The Role Of Race

Everyone knows that a successful model boasts an enviable weight, height and bone structure, but must she also have the right color skin? It's a question the fashion industry has not entirely resolved

James Scully says he "flipped" the first time he saw pictures of model Liya Kebede three years ago, but the fashion-industry casting agent had trouble finding others whose enthusiasm matched his. Liya had already spent a couple of years in Chicago slogging away at catalog work, the style world's equivalent of toiling off-off-Broadway. When Liya moved to New York City in 2000, Scully took her portfolio around to designers and advertisers, who unfailingly turned him away. "The line I'd always get was, 'Wait until she's more experienced,'" he says. It wasn't until Tom Ford cast Liya in his show for Gucci...

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