Who is this agency that the fashion and media worlds never thought they would ever need??
After all, Zebedee Management only represent diverse talent. What does that even mean, anyway?
I attended their second so-called catwalk show last night in Sheffield.
Diversity they say. Well, let’s see:
Age? From nought to fifties!
Skin colour? You name it, it was there!
Body shapes? Not just from petite to plus size but shapes you probably don’t even know exist!
Wheelchairs? Walking frames? Different sizes, different types!
Physical differences? Don’t even know where to begin!
Learning disability? Of course, and not just Down syndrome!
I was there from 9:30am, right through the show at 6pm and the “after-party”.
It wasn’t a catwalk with a Victoria Secret budget, nor were they super models (yet), nor did it run like clockwork. Far from it. Let me put you in the picture: they had to crowdfund to pay for the venue and the many fabulous HMUA, etc. The 80 models, the awesome choreographer, the wonderful volunteers worked tirelessly the whole day to rehearse, bags everywhere, wheelchairs trying to get by, photographers here and there, cameraman somehow making his way from one group to another, parents were there, either running after their child (not always a young child but also an adult child!) or making sure their child made it to the disabled toilet in time, and/or catching their child before they trip, and/or consoling their child who just had a meltdown due to anxiety or sensory overload, and/or simply keeping them fed, hydrated, entertained and out of mischief between rehearsals… It looked like complete chaos, organised chaos, but I tell you, the energy reigning and rising as we got closer to the actual show was simply electrifying! How could such diversity not only get along but feed off each other, how could such a wide spectrum of abilities work so beautifully together???
No, a conventional catwalk it wasn’t, but it managed to pull all the strings nevertheless, and more, not in spite of the obvious difficulties but thanks to them!
The pure joy, the elation of the models, strutting their stuff amongst the rounds of applause betrayed a lifetime of being overlooked, or not being represented or at best being under-represented, a thirst for acknowledgement, a cry for change!!!
There wasn’t a dry eye in that room when the show ended, and if any brand that hasn’t yet been diverse in their representation had attended that catwalk, I would dare them not to have a change of heart and start representing diversity properly.
From just an idea 2 years ago, Zebedee Management has now grown to a 300-strong model portfolio and a really impressive client base such as River Island, Mercedes-Benz, Mark&Spencers, Sainsbury to name but a few. Those clients have not taken any risks. They are the ones who have listened to their customers, who are in tune with the changes in society, a society who is not only welcoming diversity but is now demanding it. The other brands had better listen and hop on that train, it makes perfect business sense. The world is ready, the models are ready, when will you be?
I don’t buy into the cynicism of tokenism either. Business is business and tokenism is often how it all kicks off, until it becomes the norm. Models of colour were finally able to run the catwalks because society was ready and brands took heed before others followed in their footsteps, until nobody even bats an eyelid about the colour of the models. You’ve had the race awakening, you’ve got over the sexual orientation, can we have one more epiphany, please?
There’s still a long way to go until full representation is achieved, I know, but one step at a time, and now is the time to take it a step further. if you’d seen that show last night, you’d know I’m right.
But make no mistakes, it’s not because mainstream agencies exist that they could JUST represent diverse models as well, after all. You see, Zebedee Management is not just a modelling agency representing diverse talent. They spotted the wasted talent that nobody was interested in, rebelled against that injustice and are determined to turn things round. They look after their models, they know them, they advise their clients on how to make sure it all goes well on the day of casting and on the day of shooting, depending on which diversity they want to focus on that day. They have a whole spectrum of diversity on their books, and the big hearts that go with it.
Thank you Zoe Proctor and Laura Johnson for doing what you’re doing, for fighting for what you believe in. Keep going. We’re all behind you.
Check them out at www.zebedeemanagement.com