Aleesha Hansel

The fashion model talks about being the acceptable face of diversity and how the industry still has a long way to go

Jemima Cousins

Arguably we’re moving towards a more diverse society; magazines make a conscious effort to represent different ethnicities (somethingSpell Magazine is at the forefront of) *humble brag*, TV and advertising campaigns are being all round inclusive and diverse. And yet disheartening stories of discrimination against black women continue to shock and amaze.


So where are we at with diversity in 2019? Is it an overused word that’s hollow and empty? Is it a gimmick for big brands to cash in? Or is it simply still a work in progress?


We talk to fashion model Aleesha Hansel who is tri-racial and therefore has a two-thronged approach to the topic having experienced both ends of the race-card spectrum.    

The word diversity has been banded around a lot in recent years. What does the word mean to you in 2019?

I think a lot of people, especially the media, are guilty of using diversity for box ticking and and that’s absolutely not what it should mean. It should mean an equality of all different races, ages and genders. A pure and true representation of our society as oppose to just ticking a box.


As a mixed heritage model, do you think it’s fair that in the past brands have used light or mixed skin models to represent ALL black women?

When I’m booked for work, sometimes I think the person hiring me is thinking, “How can we tick the box of diversity, but not scare people off without really and truly accepting the real definition of diversity?” I believe there have been times that I’ve been booked for a job just to be used as a nod to diversity and inclusion.The acceptable face of diversity I call it. My complexion is fair enough that I don’t scare white consumers away yet black enough to also tick the diversity box. It’s not fair on anyone, I feel like we should be using all types of women from the fairest to the darkest.

'There have been times that I’ve been booked for a job just to be used as a nod to diversity and inclusion' Aleesha Hansel


Is it really the case that some make-up artists, hairstylists etc. still don’t know what to do when it comes to working with models of colour? 

I have been modelling now for over a decade. When I first started, I had to take my own make-up with me to every single shoot because the make-up artist wouldn’t have the foundation to match. I’m a fairer skinned black woman so you can just imagine how much aggro it would’ve been for deeper skinned women. If you’re a professional in your trade, you should be properly equipped to handle everything your jobs throws at you. If you’re a make-up artist, I expect you to be able to handle all skin tones.

I’ll be brutally honest and say make-up artists have improved over the years but that hasn’t been the case when it comes to hairstylists! There have been occasions when I have turned up to shoots and the hairstylist employed doesn’t know what to do with me. There was a similar story I heard about the model Olivia Anakwe. She showed up to a shoot, where in the brief it said she was going to have cornrows, however when she turned up on the day not one of the stylist could braid her hair and we are talking high-end, extremely skilled hairstylist. Ultimately, they had to find a black staff member who happened to be working that day to braid her hair.


To be fair brands like Fenty Beauty has changed how women in general are represented, do you think there’s still a long way to go?  

Absolutely we have a long way to, but of course it’s fantastic that we have more and more beauty brands that are expanding their range to be more inclusive of all skin tones. This was definitely spearheaded by Fenty beauty, a brand created by a black woman for all women.

What advice would you give to an aspiring model to prepare him or her for what still seems to be the black and white world of fashion?

Although times have changed for the better and things are different from when I started, just be prepared for what I call the numbers game. Don’t be upset if you don’t get selected by certain agencies because they already have one or two people on their books that look like you. On a positive note, the fashion world is changing so don’t give up. Ten years ago plus size modelling wasn’t really a thing but now look at where we are today. It just proves that it can be done.Be wary of scam agencies, for example, do not pay to join anyone’s books.Lastly, practice – know your angles, get people to take your pictures and get comfortable with being in front of the camera and don’t take no for an answer. You will make it.




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