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Model Bianca Alexa Calls for Beauty to Get Diverse Behind the Scenes

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Bianca Alexa is a UK-made, Puerto Rican-raised model based in Los Angeles. While she never could have imagined that a little island girl would one day build a career as the face of several fashion and beauty campaigns, Bianca has managed to work her way into an industry that so often has held little room for diversity.

Her curly natural hair and complexion were outwardly celebrated in beauty campaigns, but behind the scenes, she often found herself in an experience that was quite isolating. In spite of her challenges, her story is an inspiring one that encourages models and influencers of color to do one thing: never give up.

A Model in the Making

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Bianca saw a monolithic standard of beauty that encouraged her to try to fit the mold set before her. For most of her life, she wore her hair long, blonde, and straight—until damage forced her to cut off all of her hair and begin a natural hair journey. She also held onto the belief that as a woman under 5’5”, a modeling career was out of the cards for her. Ironically enough, it was her natural hair journey that catapulted her modeling career.

“I was used to having straight, long hair my whole life, so when I first cut off my hair it was a major adjustment,” says Bianca. “In the Latino community, having straight, relaxed hair was seen as most beautiful, so my Puerto Rican mother and my Dominican grandmother were not supportive of my big chop at first. Thankfully, my friends and my now-husband encouraged me to go for it. It took a few months to get in the groove, but blogs like Curly Nikki, Naptural85, and Mahogany Curls were my go-to resources to learn what worked for me. Slowly, I saw my curls pop and start to grow out, and I just wanted to help others through their own journeys.”

Bianca innocently created her first Youtube video to surprising viral support, and began to pursue modeling more seriously. “For the first time, I felt confident and at peace with my natural hair, and I just wanted to share with anyone else who was going through that same journey so that they could find joy in their own hair,” explains Bianca. “It was so liberating for me, and after years of forcing it, I can’t even describe the sense of peace I now have about my natural beauty.”

Challenging the Industry

Bianca began to build her portfolio by test-shooting with photographers and posting the shots to her Instagram. She was even able to book her first national campaign without having a modeling agency behind her. While the professional sets she worked on were full of hair and makeup artists, she often found that they were clueless when it came to styling her hair and doing her makeup—an experience that often felt both frustrating and isolating.

“I used to feel like it was just a given that I would have to do my hair myself for photoshoots because unfortunately, the hairstylist on set would never know how to do it, and if they tried, they would mess it up. So I would do my best to get the brand’s direction and show up with my hair prepared, and I always communicated beforehand that I don’t use heat on my hair, even though sometimes it would make me appear ‘difficult,’” Bianca shares.

“So when June arrived and all of a sudden all of these brands came out with overwhelming support of black people when they’d never worked with them before, it was super triggering. Rather than honestly admitting they’d missed the mark, it felt as though brands were just on a mission not to get canceled. I had to speak out because I was pissed.”

Bianca took to social media to call out the industry to rise to the occasion, stating:

“I’ve had the pleasure to work with some brands that have worked really hard to be inclusive and diverse, but I also know there are a lot of brands that are just jumping on the bandwagon. I think it’s important for brands to recognize the power that they have to create the diversity that is needed...When you are hiring black models and people of different hair textures, make sure you hire professionals that know how to work with different hair textures and different skin tones.”

As Bianca shared her experiences online, several other models of color came forward to share that they’d had the same stories while working. “When I made the video sharing my experience, so many people reached out to me to tell me they’ve experienced the same uncomfortable moments on set. For example, going on modeling castings, I’ve literally heard, ‘Oh we have one black model, we don’t need another.’” This is blatant discrimination that happens all too often within the industry.

The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition to ensure protection against discrimination against race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools. While this is slowly creating new standards across corporate America, the beauty world still has to catch up.

“The industry still has a long way to go,” says Bianca. “Especially now we’ll see brands try to include racially ambiguous people to check the box, but they’re not truly ready to be more inclusive. We all know that the algorithm favors white faces, so brands might not get as many likes when posting black or brown people—which doesn’t encourage them to continue to do it. It takes a lot to make that shift in a genuine way, and I feel like we’re just not there yet.

“As the one black model on set, you feel othered when everyone else is getting creative hair and makeup, and you’re left alone because nobody knows what to do with you. When I work with people that are skilled in diverse hair and makeup, it’s encouraging and makes me feel so much more included on set.”

To Aspiring Models of Color

Bianca has managed to find opportunities for herself without being backed by an agency. She says, “Honestly, I’m sure [having an agent] would help a ton. But I’ve had really bad experiences with agencies and talent managers— especially as a black creator in LA. I once missed out on a major campaign when I passed over the contact I was working with to an agent that didn’t have my best interest at heart. Thankfully, I’ve been able to book a lot of great jobs solo, but there’s a lot of doors that aren’t open because it’s all about who you know in the industry and who’s backing you.” In spite of this experience, Bianca’s advice to other aspiring models of color is:

“Don’t give up. Practice as much as you can to know your poses and angles so that you can feel confident in front of the camera. Also, build your portfolio by working with photography students (vetted obviously), and if you do want to get an agent, go to their go-sees, and don’t get discouraged. If you hear a no, keep going because somebody else will love your look and everything that you have to offer.”

What’s Next for Bianca?

When Bianca isn’t creating content or being glamorous in front of a camera, she is also a wife and mother. Like many others, Bianca was a bit nervous about how getting pregnant and having a baby would change her career and her body. But she says that motherhood put all of those concerns to rest. She explains, “My priorities are different now.

Modeling was always my greatest dream but now, it’s my son. I never in a million years would’ve thought growing up in Puerto Rico that I would be in magazines and on billboards. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my career but right now, I want to spend as much time with him as possible. My focus has shifted a lot but I’m still open to new modeling opportunities in the future. Recently, I decided I wanted to focus on something that reflects my community and is sustainable for my schedule.”

Also, you’re the first to hear that Bianca is working on her own clothing brand! Launching early 2021, you can expect to see a non-seasonal resort wear collection, inspired by her Caribbean heritage. With effortless clothing and relaxed fits, she hopes to evoke the feelings she has while on her trips home to Puerto Rico into every piece. Until then, you can follow her on Instagram where she spreads joy and plenty of style and beauty inspiration.

Want more Beauty Through the Black Lens? Learn how Ndeye Peinda is breaking the stereotypical beauty mold, hear from makeup artist Renée Loiz about her work to diversify your beauty cabinet, and learn about dermatologist Adeline Kikam's (a.k.a. @brownskinderm) strive for wellness in skin of color.

Feeling inspired by Bianca’s love for beauty, and want to experiment with your own IPSY Glam Bag? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated December 28, 2020 12:00 AM