty ideal- young and Caucasian. Lubomirski describes the experience of suggesting more diverse models but being met by resistance.
“I’d give them my list of the 10 models I wanted and the first two to get knocked off the list would be the African girls, ‘They’d say, “We love her but…” They would say she was too dark or, if she was lighter-skinned, that she was “too light to make a statement, the vetoes would keep coming: too freckly, too big, hair too crazy. ‘Invariably, you’d end up with the two Caucasian girls you shoot all the time anyway” said Lubomirski.
Lupita was very pleased to see how her request inspired the book on ‘Diverse Beauty’. Gradually things are changing. For example, Susan Sarandon was signed by Marc Jacobs at the age of 69. Jessica Lange, at 67, was signed to represent L’Oréal Paris. The idea is to celebrate diversity, such as in the H&M campaign which featured a girl in a hijab.
Proceeds of the book will go to Concern Worldwide which is an anti-poverty charity which provides shelter and vocational training in disaster torn areas around the world. Lubomirski is tackling the stereotypes of beauty and the closed mind of the modelling world. By redefining beauty to be more inclusive and diverse, he is sending a positive message to accept and celebrate beauty of many forms.