So this is what Kanye West really meant by ‘multiracial' women

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Twitter was rightfully outraged last week when Kanye West shared his Yeezy Season 4 fashion show casting call for “multiracial models only.”


Multiracial means “made up of or relating to people of several or many races.” But in the black community, to say that you are multiracial implies that you are better-looking because you are only partially black, according to a new study from Duke University. Kanye West’s tweet was interpreted as a request for models who were not too black, light-skinned, had “good hair,” and fit into the mainstream ideals of beauty.

It's a fair assumption, given the role the skin color of black women plays in hip hop. A lighter-skinned complexion or mixed-race appearance means a woman has more value, is more wifeable, and more likely to be in your music video. But colorism is still quite an extreme conclusion to jump to regarding Kanye West and his fashion line.

For the past four NYFW seasons, Kanye West has had one of the most diverse fashion shows, with at least 90% of his casting being black models of various complexions. Yesterday, his Yeezy Season 4 show followed suit. It was a full spectrum of shades of black women wearing his signature style of oversized sweatshirts, thigh-high boots, body-con dresses, bodysuits, and crop tops all in muted black, creams, and nude. It became clear that by "multiracial" women West was actually requesting non-white models, even if the term carried different connotations.


"The ten thousand people that showed up didn’t have a problem with it,” West told Vogue“How do you word the idea that you want all variations of black? How do you word that exactly?” He noted that the call was "definitely not meant to exclude anyone, especially black women."


Then again, Kanye West continues to collaborate with Vanessa Beecroft, a woman who fetishizes people of color without taking any interest in understanding the concept of race—and who reportedly helped shape the casting concept for Yeezy Season 4. Beecroft said in an interview with New York Magazine that when she works for Kanye, she becomes "an African-American male," her alter-ego. She also took a DNA test to see if she was black, and when the results came back negative, she said: “I want to do it again, because when I work with Africans or African-Americans, I feel that I am autobiographical. If I don’t call myself white, maybe I am not.” In 2008, she shot a documentary called The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, where she attempts to adopt babies in Africa to use in her artwork and shoots a portrait of herself breast-feeding two Sudanese orphans.

Of course there would be controversy after deciding to describe models with input from someone who is obviously tone deaf. It could have been as simple as releasing a casting call for "women of color only," because how can you even determine if someone is multiracial by just looking at them?


But casting practices should be the least of the public's concerns about Kanye's show. For the second season in a row, the inhumane treatment of the Yeezy Season models has been brought to light. Last season, Jezebel reported from an anonymous model that the models were paid $100 for 10 hours of work, faced a hefty list of outrageous requests, and stood still for so long that some of them thought they might collapse.

This year, some models actually did collapse due to heat exhaustion and standing up for over two hours, according to fashion editors who attended the show. Other models were tired and sat down in the grass after being no longer able to stand. Some got rid of the heels that seemed to make them wobble when they walked.

Model passed out in the heat is given water by man in the audience but no one on the #YeezySeason4 team helps.

— Stella Bugbee (@stellabugbee) September 7, 2016

Model in all black can barely make it down the runway. Is going to fall. #YeezySeason4

— Stella Bugbee (@stellabugbee) September 7, 2016

Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy…can you please treat these models better?

Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.