The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If You Don’t Like The Blues Brothers, Be Like A Supermodel …

So this is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

Specifically in terms of people in a position of power creating the physical and economic conditions for people of colour to prosper.

I don’t just mean giving people of colour a job, I mean fighting for them to have the platform to win in terms of respect, influence and pay.

Yesterday I wrote how Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi ensured the musicians in The Blues Brothers kept their performing rights for all the music they wrote/played, so they – and their families – would continue to profit every time a song or the movie was performed.

Well I recently heard of another example of this.

Naomi Campbell is an icon of the modelling industry.

But it wasn’t always like that.

In fact, if the industry had its way, it would never have happened.

In an interview, she said this …

“I used to have to fight for the same fee as my [white] counterparts doing the same job”.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Still happening each and every day in each and every way.

In fact it’s worse for the average person of colour – or woman – because they don’t have the scale of awareness or influence an international model has. So when they speak up about pay discrepancy, they immediately get labelled a ‘trouble maker’ or a ‘not a team player’ and find themselves either sidelined or, in some situations, fired.

But back to Naomi …

You see after she’d talked about the situation she faced in the early days of the industry, she went on to add …

“Thankfully, my friends Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington called out this treatment and told designers that if they didn’t hire me, they wouldn’t work for them”.

It is important to note this is not white saviour shit.

Or charity.

Linda and Christy never talked about what they did, nor have they ever sought credit or payment. In fact, had Naomi not talked about it, it may never have come out at all. But it is important it did because like yesterday’s post, it’s another example of people in a position of privilege – ie: white people – recognising and valuing the talent of someone they know the industry will chose to ignore and actively using their power to force a situation where they will be treated and paid well for their talent, expertise and influence.

There are some other examples I’ve heard – blues great, B.B. King said Elvis did a similar thing to ensure he cold play in the profitable venues of Las Vegas – but frankly, it’s still the exception rather than the rule and the situation is not getting any better.

In fact I could argue it’s probably getting worse because there is more awareness and supposed openness than ever before and yet things are still not happening.

But here’s the thing, it’s not enough to want to change the situation.

Just like it’s not enough to not be racist.

The reality is you have to hate racism enough to act against it.

Not just with words, but with actionable behaviour … where we use our inherent white privilege to not just talk about diversity and inclusion, but actively fight to create real, sustainable, economically prosperous opportunities for people of colour to win.

Not because we want to look good.

Not because we want people to be in our debt.

Not even because it’s the right thing to do.

But because their talent, their way of looking at the world, their understanding of what culture and creativity is – and can be – and their understanding of others will make us all better.


And what’s more, they’re happy to share the benefits of this with all of us.

Maybe giving the industry we all work in a chance to not keel over and die.

Hell, we don’t deserve any of it but they still are willing to do it.

Christ, we don’t even have to give anything up, we just have to make space for them to be respected and rewarded for their talent, expertise and influence.

Which means there’s now only one thing to decide.

Are you going to be a Blues Brother or a Supermodel?

17 Comments so far
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I’ll take the supermodel. You can have the blues brothers.

Comment by Billy Whizz

On brand. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

I love Naomi. And now I love Christy and Linda.

Comment by Jemma King

I’ve always loved Naomi … partly because we share the same surname, and part of it was because she was so strong and elegant. That the industry were rejecting her says how little it was ever about beauty, female empowerment or whatever else they have claimed to represent.

Comment by Rob

hasnt naomi had enough shit to deal without you needing to be her virtual fucking brother?

Comment by andy@cynic

Another great example of what anyone in a senior position can do to drive D&I change. I think it is fantastic you are pushing this agenda Robert. It has existed in the ad industry for decades but comes in bursts of noise then disappears. That you are continually pushing and provoking the need to make change and providing examples of how it can be done could end up being your most important work.

Comment by George

We can all do that. Everyone of us. Doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the Blues Brothers or Linda and Christy [but it would be amazing if it was] … the key is we do stuff rather than just say it then let it fade away.

It’s become one of the most important issues in my life and I feel I have a lot of time to make up for.

Comment by Rob

Good on Linda and Christy for doing that. Even better for not trying to trade off it. I can’t imagine many white leaders doing that without trying to take some sort of credit for it.

Comment by Pete

By the way, you are not doing this Rob. I agree with George that what you’re doing is both important and from a place designed to create real change.

Comment by Pete

I get what you’re saying and I am sure some will accuse me of trying to put myself on a pedestal. I can’t help that, but what I know is the issue is one that should be far more progressed than it is and if I can be a loud mouth and a door opener for the PoC who have the door constantly slammed in their face or told they don’t fit in, then I’m good with that.

What reinforces it is this tweet John Dodds sent me yesterday from an account called ‘Urban_Teacher’:

“I interviewed 7 graduates from 7 different universities who are completing their first year in a tech job. Their experiences broke my heart. Some were pressured to pursue non tech roles, harassed on their academic background…They felt they didn’t belong in these companies.”

He may be talking about tech jobs, but from the conversations I’ve had, it could so easily be about adland. How are we going to make things better when we push away the talent that actually wants to be part of us? How is the tech industry going to bring on bright talent when their passion is killed off at the very point it could be made brighter?

Comment by Rob

One of the main reasons tech uses South East Asian talent so much is because they get amazing brains for a fraction of US market rates. You talk about the ad industry having a problem with D&I, every industry does. Your post is as applicable to tech as it is to advertising.

Comment by Bazza

Very true Baz.

I am also assuming the basic argument is “yes we pay them lower that people from other countries but compared to their home country, they’re being paid handsomely”.

OK, I doubt they say those exact words, but it’s implied. I saw a lot of that in China. A LOT.

Comment by Rob

Love everything about this Robert. Well done.

Comment by Mary Bryant

You have written a couple of very important posts Robert. In addition, you have also highlighted how easy it is for people in positions of privilege to make a difference. It’s shameful how few appear to have. Me included. It must stop and it starts with our own attitude and actions.

Comment by Lee Hill

its the only way you will become super of any kind.
except super fucking jammy.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH

OK Rob, you’ve done a good week of posts. I know that means next week will be back to your usual rubbish but these past 2 days have been great. I hope lots of people read it, learn from it and do something because of it.

Comment by DH

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