My name is Lenny Johnson and being an Africa male model in the fashion industry, requires you to be tough skin to say the least. I have learned this firsthand through what I do for a living, especially being an African-American male model that just happens to be gay. One of the most exciting experiences for me, was my efforts in Michigan as I prepared for and attempted America’s Next Top Model Cycle 21 (Lansing,Michigan castings).
African-Americans as with most individuals with an alternative skin complexion; we come in all types of skin colors and our skin usually ages very well. Most people I meet casually misjudge my age at around 20-23, when in reality I just turned 28. Personally I know that I’m mixed with a certain amount of Native American as well as other racial demographics. That has a lot to do with my hair texture, skin-tone, and honestly everything about me. Hyperpigmentation is often a common skin concern for African-Americans, A breakout will complete its’ cycle and the skin will overcompensate pigment to that area of the skin causing darkening; the bodies attempt to protect that area.
Casting Call Your Not Welcome
Prior to the casting calls, I straightened my hair thermically, then went over a few things that I wanted to relate to that judges. During the casting calls, there were loads of models everywhere; female and male (did I mention this casting was the 2nd season of The CW7 launching their “Guys an Girls” Reality Show). Free full salon services were offered to all models auditioning including MUA’s and hairstylists at our mercy. Photography services were available as we patiently waited to be interviewed by Channel CW7 and the judges that were associated next to the catwalk.
After my hair and face was done to my liking, I took a moment to sit down in a corner to collect myself before my number was called. The anticipation became surreal when my number was called and a lady assisted me to the elevator and we went upstairs to await my one-on-one interview with CW7. I never did get a call back, however it was definitely a learning experience. I’m now connected with Miss J (I interviewed him on Twitter via Pix 11 News with a Q&A video), Tyra Banks, recently just filmed for Fox TV for Lee Daniels, & scheduled a photo shoot with Nigel Barker.
I moved to Chicago,IL to continue to pursue my modeling dreams and other endeavor’s. I applied to model PROMO’s, TFP gigs (Time for Print) and submitted to several agencies without getting rep presentation. Two particular emails I received, definitely upset me and I was not happy with their responses. I was offered to work a PROMO here in Chicago ,IL then told a few hrs later that I couldn’t participate in the PROMO because the client only wanted “caucasian male models to work their event.” I was taken aback for several reasons, mainly because they told me this information after I had completed the online orientation/requirements to work the PROMO.
In any business affair, time is money and if I would have known the final outcome. I would’t have even bothered wasting my time emailing them back-and-forth. The 2nd email exchange was from a world renowned agency in the UK.
The client with CTM Agency wanted Caucasian Male Models
The client with CTM Agency wanted caucasian male models only for their event, thus I was not chosen. This really upset me because I was already accepted to book the event & at the last minute the agency told me that the client requested only for caucasians.
When I look back on this moment, I feel as though I cannot be at odds with the rejection because what if the client felt as though “caucasians” would best represent their event?
With that being said, if I was a client that needed to book models for my event, they would be selected based on me visualizing them in my apparel and/or at my venue & their skin color would be irrelevant.
Either way you cut it, I believe there are less than 10% of African-American models in the modern fashion industry. I truly believe this is a issue locked deep inside the realms of the fashion industry, meaning the most prestigious & world renowned agencies won’t open their minds to include more of us in their biggest & most celebrated fashion shows & campaigns.
This is just a notion, but perhaps there needs to be a civil rights movement in the fashion industry?
I actually just wrote Tyson Bedford this week, I think he’s actually one of the last African-American male “supermodels” of our time.
Who will be next to rule the catwalk & fashion industry?