Current Affairs

Trans model Munroe Bergdorf, sacked for calling out racism, performs Maya Angelou poem

Nick Duffy September 14, 2017
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Transgender model Munroe Bergdorf, who was sacked for calling out racist culture, has performed Maya Angelou’s legendary poem Still I Rise.

Munroe Bergdorf lost her lucrative modelling contract with L’Oreal this month after right-wing tabloids took outrage exception to Facebook posts  she had written about the rise of white supremacy.

The trans model, who was set to be the first out transgender woman to front a L’Oreal campaign in the UK, had insisted “ALL white people” were complicit in perpetuating a culture of racist, white supremacist thought.

She has defended herself repeatedly in the wake of the row, using her platform to eloquently challenge white privilege and racism.

The model, who has won a strong following online through the row, this week performed Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’.

In a clip for Dazed Magazine she reads the poem, which is one of the civil rights activist’s best known works.

Ms Bergdorf explained: “I found solace in listening to Maya Angelou on YouTube.

“Her voice helped drown out a lot of the noise going on around me. I was inundated with constant transphobic, racist and violent threats.

“Still I Rise is a poem that I have always felt close to. But for the first time, I truly felt every single word that she was saying.

“This is exactly where I am at in my life right now. I hope that this recital finds someone else in need to Maya’s words, I hope it eases their pain like it did mine.”

The model was recently announced as the face of a campaign for makeup brand Illamasqua, which stepped in after she was dropped by L’Oreal.

Munroe Bergdorf (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Munroe Bergdorf (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

The company said: “As a longstanding Illamasqua collaborator, we are angered to hear that Munroe Bergdorf has been dropped from the L’Oreal True Match Campaign.

“Illamasqua is a brand that stands proudly and unashamedly for diversity and equality.

“We don’t stand or accept any form of racism, but we also believe Munroe’s comments have been edited out of context by a certain media title (who we won’t bother naming) without telling a true story.

“In order for our generation to move forward and create a more inclusive society, it’s not just about showing diversity.

“We must all be free to talk about social issues in a constructive and tolerant way.”

Bergdorf said previously: “When a transgender woman of colour, who has been selected to front up a big brand campaign to combat discrimination and lack of diversity in the beauty industry, speaks on her actual lived experience of being discriminated against because of her race and identifies the root of where that discrimination lies – white supremacy and systemic racism – that big brand cannot simply state that her thoughts are not ‘in line with the ethics of the brand’.

“If you truly want equality and diversity, you need to actively work to dismantle the source of what created this discrimination and division in the first place.

“You cannot just simply cash in because you’ve realised there’s a hole in the market and that there is money to be made from people of colour who have darker skin tones.

“The irony of all this is that L’Oréal Paris invited me to be part of a beauty campaign that ‘stands for diversity’.

“Racism may be a jagged pill to swallow, but I suggest you force it down quickly if you want to be part of the solution. Doing nothing, does nothing and solves nothing.”

Related topics: Gay, LGBT, maya angelou, munroe bergdorf, poem, Trans, Transgender

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