Model Dani Bassett’s Take on Representation in the Fashion Industry
The Fashion Weeks of the industry are still in full effect, with it girls, street style celebs, insiders, industry peeps, models, and designers descending upon the city of Milan this week, and closing it out in Paris en la próxima semana. So far, those of New York and London have delivered a season of eclectic and bold prints and colors. But more importantly, this season’s fashion statements advocated for diversity and inclusion. With moments like Prabal Gurung's Spring 2019 runway included 40 models representing 40 countries, Opening Ceremony presenting their collection in the form of a live drag show hosted by Sasha Valour and starring over 40 drag queens and LGBTQ models, and Rihanna shutting it down during her Savage x Fenty lingerie show showcasing womanhood of all shapes, sizes, and shades!
The fashion industry, however, still has a long way to go before solving the industry’s issue of showcasing inclusion and diversity. According to the last season’s Fall 2018’s Fashion Spot diversity report, which logs runway diversity in all forms, “the fall 2018 runways experienced the first regression in plus-size model castings in two years. A reported 30 plus-size models walked across each fashion capital.”
Hablamos con Dani Bassett—a Miami born and raised ‘plus’ size model of Cuban and Venezuelan descent. We asked her about her thoughts on the state of the fashion industry, and if inclusion and diversity is here to stay. But first, vamos a conocerla.
“I truly believe it's just something that runs within me, but I pushed it away for most of my life.”
Dani grew up watching her aunt take part in pageants; eventually moving into a career in acting and hosting. Her grandfather was a carpenter, who also was part of a comedic duo that traveled throughout Cuba performing their acts on the stages of different clubs. after arriving in the United States, her grandfather continued to do carpentry work, but also recorded commercials and voiceovers as a form to not let go of his passion. “Growing up learning from their experience, I truly believe it's just something that runs within me, but I pushed it away for most of my life. Specifically, modeling, has been on and off for me since I was 12. At 12, I had no interest when my aunt put me in modeling classes,” she says. At 22, Dani became a single mother of a baby boy—Tyler. “I couldn't leave my secure job for something that literally doesn't pay.”
In the last few years, Dani also became a wife and entrepreneur. “I'm the owner of Girl Blossom. Girl Blossom is here to help woman owned start-ups figure ish out. We didn't have anyone to teach us so we felt it was important to be that resource. We also started Girl Blossom's Little Pink Book where we've created a phonebook filled with local women owned businesses and divided them by category for you. Eventually it'll be by city!” Now at 27, Dani has been focusing on her modeling career. “I'm not looking back. Life has a way of bringing your purpose back around until you finally pay attention.”
“How do you balance all these different roles?” we asked Dani. “It's hard, but I really have to give this one to my husband and of course Tyler's father and stepmom. Without any of them, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. Grateful is an understatement. I also do everything I can to schedule my meetings/shoots when Tyler is with his dad. When he's home, I want to make sure it's all quality,” she says.
“If a brand really thinks they can get away with not being inclusive from now on after this SS19 NYFW... we should start sending them 'my condolences' cards because clearly they're not getting it.”
We asked Dani what she thought about the labels given to models who are size a 8 and up. “Technically, I fall into the ‘plus’ size category, but when people ask what I am and what I do, I just say model because truly...that's what I am. No plus, no curve, no extended. I don't want to limit myself to just this one category.”
Dani recently returned from this year’s New York Fashion Week. “New York Fashion Week was an amazing experience! I attended both Curvy Con and the Christian Cowan runway show. The Curvy Con was super inclusive of all body types. They did it right! There's one brand that stood out to me the most and I can't wait for her official line to drop, Tamara Malas.” But Dani says, the concrete jungles of New York is where it was at. “Street style was on point, and that's where you really saw inclusivity. Think of any body type—they were walking the streets of New York Fashion Week. I felt honored and grateful to be in the city during this time. Really shows that things are changing!”
Fashion trends may come and move fast, but the industry’s pace at accepting diversity on the runway and covers of high-fashion glossy magazines has been pretty stagnant, almost reluctant, up until the last few seasons. Today, the fashion industry, designers, and brands appear to gradually be embracing more diverse shapes, sizes, and shades—a movement for representation. “I truly believe this movement is here to stay. I hope no one sees being curvy as a trend. I was born this way, no matter how much I work out, this is my body. The way I was born in not a trend. If a brand really thinks they can get away with not being inclusive from now on after this SS19 NYFW...We should start sending them 'my condolences' cards because clearly they're not getting it. Slowly but surely, fashion really is changing. Every single person in this world is different and each one wants to feel represented. We are NOT all standard sizes.”
Do you feel social media puts pressure on young women to look or be a certain way? Has it affected you?
Yes. 125,000% yes. Photoshop and Facetune can be hard to pick up in some cases. Not saying that every person uses it, but it's hard to pick up natural versus someone that has completely altered themselves. So many of us are out here comparing ourselves to these altered women who don't even actually look like that in real life! Also, following tons of brands and modeling agencies can really mess with you because it's easy to start thinking, "So...do they not call me cause I don't look like that? Do I have to be a Hadid to be noticed? Why are they only casting signed models?" I constantly remind myself that I was purposely created this way and that I will thrive in my own skin at my own time.
Do you think social media has also played a part in how we view models?
Yes! I think social media is a gift and a curse. It helps a model or aspiring model to become known or noticed. I think social media has really helped create this community of women, all different sizes and from all over, who were invisible to the world before, find a voice through these platforms. They've found people who love them and will stand for then no matter what they do.
What's your style? Your go-to off duty outfit?
I'm in a very deep relationship with these items:
My denim jacket.
My black crop top.
My Black skinny sweatpants.
And my gold hoops that have little crosses hanging from them.
Current favorite fashion trend?
Honestly, the fact that the most chic outfits are now being worn with sneakers. I hope this never ever goes away.
Favorite brands to shop from?
What is your must-have beauty product and skin care products?
10-Step Korean Beauty. Hands down. I know it's an overwhelming amount of steps, but I love it. I don't do a mask every morning or night, but I really love what it's done to my skin. I used to have really sandy, grainy texture on my nose, and it's made such an improvement.
Which designer is your dream to walk down the runway for?
Savage X Fenty. Honestly, Rihanna is a dream and anything she does is life changing.
During your modeling career what experiences have you had so far that have been your favorite or stand out?
Casting for NYFW is something I'll never forget. I was expecting for the girls there to be catty and judgmental just because, everyone wants a spot, but I was actually greeted by the kindest most encouraging ladies. Everyone was gassing each other up, sharing tips, and looking out for one another. It was beautiful to witness and experience. Also, two of the most memorable shoots I've had are with A&Bé Bridal and LYNK Studio. I love walking into a set where not a single body is alike—gives me hope for the future!
Do you feel that Latinas are well represented in the fashion industry?
Designers? Short answer, no. BUT, I also may not have knowledge of certain designer roots. Models and representatives? I think it could be better, BUT again, the industry is changing. It's a group project. The designer and team must do their part to express values and pride, and models and teams do their parts as well. It's all about being more vocal about who we are and what we believe in. I think from now until the next fashion week, we're going to seen tons of changes, and I believe even more new faces and topics. This is just the beginning!
What does being Latina mean to you?
I am proud to be Latina. I am proud of my culture. Being Latina to me means hard work, not stopping at anything until you reach your goals. My grandparents worked hard to leave Cuba to give us all a better life. We owe them so much. They taught us work ethic and I do not take anything for granted. Everything I do is to make them proud. Although I don't think they understand my passion for modeling and what Girl Blossom means to me due to language and expression barrier, they believe in my light, and the knowledge that they raised me as best as they could to walk into this world and shake things up. I'm not just a girl from Miami, I'm a walking testimony that immigrant families bring a value to the world that is undeniable.