Determined to make a difference: ‘I’m black, curvy and in my 40s, why shouldn’t I model?’

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

“I’m black, I’m curvy, I’m in my 40s, why shouldn’t I be a model?”

These are the words of Alison Cline-Williams who decided to pursue a modelling career later in life after being knocked back in her late teens for being too big at size 14.

Alison Cline-Williams is an ambassador for Models of Diversity. Credit: Richard Yaw @Femellestudios

Now the inspiring 47-year-old from Croydon is passionate about representation in the industry and is determined to make it as a full-time model.

In her search for justice in the modelling world, she became an ambassador for Models of Diversity, a Coulsdon-based charity that supports people who want to get into modelling but aren’t typically represented, including plus size, older and disabled models.

Alison, who currently works full time in HR, said: “It is important for women my age and older to be represented by brands.

“I think you should be able to model if you are older, if you’ve got a disability or are curvier.

“There are still brands out there that won’t use normal curvy women.”

“When I was first knocked back I was upset, that is why I put it to the side and didn’t bother with it again.

“It was quite disheartening, I felt that I wasn’t worthy so there was no point in doing it.

“The reason I tried again is that I was seeing girls who are bigger than me getting into modelling and I’ve been inspired by older models who are in their 60s and 70s.”

Alison says she faces discrimination as a black model and believes colourism is still a problem in fashion – meaning those with darker skin face more discrimination.

The model said: “I’ve met models who have been told to straighten their hair and bleach their skin. There are different shades of black and you’re being told you’re too dark.

“If you look at campaigns, they pick women who have lighter skin rather than darker black women. When Black

Alison Cline-Williams wants to see more women like her represented in fashion and modelling. Credit: Mondi D @35mmondi.

Lives Matter happened, they would pick the odd few black people, they were doing tokenism.”

Alison says women in their 40s and 50s are often told they’re too old or don’t look old enough if they don’t have grey hair.

So far, Alison has already had paid work with up-and-coming clothing brands as well as doing some unpaid shoots to get more experience.

“I want to see society change. Models of Diversity are fighting for everybody, people who are disabled, transgender people, older people,” said Alison.

But the pandemic has meant the charity has faced major challenges this year and very nearly had to close down for good.

Models of Diversity was set up by Angel Sinclair 10 years ago. She was a model herself and inspired to campaign for more diversity after taking part in the Channel 4 show, Miss Naked Beauty, in 2008.

“It was about women embracing their bodies,” said the 59-year-old. “I was the oldest contestant on the show and I met a diverse range of women that I hadn’t seen in the fashion industry.

“I decided I wanted to start a campaign and we protested outside London Fashion Week against the use of size zero models. We had such amazing support that the British Fashion Council called me in to talk to them and other high street brands about a lack of diversity.”

Angel Sinclair the CEO of Models of Diversity in Coulsdon, Credit: Veronika Marx.

The charity now works with a diverse range of models putting them in touch with brands and agencies and providing free workshops.

“Before the pandemic we were thriving, but then everything came to a standstill and we had no financial income,” said Angel, “Six months in I began to panic, my hard work for 10 years was going to go down the toilet.”

Angel wrote to a range of fashion brands with her plight and was amazed to hear back from Tommy Hilfiger – the brand donated clothes for the charity to sell on an eBay page as a way of making money.

The charity also received donations of clothes from Missguided and River Island.

“I never thought I’d receive a response, I was shocked I’d sent out so many emails, I couldn’t believe that the Tommy Hilfiger brand donated to us,” said Angel.

“I want people in Croydon to know that we exist and to get behind us because it has been lonely.”

To find out more about the charity and support its eBay fundraiser visit  visit modelsofdiversity.org.

 


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