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Iman Shares How She Advocated For Herself Amid Pay Disparities In The Modeling Industry
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Iman Shares How She Advocated For Herself Amid Pay Disparities In The Modeling Industry

As a trailblazer in the fashion industry, Iman has seen it all, lived it all, and continues to share her ups and downs in an effort to help the next girl. Coming into the industry in the ‘80s, Iman was one of few Black models and she had to advocate for herself in the face of racism constantly. She reflected on one particular moment when she was “barely 19” and just signed with top modeling agency Wilhelmina.

The supermodel had just learned that white models were being paid more than she was for doing the same job and so she decided to speak up. "I said, 'Just let me highlight it to you and say it to you in a way that you can understand: I want to be paid for services rendered. So if I'm doing the same job as a Caucasian model, I want to be paid exactly what she's being paid,'" Iman explained to PEOPLE.

The Somalian-born cosmetics owner called the act racist and added "I said to her, 'call me when they're ready to pay me. It took three months for them, but they started paying the same amount."

The mother of two also co-founded Black Girls Coalition in 1988 with fellow model Bethann Hardison as a safe space for Black women in the fashion industry and to organize to fight on their behalf.

"That was the formation of the tribe from the beginning of it," she said. "We were able to highlight the discrepancies in the fashion industry, especially when it came to Black creatives, and then we saw incremental changes."

Iman along with other Black fashion titans and creatives open up about being Black in the industry in the six-part documentary Supreme Models.

Official Trailer | Supreme Models

Pay disparity isn’t just happening in the fashion industry, it is happening everywhere. Here is a list of others speaking out about pay disparities in their field.

Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union is no stranger to speaking out against injustices including pay disparities between Black actresses and white actresses in Hollywood. In an interview with E! News, the Being Mary Jane star explained how Black actresses began having conversations with one another in order for studios to pay them what they are worth.

"So, we're all like, 'What are they offering you? Okay, so this studio, they do have money... Which person in business affairs were you talking to?' She said.

"So, you're like, 'Okay, now please tell me again why you're low-balling me based off of nothing, hoping that I'm an idiot. She added, “They just hope you don't know your worth."

Venus Williams

Venus Williams made history in 2007 as the first woman to be paid equally to her male counterpart at Wimbledon after years of calling for pay equality. “It wasn’t until the ’60s that a woman first ran a marathon, and she had to pretend to be a guy,” she said in an interview with Variety.

“We’ve been fighting thousands of years of inequity, so we can’t think that [change] is going to happen overnight. We want it to, and we work at a pace so that it could be, theoretically, but it’s about changing minds, changing cultures, changing history, and it’s about not giving up.”

Viola Davis

Viola Davis went viral a couple of years ago after resurfaced video showed her talking about being paid her worth during a sitdown interview with Women In the World.

"I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I've done Broadway, I've done off-Broadway, I've done TV, I've done film, I've done all of it," she said. "I have a career that's probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they came out of Julliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it."

She continued, "But I have to get on that phone and people say, 'You're a Black Meryl Streep...There is no one like you.' Okay, then if there's no one like me, you think I'm that you pay me what I'm worth. You give me what I'm worth."

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Featured image by Taylor Hill/WireImage

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