Avon Dorsey: Q&A
By TADHI COULTER
For many creatives of color in the fashion industry, stereotyping, limited opportunities and being mindful of what you say (when you say it, how you say it and who you're saying it to) can be a balancing act. For Avon, however, he's taking a more fearless approach.
TC: Have you, a loved one, or a friend experienced discrimination? Describe that experience or combination thereof.
Avon Dorsey: Yes, unfortunately, I have experienced discrimination…and so have many other people that I know. For me, I have experienced discrimination based on my race and ethnicity (as a Black, African-American male), and I have experienced discrimination based on my sexuality (as a Black, Gay male). Growing up in a hetero-normative society I’ve always had an affinity for the arts and creativity, but other boys my age would sometimes pick on me for being “different” or for displaying “feminine” qualities (even though I played sports and participated in “macho” activities). As an adult, I’ve experienced racism in different social and professional settings (sometimes passively and sometimes blatantly), where white supremacist ideals were favored over Black ideals, and once being told by a white manager that I needed to change my natural hair in order to “fit in” for a potential job; all of which is disgusting and unacceptable behavior that needs to change in our society.
TC: Describe the impact that kind of discrimination has had on your life, with special attention to the world of fashion & beauty and how you see yourself as a change agent.
Avon Dorsey: In the fashion and beauty industries it’s our collective responsibility to be agents of change when and where necessary. Meaning, we must stand up and be vocal in moments of racism and discrimination, and I’m glad that a spotlight has been shone on the world regarding dismantling systemic oppression. With the personal encounters of discrimination that I’ve faced, I’ve learned to address issues head on (when and where possible), to let go and let God, and to move forward with an intention to invoke positive change with all of my creative endeavors.
TC: How have you been impacted by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement?
Avon Dorsey: The truth is, we are all part of the Black Lives Matter movement- whether we recognize it or not. I’ve been on the frontlines protesting, posting, donating, calling on officials to make change and supporting those in need of help however and whenever I can. I think the world has been impacted by the BLM movement in a positive way because it’s helped to open the eyes of so many people who choose to look the other way where racism and discrimination are concerned.
TC: What would you like the fashion & beauty industry to take away from the BLM movement?
Avon Dorsey: The fashion and beauty industries should be keen on leaving the doors wide open for Black talent to have equally firm seats at the creative table- at each and every facet. Industry support should not end with a solemn Tuesday in June 2020 (with black squares posted on social media), but should continue in perpetuity on all levels. I’m glad that organizations such as the Black In Fashion Council, the Fashion For All Foundation, Harlem’s Fashion Row and the Black Retail Action Group (amongst other diverse establishments), are set up to help steer the direction for Blacks to be employed and celebrated in the fashion and beauty industries. There’s still a long way to go, but all lives cannot truly matter until Black lives truly matter. Period.