Leah Vernon is a Muslim, feminist, body positive activist/blogger from Detroit. Once a quiet child who was afraid of saying the wrong thing, she now has a significant online presence, with an ever-growing Instagram following of 38k, and uses her voice to inspire positive change within society. Championing representation and inclusivity, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to about the importance of diversity in fashion. Here is our Q&A with Leah Vernon:
Q. Why is diversity important in fashion?
A: Diversity and inclusion in fashion is super important. Representation matters. For so long, we’ve only been accustomed to one kind of beauty, one kind of style. And, it’s usually thin and white. When there are so many different kinds of girls and women in different shades and sizes who are never fully represented as ‘beautiful’. It’s time for us to change the narrative on how we see and define beauty and fashion.
Q. What made you take a stand and start talking about diversity in fashion?
A: I had eating disorders and body-dysmorphia growing up. I hated my skin color, I hated my body, and I hated my culture. I thought that if I could just be as thin as possible then I could truly attain happiness.
I successfully dropped the weight by unhealthy and extreme means. And, guess what? I still hated my body. It took years to figure out that it wasn’t the number on the scale that I needed to change but my attitude towards my body. That’s when I started blogging about my struggles and being open and candid about what it meant to be fat, Black, and Muslim in the fashion industry. I joined the body-positive movement and never looked back.
Q. How has the fashion industry changed since you started blogging in 2013?
A: The fashion industry has changed a lot. Prior to me entering the fashion scene, I hadn’t seen not one person who looked like me. I mean there were all kinds of fat babes and plus-size gals who were similar but not quite the same.
I was the first plus-size hijabi to enter into the fashion blogging world and it has changed. The industry is more inclusive and there are more different kinds of plus-size clothes to choose from. Which is very cool because we didn’t have as much selection back in the day.
I’ve also been a part of large campaigns for a few popular plus-size retailers as a Muslim model. So, people are definitely more open about partnering up with different kinds of models.
Q. Do you think that the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive/representative?
A: I think the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive, but we still have a long way to go. For instance, we see sizes above 24 now and darker skin models headlining huge campaigns, but on the other end, we still see lots of size 10 and 12 models who are white being used more so than models of other ethnicities.
Q. What would you say to people who are struggling with body confidence?
A: I’d tell her or him to never, ever allow what society says about your body to dictate how YOU feel about your body. Your body is yours. It is unique. It is imperfect. It is your temple. It is to be treated well and cherished. You are the creator of your own story.
To hear more from the wonderful Leah, check out her social accounts, all linked below.