Inclusive and authentic: Meet the 7 agencies pushing diversity in media

The fashion, media and modelling industries still have a long way to go when it comes to representation and diversity. The good news is that there are agencies and media companies creating a paradigm shift from a scene that’s still largely white and cis-gendered to one that’s inclusive and favours authenticity.

From New York to London to South Africa, here are seven companies flipping the industry on its head to ensure the media reflects a truer picture of who we are.

My Friend Ned 

What: Model and character agency
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

modelling agency representation

My Friend Ned is the first agency in South Africa to have a non-binary division on their roster. Opened in 2007 by fashion stylist Karen Wieffering and casting director Candice Hatting, this agency focuses on representing all sizes, races and genders for music videos, TV commercials, stills and film. Follow My Friend Ned.

Beth Model Management 

What: A modelling agency
Where: Nigeria

representation modelling agency

As one of the leading agencies in Nigeria, Beth Model Management is focused on seeing models in editorial, print, high fashion and commercial work that reflect people of all shades of brown. This multi-dimensional modelling agency represents some of the most coveted Nigerian models on the international scene such as Mayowa Nicholas, who in 2016 was the first Nigerian model to be featured in a Dolce & Gabbana campaign, and David Obennebo, who was the first African and Nigerian model to be crowned winner of the Elite Model World Competition in the same year. Follow Beth Model Management.

TONL

What: A stock photography company
Where: New York

representation modelling

“Our voices and visibility matter. Photography and storytelling can help humanise and hopefully diminish the stereotypes and prejudice against black and brown people, especially. We wanted to challenge the stale, homogenous look of traditional stock photography by showcasing the many ethnic backgrounds of everyday people”, says TONL, the stock photography library, started by photographer Joshua Kissi and social entrepreneur Karen Okonkwo.

When it comes to diverse representation, stock photography is usually stereotyped, lacking in authenticity and generally quite terrible but TONL is disrupting the status quo by providing images that represent the world and all its people. Follow TONL.

Thick Barbie Models

What: A plus-size modelling agency
Where: Durban

representation modelling

Dimakatso Ntsolo, a plus-sized model and business womxn, started this agency in 2015 with a vision “to inspire, motivate and empower the above average-sized woman to be the best they can be. [It aims] to ensure that its models are properly marketed, gaining opportunities in television commercials, advertising stills, fashion editorials, fashion shows and promotions,” says the company. Follow Thick Barbie Models.

Lorde Inc

What: Street casting modelling agency
Where: London

modelling representation agency

From London to Toronto to New York, Lord Inc, for the past five years, has been placing people of colour at the forefront of editorials and lookbooks. Started by Canadian arts history graduate Nafisa Kaptonwala, who scouts talent on Instagram and Tumblr, this street casting modelling agency has no limits on height or weight. Follow Lorde Inc.

Slay

What: Transgender modelling agency
Where: Los Angeles

Modelling agency representation

This exclusively transgender modelling agency was established in 2015 by director, producer and filmmaker Cecilio Asuncion to help transgender models develop their careers. While transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have become icons, in an industry that’s predominantly cis-gendered in representation, there’s a need for increased representation to combat trans erasure.

“There is [an obvious] component of transparency—an entirely transgender roster can help eliminate last-minute dismissals, something that one of Slay’s newest models recently experienced just moments before a runway show,” says Cecilio in an interview with The Daily Good. Follow Slay.

Anti-Agency

What: Alternative street casting agency
Where: London

representation modelling agency

“[This] agency is for people who could’ve been models and decided not to, for people who are too cool to be models and people with real lives on the verge of exploding in music, fashion, art, illustration and creative industries etc,” says Anti-Agency, established by Lucy Greene and Pandora Lennard in 2013. Self-titled, “The World’s Sexiest Street Casting Collective” and with an Instagram that uses selfies as headshots, they defy glossy, cookie-cutter modelling standards. Follow Anti-Agency.

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