Chanel-Iman

8

All three of us models are very successful in our careers, but because in the fashion industry “there’s only one black girl allowed”, they’ve made us compete to be that one girl. Beyoncé allowed us to show the world that we don’t have to fight against each other. She gave us the chance to see that we are far more powerful together.

- Chanel Iman. [x]

“I was born in South Sudan during their second civil war. There was lots of discrimination against us, the darker-skinned people. There was genocide and slavery. When I was five, our home was attacked. My mom said, ‘We’re going to leave and I’m taking you girls.’ I had over 20 sisters and brothers. Now, it was just me, my mom, and my two sisters in Egypt. I had to become the second mom to my younger sisters. I took them to school at the age of eight by myself. The Egyptians teased us because we were the dark people. On the bus, they made us get up from out seats so that they could sit down. When we got off, they would throw things from the window and spit on us. Every single day was a battle. When we got our sponsorship to America, we first lived in the projects. There was drugs, prostitution, and crazy things happening in our building all of the time. It opened our eyes that there’s not only problems in our country, there’s problem all over the world…. When we moved to San Diego, I was made to feel so bad about the darkness of my skin that I thought about bleaching it. When I got into the modeling industry that changed completely. Now, my dark skin was fabulous. While modeling, I realized that the people were caught up in a superficial world that doesn’t matter. Basically, every Sudanese girl has to look like Alek Wek and every black girl has to look like Chanel Iman. I needed to stand up, and I stood up: 'Mari Malek will be seen! Fuck everybody who thinks I should suppress my identity. Fuck everybody who thinks I need to dumb down my art. No, I’m gonna go off!’ We are in a world where we have been taught and conditioned to be fearful. It’s time for us to stop thinking that you and I are a totally different person. Yes, you are my problem – we are all human: we bleed the same, we’re born the same, and we die the same. It’s time for the world to look at one another not as a black race or a white race but as human race." 

– Marie Malek in our new episode of the What’s Underneath Project!