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Chrissy Teigen on cultural appropriation and the need for diversity in fashion

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Moya Crockett
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With fashion month in full swing, Chrissy Teigen has spoken out about the lack of diversity in the modelling industry – and offered her take on the debate over cultural appropriation.

Teigen, who is of mixed Thai, German and Norwegian heritage, was at the launch party for the Sports Illustrated Swim 2017 issue when she opened up about her view of stereotyping in the fashion world.

“I think it’s really important to start embracing people… seeing them in roles that are not necessarily ‘That Asian Girl’ or ‘That Asian Boy’,” she told E! News.

“I want it to be a normal thing to be able to see Asian models, and I think Asian models are really underrepresented in the industry, especially on the runways or in magazines,” she continued.

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Teigen's mother, Vilailuck Teigen, is Thai, while her father is German and Norwegian.

The international SS17 shows, which took place in September and October 2016, were the most racially diverse on record, according to The Fashion Spot’s biannual Diversity Report. However, models of colour still made up just 25% of castings in London, New York, Paris and Milan.

Of these models, only 7% were Asian – and while Black, Middle Eastern and Latina models all saw an increase in runway appearances, Asian models appeared with slightly less frequency than they had done in the previous season’s shows.



Teigen also weighed in on the discussion about cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. While overt racial insensitivity is far from a new problem in fashion, the topic was recently spotlighted when white supermodel Karlie Kloss appeared in a geisha-themed shoot for US Vogue’s Diversity issue.

Kloss, Vogue and photographer Mikael Jansson were widely condemned for appropriating Japanese culture, and Kloss subsequently issued an apology on Twitter in which she acknowledged that “[the] shoot was not culturally sensitive”.

Despite the criticism levelled at Kloss, Teigen said that she does not generally have a problem with white models taking part in shoots inspired by Asian culture – but observed that fashion editors could stand to expand their casting horizons.



“I personally am not offended by cultural appropriation of any sort because I feel like it does pay homage,” she said.

“But at the same time there are a lot of beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Asian women that could do the same thing.”

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Chrissy Teigen with husband, musician John Legend, at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

It’s not the first time that Teigen has spoken frankly about her views on racial politics. In September, she sparked a brief controversy on social media when she tweeted that she did not find the word “Oriental” offensive.

The term is seen as contentious by many Americans, and President Obama banned the word from being used in federal law last May, stating that “Asian American” must be used instead.

However, Teigen said that she did not personally find the “old school” word offensive, because that she knew that “most of the time” people did not mean to cause offence when using it.

“Ignorance without malice isn’t something I can be offended by,” she wrote.

“I really appreciate all the non-Asians telling me what is offensive to Asians, though,” she added. “Thank you. Writing it all down.”

Images: Getty, Rex Features

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women's Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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