Editorial: Aspiring Model & Fashion Designer Leron Nurse For donbleek.com
Rising fashion designer and model Leron Zachary Nurse (@Leronnurse) was shot exclusively for donbleek.com. How could we help Black males succeed in the fashion industry? One popular answer is we need to give them more opportunities.
In 2016, it is still a struggle for Black models and designers to be accepted by the fashion mainstream. Asian models have grown in prominence over the past decade and as far as White models, they always reach superstar status. I love fashion, but the obsession with using mostly nonblack models on runways, magazine covers and in editorials and the racism that Black designers deal with on a regular is what I find the most egregious. It’s not often that you would find a Black model on the cover of a major fashion publication, especially the September issue, because “people in the industry say if you have a black face on the cover of a magazine it won’t sell“.
Stories of racism in the fashion industry are so well known that we report about them on a daily, and some successful Black models in the business spoke about it in the past including Jourdan Dunn (see it here and here), Chanel Iman (see it here), Alton Mason (see it here), Beverly Johnson (see it here), and Naomi Campbell and Bethann Hardison (see it here).
Last year, we even reported that a former “gay” senior executive at Perry Ellis International had filed a lawsuit against the company, in Manhattan Federal Court, alleging that Oscar Feldenkreis – who at that time was slated to take over his father’s (George) role as CEO – doesn’t want Black people or gay looking people in promotional material (see it here). The lawsuit was eventually settled (see it here). Finally, Pyer Moss‘ designer Kerby Jean-Raymond wasn’t afraid to speak on large and political issues weather it was verbally or words/images printed on his shirts. He created the viral “They Have Names” tee-shirt after the deadly shooting deaths of 11 Black males who were killed by White police officers and he also created a “Juneteenth” tee-shirt for Usher to perform in on the 4th of July.
For his Spring 2016 collection, the designer stepped outside fashion and into the conversation about race at his presentation at New York Fashion Week: The Shows. He showed a race focused film.
I will continue to use my platform to promote models or color, highlight Black designers and speak out against racism in the fashion industry. We’ve got to put more models of color on the runways and in ad campaigns. I am not accusing the fashion industry of racism. I’m just saying the act of not choosing models of color is racist. Some designers hire casting directors and stylists and they’re the ones who choose the models and not so much the designers. But it does affect their house and brand. We need balance diversity, not one or two models of color out of a dozen. It shouldn’t matter what color you are, it’s your body and beauty and if you have the talents, you should be able to do the job.
New York City is The City of Dreams, the city where a lot of people want to move to so they could pursue modeling and fashion. You would think a city as big as New York would be much easier to pursue modeling and fashion, but it’s the complete opposite, especially if you’re Black. I’ve spoke to a few Black models who personally told me that they were turned away at the door or never called back and the only reason they could think of is because of their skin color. Even though OFF-WHITE‘s Virgil Abloh and Hood By Air‘s Shayne Oliver are recognized by mainstream fashion and their brands are sold in high-end luxury boutiques, I still don’t think they earned the same proper credit as their counterparts who aren’t Black — Alessandro Michele, Raf Simons, Alexander Wang, Demna Gvasalia, and Hedi Slimane.
17-year-old Leron Zachary Nurse is pushing for change. He wants to bring diversity to fashion. “In this time and age, we should no longer be experiencing racism. It should’ve been left behind,” he says. “In fashion, there should be diversity, not just one particular race or ethnicity. It should be a variety of color, versatility. It’s all about being unique and catering to all races or ethnicity.”
The 6’2″ model is of Trinidian descent and hails from Brooklyn, New York — the home of Biggie Smalls, Lil Kim, Jay Z, Young M.A. and Desiigner, just to name a few. Brooklyn is known for raising some of the best rappers in the music industry as well as the Brooklyn Museum, Junior’s Cheesecake, and Brighton Beach. It is also very cultural. “I enjoy living in Brooklyn because as you just mentioned, it is very cultural. Some of my favorite places to go is to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island Luna Park, Botanical Gardens and the Barclays Center,” Nurse says when ask about his hometown.
Nurse‘s has the style, looks, height, personality and drive to be a superstar. His full lips and freckles is what makes him stand out from other models. “All my life, I thought my freckles were a burden on me, until I entered my mid teens and then I realized that it was a unique gift. It’s something different and I’ve accepted it.”
He belongs on runways in Paris, Milan, London and New York. “I want to be an internationally model,” he says.
One day, “I would like to sign with Red Model Management, IMG Models, Ford Models or New York Model Management.”
The high school senior first started admiring fashion when he was in the 9th grade. He played a lot of sports growing up, but it wasn’t his first love. “I used to play every sport and I still do but I realized that sports wouldn’t bring me to stardom and I also realized that I didn’t love it as much as i love fashion.”
“Some of my influencers are A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Ian Conner, Virgil Abloh, Chris Brown and my high school friend Mcgeer Coulanges.”
“My style is versatile; from casual menswear to streetwear and I enjoy them all. I can switch it up upon occasion or mood,” Leron says when he described his style.
This rising model would one day like to model for adidas and be featured in Vogue and GQ. But right now, he’s currently working on getting scouted. “I am doing a few photoshoots, contacting agencies, going to events and keeping my social media accounts updated as a few ways to get scouted“.
As far as designing, “I was sketching some designs for tee shirts and jeans. I am also finishing up my last year of high school and look forward to attending FIT college in the next fall.“
Photos Credit: Courtesy of Leron