Aboriginal Model Samantha Harris Turns Heads Down Under

It doesn’t take a Robbie Myers cameo — though we’ll take one where we can get it — to see that the fashion industry is currently in the midst of a pretty serious discussion. But this go round it seems to be extending beyond surface questions about size. Everyone from designers to models and even editors are starting to ask whether the industry’s core and often exclusionary representations of beauty are in need of some serious revisions. Our answer: yes.

But for sure, the debate isn’t limited to the fraught pages of our American glossies. See Vogue India’s recent covering of their nation’s struggle to equate dark with beautiful.  More, consider, the news out of Sydney that Aboriginal model Samantha Harris will walk for no less than 18 designers during Australian Fashion week. On first glance, you might think, what’s the big deal? At 19, the former pageant girl is beyond striking with exotic, doll-like features, lips to die for and a portfolio that includes an appearance on the cover of Australian Vogue — why wouldn’t designers be vying for her?

But in Australia, a continent with a long legacy of tortured relations, empty promises and unrealized plans for “reconciliation” with its indigenous peoples, this is definitely big.

In fact, as the Sydney Morning Herald explains, Harris realised her dreams of modelling only after enduring years of rejection in beauty competitions while the family struggled to finance the striking beauty’s ambitions. “It was a bit sad, because we would go to competitions and we’d hear other girls with their parents spending $500 on outfits, and we just go to the op shop,” explained her mother. Having proved herself and landed the coveted Vogue cover in June of 2008 — mere months after the Prime Minister’s public apology to the continent’s Aborigines — Haris’ appearance at Fashion Week now seals her ascent, while also marking an important turning for a nation that has historically sought to exclude the non-white from its cultural portrait.

And crikey! If Australia can do it… maybe we can too.

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