What Precious Lee and Candice Huffine Really Think of Fashion’s Diversity Problem By Olivia Fleming

Outspoken and unconventional, these brazen women are beacons of change who refuse to conform, inspiring people around the world to fight for what they believe in. Here, models Precious Lee and Candice Huffine open up about diversity—or lack thereof—in the fashion industry for our 2018 #WomenWhoDare conversation series.


Candice Huffine: What I was thinking about today in the shower—it’s where all my best thoughts come from—

Precious Lee: Duh.

Candice: I was washing my hair vigorously and I was thinking, it’s not brave to be curvy and proud. This is our life.

Precious: You mean when people say, “Yay for you for being happy and chunky”?

Candice: It’s brave what we’re doing—we’re brave for demanding respect and representation—but we’re not brave for living in our bodies.

Precious: I don’t think someone’s body should be a trend.

Candice: Or your skin color. Or your age. Or your religion. Or your—

Precious: Or whatever’s hot right now. For me, when people are like, “Oh my God, you’re just so confident…” As if you shouldn’t be, because you’re a different size, or because you don’t look like whatever their ideal is. I know a lot of curvy girls who are genuinely happy with their bodies. They’re genuinely happy being curvy and not interested in losing weight.

Candice: There’s endless misconceptions that we’re constantly trying to debunk. One of the simple ones is that the curvy girl isn’t into fashion. She’s not fashionable, she doesn’t want trends. We’ve already clearly made that known that we want fashion, as well. Another one that’s always bothered me is that it’s hard to get to a good place with your body. And look, we’re all human and we’re all women, and yes there are days where it’s not all rainbows and love, but not all curvy women have tried and failed at being skinny and are just now at a good place with their body. There’s so many of us who have just been living like this all the time and are cool with it. So to make it feel like your body is a trend, and that it’s cool right now, I’m kind of like, “I’ve been cool with it for a long time, I’m good.”

Precious: I think the focus should be less on trying to figure out how we feel about our bodies. I went through this phase where I had to wear certain designers on red carpets just to prove them wrong. I’m a naturally fashionable person. I’m not afraid to mix and match and do high-lows from price points to colors to prints, but it’s important to remain within my truth and wear things that I want to wear without focusing on trying to convince designers that curvy women are worthy enough for their product. Most curvy girls now are automatically considered activists or—

Candice: Somebody tried to put activist next to my name the other day and I was like, “am I though?”

Precious: I do think you can be considered an activist, but just because you’re curvy and you’re a model does not mean you are an activist.

Candice: It means you are living your life. I get knocked back a little bit with a harsh reality that people aren’t really totally down with our bodies. I had some weird experiences at fashion week and I’m just like, “I don’t know if you want me here for the right reasons.” I had a stylist tell me in one of the fittings to not eat carbs until the show and the show was four days away. I just felt, in that moment, that meant my body wasn’t truly accepted as-is. There’s still a fine print. I’m concerned with when the trend moves on to something else next year—like curves are not the hot topic and then something else will be, and we will be tokenized. Or, will we be in a good enough place where “curves” doesn’t have to be a hot topic—it’s just a way of life where we will always end up in every campaign and conversation because we’ve made enough change and progress? I just want to make sure that everyone’s doing it for the right reasons—that it’s not just a tick of a box so that the brand can feel hot at that moment.

Precious: I think that’s an obvious truth for a lot of people right now. You see it all the time. A lot of designers are trying to meet a quota, their curvy quota, which is one or two models. That goes for women of different races as well.

Candice: You being curvy and black, is pushing through a ton of doors.

Precious: The ideal model, they look nothing like me. They’re not curvy, they’re not black, they’re not brown and black. What really propels me forward is not necessarily trying to prove people wrong anymore, but realizing that I am defying so many odds just by being in certain situations. But it’s this quota and sometimes you feel like, “oh you should appreciate it,” or “oh they actually had a couple of black girls in the show,” or “they actually had a ‘curve’ girl in the show.”

People ask us all the time, how did I get into modeling? I’m starting to tell girls, “look, there are so many different jobs in this industry: you could be a photographer, an art director, a producer, a creative director.” I start to say that to people and there’s a bit of disappointment, but those are the jobs and positions that are really going to alter our universe. You’re working with these brands that are saying they’re trying to create more diversity, but then there’s no diversity behind the scenes. Can the meetings that happen when brands make their decisions include at least one person of color, or at least one person that is curvy, or at least one person who could wear the product that they’re talking about?

Candice: When a magazine is like, “oh this is such a victory, it’s the third black girl to ever take the cover of this magazine,” that is amazing for her, but that’s also embarrassing. Why hasn’t there been more? Why has there been three in the history of your publication? Same with Awkwafina on SNL, the first Asian host in 18 years. When you put the big headline or the big victory with it—we have so many firsts—it’s like, why did that take so long?

Precious: When people ask me questions like, “Precious, what is it that you think can change the industry?” I’m like, I actually think a better question would be, why don’t you ask that designer why they aren’t making clothes for me? Why is the camera not turned around on the industry? Why is it on the models?

Candice: Who sometimes have so little say. I’m almost two decades in this career and I only just feel like I have a voice that’s being heard, only in the past few years, and that’s probably because of social media. I can actually share my own message because prior to that there wasn’t a place to share it, or anyone to even care or listen.

Precious: Why are people not asking designers why they’re not using curve girls? You see editors have conversations with designers all the time, but then the question never comes up: “why did you decide to exclude this large population of women that make up the average population in the entire United States of America?” Why is that something that’s not being asked? Those are the questions and the boundaries that need to be pushed to really, really start to make a change. We’ve been throwing our hips and tits around for years and I am very grateful for my career being where it is in this short amount of time—I moved here in 2012, and I’ve checked off so many goals on my list—but I feel like with the way things are progressing, there’s no excuse for it to be at this pace where we have wait and see each season what [the brands] are going to do.

Candice: I love, though, in the meantime—we might not be able to change the actual industry quickly or sufficiently enough in certain areas, but what we can do is change the personal life of a woman; a woman at home because social media exists and we can have that connection instead of waiting for a magazine to put you in the pages for the woman to see it. Maybe we’re not going to be able to change some brand’s whole ethos of operation—that’s the goal, that’s the plan—but in the meantime, we can make a personal impact about how a woman feels about herself and that’s a whole different kind of job. That’s incredible.

Precious: Of course we’re going to be connecting to the people who follow us and support us, but I think the industry is doing a disservice to all of the people that we don’t have access to, you know what I mean?

Precious: Why are people not asking designers why they’re not using curve girls? You see editors have conversations with designers all the time, but then the question never comes up: “why did you decide to exclude this large population of women that make up the average population in the entire United States of America?” Why is that something that’s not being asked? Those are the questions and the boundaries that need to be pushed to really, really start to make a change. We’ve been throwing our hips and tits around for years and I am very grateful for my career being where it is in this short amount of time—I moved here in 2012, and I’ve checked off so many goals on my list—but I feel like with the way things are progressing, there’s no excuse for it to be at this pace where we have wait and see each season what [the brands] are going to do.

Candice: I love, though, in the meantime—we might not be able to change the actual industry quickly or sufficiently enough in certain areas, but what we can do is change the personal life of a woman; a woman at home because social media exists and we can have that connection instead of waiting for a magazine to put you in the pages for the woman to see it. Maybe we’re not going to be able to change some brand’s whole ethos of operation—that’s the goal, that’s the plan—but in the meantime, we can make a personal impact about how a woman feels about herself and that’s a whole different kind of job. That’s incredible.

Precious: Of course we’re going to be connecting to the people who follow us and support us, but I think the industry is doing a disservice to all of the people that we don’t have access to, you know what I mean?

Candice: For sure.

Precious: For example, if I was 12 years old right now—my niece is 12 and I think about her a lot—and I had Instagram, what would my life be? I just feel like, although we have our platforms, which we’re both so very grateful for, we’re supporting and promoting an industry that is so slow to change. I automatically think about girls who look at their first magazine and what they’re going to see and how much of an indelible moment that will be for them—to flip through and flip through and to never see anybody who looks like them. It’s something that I think about when I do the things that I do. Because what’s more innovative than a size 14 black woman on the cover of a major publication? Why does the creative freedom stop at certain levels and what can we do to let kids know in the meantime, like, hey we’re working on it—maybe by the time you get to 20 and my tits are in my shoes we’ll have real diversity [laughs]. I just think it’s something that we should take more seriously, especially in the times we’re living right now. Where people are looking to fashion, people are looking to music, we have such a huge opportunity to uplift women and kids and shape these malleable minds that are so young—why wouldn’t now be the time?

Candice: You can’t say you’re a company for women or about women or serving women if you don’t represent all of them. It’s started, there’s cracks in the foundation for sure—

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