I told him that many of us understand that the current fashion industry is a white-owned industry. The majority of the design house, magazines, and beauty products are backed by white owned corporations and that in order for us to get a piece of the pie that we have "play their game". Black people in this industry feel like they have to present a "white face" in order to be accepted by the industry - that we haveta "play the game" and adhere to the constraints of the fashion marketplace in order to be relevant and successful. They truly believe that if we "play the game", we can make significant changes.
I am always told (by other black people in the industry) that if I want to be successful in this industry that I need mostly white models in my presentation and body of work so that white clients won't feel alienated and can see themselves. Many black stylist, modeling agents, MUAs, and other industry people have told me to my face that they are reluctant to work with me specifically because I work with "too many black people."
My upbringing in Memphis, Tn (the place where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated) has taught me to have a deep level of respect for the sacrifices our people have made in this country and our place in history. I have always felt a responsibility to represent myself and my black heritage in my work.
When people tell me that I haveta "play the game" to win, I tell them why should I follow rules that aren't set up for me to win anyway. The people who truly win in this world know the rules but they make their own rules. Just look at people like Oprah and Tyler Perry. They are 2 of the most powerful people in television and film. According to Forbes magazine, talented filmmakers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg are the second and third richest men in Hollywood, topping the list with $113 million and $107 million while Tyler Perry has respectively earned over $500 million. He has clearly made his own rules in Hollywood and never "played the game". Had he "played the game," he would probably still be waiting for a white-owned film studio to back his film projects.
Everytime someone tells me to "play the game", I think about all the people who broke the rules in order for me to be here today.
I use my gifts to remind us of our presence and what we offer it in this world.