Casting Director James Scully Calls for Reform of the Fashion Industry’s Overt Racism and Discrimination

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James Scully at VOICES. Photo: Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Casting director James Scully, who has been a major player in the fashion world for several decades, revealed he no longer recognizes the industry in a powerful talk at the Business of Fashion annual VOICES event. While fashion once celebrated the beauty and diversity of women, Scully says the industry is now marked by racism, discrimination, and bullying.

Scully spoke of his experience working in fashion in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “You would look at a Calvin Klein show and there were 28 black girls, and it wasn’t just because they were black,” he said. “That was the business and everyone was there, and you took from the most beautiful girls you could find.” But now, the very things that made each model unique — their size, race, and personalities — are totally disadvantaged, Scully noted.

The former Harper’s Bazaar bookings editor believes the industry has been “hijacked” by a group of stylists, casting directors, and photographers who seem to go out of their way to prove how much they dislike women. Casting directors are now being told not to cast black or Asian models, according to Scully, who added that he once worked with a photographer who refused to shoot a model because she was black.

On top of that, female models are now expected to look like boys, instead of women, he said. Scully explained that he once encountered a stylist who used Ace bandages to cover up models’ breasts and knees for a shoot so that they wouldn’t look like girls. This treatment of young models leads them to go to extremes to stay as thin as possible, often subsiding on mostly Adderall and Red Bull for months at a time before they crash.

“We’ve become desensitized to the way we treat these girls and just discard them. It’s so much more sadistic and so much more mean than you can believe. We have to support girls more and stop treating them like Tinder swipes,” Scully said.

The casting director called on fashion’s biggest companies to investigate what these people are doing on their behalf. “It’s incredibly unprofessional and petty and ridiculous and an insult to the person who actually hired you to do your job,” he said.

Fashion Casting Director Calls Out Industry’s Racism