Jenke Ahmed Tailly is on a mission to bring diversity to the fashion industry, and he’s working from the inside. The celebrity stylist and creative director, one of the most coveted in the industry, tells Ellemagazine, “I’m flabbergasted when I go to a fashion show and I don’t see a Black model or an Indian model or an Asian model or anyone of color in the front row.”
Continues the Senegalese and Cote D’Ivoirian artist, “It’s 2015, brands should take the memo. The buying power of those minorities is enormous — why are we still not represented enough?”
Tailly’s solution to the problem of whitewashing in the fashion world is hire behind-the-scenes influencers from a variety of backgrounds. “The more diverse people working behind the scenes in fashion who have the power to book models, the more diverse faces we’re likely to see in magazines,” says Tailly. “As a Black person, when I collaborate with a magazine, I’m more likely to want to book a Black model. It’s a delicate subject but I think it’s natural to gravitate towards a model that looks like you, that you can relate to.”
Indeed, when L’Officiel tapped Tailly to style their 90th anniversary cover, he advocated for Beyoncé to be the model. The resulting photo spread was African-influenced — and very controversial, thanks to an image featuring Bey in dark makeup that, to some, resembled blackface. Still, Bey was so impressed by Tailly’s work, she recruited him to be her creative director, a position he held for three years.
Following his work with Beyoncé, Tailly went on to style some of her famous friends, including Kanye Westand his wife, Kim Kardashian, whom he describes as an “internally beautiful [person], with great values and work ethic.” He also comments on Kim’s famous physique. “Being African, I particularly find her body proportions so beautiful.”