She re-created famous fashion ads to make a great point about diversity.

This article originally appeared on 12.08.16


From a young age, Deddeh Howard was enthralled by fashion and its role in culture. Unfortunately, she was never really able to see herself in it.

"Something that always bothered me when you see these amazing images [was] that very rarely you ever see a black woman on them," Howard, who grew up in West Africa but now resides in Los Angeles, wrote at her blog, Secret of DD.

"Black girls are almost invisible," she wrote.


All photos by Raffael Dickreuter, used with permission.

So Howard created "Black Mirror," a photo series in which she re-creates famous photos with herself in place of models like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Gisele Bundchen, and others.

Howard's partner, Raffael Dickreuter, shot the series. As its title suggests, it holds a "black mirror" up to the fashion world. The project's goal is both to make people notice the lack of diversity in the fashion world and to provide inspiration to other non-white models.

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Of the models featured on the fall 2016 runways, 75% were white. There's a major need for a diversity boost.

Sometimes, that lack of diversity can be downright embarrassing. Earlier this year, one fashion show featured models walking to Beyoncé's "Formation," a song Essence described as a "wholly and undeniable a tribute to Blackness — particularly Black girl power." The problem: The show didn't feature a single non-white model.

Diversity, representation, and visibility play key roles in shaping ambition and self-acceptance in the real world.

It's important to be able to see yourself in the world, and it's important to know that someone who looks like you can succeed.

"The next generation can only get inspired and reach for the stars themselves if they believe they can do it too," Howard wrote on her blog. "For that reason diversity in ad campaigns is in my opinion much more important than you might think."

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.

Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

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