What Did Kanye West's Casting Call for 'Multiracial Women Only' Mean

Recording artist, producer and fashion designer Kanye West began New York Fashion Week Spring 2017 with a casting call controversy. OnSaturday,West used Twitter to post a model casting notice for his “Yeezy Season 4” fashion show.

It read:”Multiracial women only. No makeup please come as you are.”

The tweet has since been removed:

He received backlash on Twitter from users who said he was making it clear he did not want Black women, or only a certain type of Black woman.

The casting call took place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. According to Women’s Wear Daily, by 11:15 a.m. more than 500 models were already present, and more were still coming.

Some models pondered upon the ambiguity of West’s use of “multiracial women.”One attendee, Sable Yong, wrote an account of the casting call for New York Magazine. Yong, who said she wasn’t sure if “two kinds of Asian counts as ‘multiracial,'” heard a conversation of women discussing which ethnicities make the most attractive combinations:

“Black and Spanish is a good mix. Or like Native American.”

“Nah, Japanese and Black those are always good. Like Kimora Lee Simmons’ babies.”

“Asian and Black in general.”

Also during the casting call, a woman who appeared to be a model held a sign that read:

Multiracial = lightskin only.

You ain’t slick, Ye.

‘We call them mutts.’ ~Kanye West

She was topless, and on her chest and torso was written in marker:They want Black features not Black girls. (View tweet)

In an interview with Vogue magazine that was published about two hours before West’s show on Wednesday, he addressed the controversy. West said the concept came out of discussions with Vanessa Beecroft, a longtime collaborator, who is an Italian artist that assists in choreographing and staging his shows. He said the casting call was not intended to exclude anyone.

“The ten thousand people that showed up didn’t have a problem with it,” West said.

In regard to the use of the word “multiracial” he added, “How do you word the idea that you want all variations of Black How do you word that exactly”

Multiracial Identity

According to a Pew Research Center survey, measuring multiracial identity is complicated. So, it was likely West’s description of the type of models he wanted would cause confusion.

The Pew survey found that the way in which people describe their own racial background doesn’t always match the way they believe others see them:

– About six in 10 Americans with a white and Black background (61 percent) believe they are seen as Black; only 19 percent said they would be seen as multiracial (an additional 7 percent said they would be perceived as white only).

– Among white and Asian biracial adults, 42 percent said others would perceive them as white and 23 percent think others see them as Asian. Two in 10 said they would be seen as multiracial.

– Nearly nine in 10 white and American Indian biracial adults (88 percent) believe that a stranger passing them on the street would say they were single-race white; only 2 percent said they would be seen as multiracial and 7 percent believe they would be seen as American Indian only.

The survey also found that among adults with multiple races in their background who do not consider themselves to be multiracial, 47 percent said their physical appearance and/or family upbringing are reasons they choose not to identify themselves as multiracial.

West and other designers choose models based on physical appearance, which means they perpetuate societal standards of beauty for women, even if that’s not their intention. This could be the reason for the backlash of West’s announcement on Twitter.

Diversity of models has also been an issue for New York Fashion Week shows, particularly the lack of Black models. Model Ashley Chew designed a popular bag labeled “Black Models Matter.”

In his current show, as well as his “Yeezy Season 3” show, West has insisted on using models of color.

The following tweet shows models in his “Yeezy Season 4” show Wednesday on Roosevelt Island in New York City:

In February, New York Fashion Week for Fall 2016 was the most diverse season in recent history, with 31.9 percent of collections featuring models of color. Spring 2016 models of color only accounted for 28.4 percent of castings, according to The Fashion Spot.

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