A Letter to the Modeling Industry - Local Wolves

Photo by Sophia Harrison

Emiko Itamura is a half-Japanese model based in Utah. If you are not aware, Utah is actually a really good place for modeling, but only for certain groups of people. As a Asian woman with short hair, freckles, and a stronger body type, it’s hard to find work here. Emiko has been signed with local modeling agencies with no luck. “I’m always given token roles, or background roles, and I think that’s a serious issue within the modeling industry. I’ve found that people have a very specific look they want from Asian people, and have strict perceptions on what Asian people look like.”

When she was signed, she had shoulder length dark brown hair. However, a month or two later she changed the color to be lighter and cut it to pixie cut length. It wasn’t a drastic change, and in fact, fit all the guidelines her agency said was okay for her to change. It was a natural hair color, and length certainly shouldn’t have been an issue. A day later she received an email saying no one would hire her with a light brown hair color as it wasn’t “natural”. “I thought, this isn’t right, so many models have this hair color, why can’t I? Then the pieces clicked, they meant that it wasn’t a natural color for an Asian person. They could no longer submit me for token Asian roles, and they were upset.”

Photo by Sophia Harrison

So with this information, Emiko left her agency and decided to go freelance. These photos are all depictions of what makes her unique, and how being Asian can look many different ways. Originally her agency blurred her freckles in photos, but now it’s the reason she’s finding work. Her short hair is now a strength, and she has actually booked several hair modeling jobs because of it. But there are still issues. “I don’t think the modeling industry is truly ready for diversity, I think the greater fashion world has been using it as a gimmick, although I sure hope not. Utah is full of small and large brands, but it’s really the same 10 models working them. Typically blonde, long haired, and white. While I have no problem with them, I’m happy they’re finding success, but I think brands need to represent more than that. I will never be a token Asian model, I refuse to be. I want to look like me, and for the viewer to feel who I am through the photos. That’s what modeling should be.”

Model, Styling, Hair & Make Up by Emiko Itamura / Styling & Photography by Sophia Harrison

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