Representation Matters: Why blogger Yasmin O'Connor is campaigning for diversity in the media
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
By Clodagh Meaney
If you visit the magazine racks at any shop, and take a look at the covers of women's magazines, you are sure to notice that the majority of the cover models are white, straight-sized, cisgender women.
One person who wants to change that, is blogger and mother of four, Yasmin.
"I started my blog Glitter Mama Wishes after leaving the beauty industry. I wanted to connect with other mothers and people with an interest in beauty. I feel like I've created a nice little community of like-minded people now. I often speak about my own experience of rape and victim blaming, also depression and anxiety as a mom. Abortion rights and campaigning for Repeal the 8th was something I was heavily involved in too. I'm a proud feminist to be honest and I'm not ashamed of using that word for myself.
"About 3 years ago it struck me how all the magazine covers had the same type of models on them. Not just being slim and one body type but they were all white too. The lack of diversity was stark. I noticed it was the same month after month too. It made me very sad and angry too at the erasure of colour when that is not what Ireland is at all."
In response, she started a petition called 'Representation Matters Ireland' calling for the media to 'make a more conscious effort to include more diversity on their covers. All our generation deserve to be represented, seen and heard' which at the time of publishing has 800+ signatures.
"Representation matters is basically a global movement to bring awareness to the fact that we all want to be able to see ourselves in the world around us" Yasmin told us.
"The media, in particular, has a huge influence on how much diversity we see. I felt like in Ireland we didn't have much diversity at all and that conversation really needed to start being had so I created Representation Matters Ireland"
"I asked my friend and fellow blogger, Emma Murphy her thoughts on the need for the campaign as she has 2 children who are mixed race and she said she felt it was much needed. I then asked her if she wanted to be involved as a mother who is raising mixed race children in Ireland, she was delighted to be on board, as am I."
Anne Morgan from Distinct Model Management is among Yasmin's supporters, as well as a modelling agency, Not Another Agency.
"We strongly feel that diversity in the modelling industry should not mean just filling a quota" they told Yasmin.
"The fashion industry of Ireland has a responsibility to show the diversity of our country right now. There is still a long way to go with this but we feel it has gotten much better since we started our agency. There was a huge lack of diversity, especially with race and size when we started and this really prompted us to start and try and break the mould. We are delighted to see the strides that have been made, but there are still many more to go!”
As a mother to four young children, Representation matters to Yasmin because she wants all children to feel that they matter.
"Representation matters to me because I firmly believe all children of all races deserve to see themselves in the world around them If children grow up not seeing themselves represented in the world or media around them they grow up feeling they don't matter: that their voice does not matter. All people matter no matter their race and we need our multicultural society represented in Irish media."
Stylist and fashionista Oyindamola grew up in Ireland. She is also the owner of sunglasses company, Brand258. She told us about her relationship with representation in Irish media:
"I don’t think WOC are represented in Irish media whatsoever but I appreciate that there are some attempts that have been made over the last couple of years."
"I could probably count the number of times on 2 fingers where I have seen a darker skin model being used on a cover that I have noticed. I used to think there was a chance that I could be missing out on the covers but as a stylist and producer, I actively keep my eye out for visuals so I don’t think that’s the case anymore."
"When I was younger, yes it would have been nice to see some representation but I have learnt the hard way that that isn’t a possibility.
It’s part of the reason as to why when I started @brand258 I made a conscious decision to make sure that darker-skinned models were my forefronts and not tokens."
However, the idea of diversity is something that no longer has meaning to her. "Diversity is such a boring concept to me now, it’s so diluted and the meaning means nothing to me now, personally. It’s a buzz word that we throw around in our line of creative work and I’m done.
Now on a national scale, yes, the inclusion of more people who look different would probably help with diversity and to be fair, I see attempts being made but sometimes the inclusion ends up looking forced and the darker model is there as a token. Now as a person that likes to reflect, I understand that for Irish magazines and media, at least they are trying and I should appreciate an attempt but then it’s like I should say thank you for scraps?"
"But look here, Ireland is only small and we are slowly growing and learning and maybe one day including everyone will be the norm and nothing special."
An Irish woman of colour herself, Yasmin doesn't think that the media is representative of Irish society.
"I would love Irish media need to make a more conscious effort to include people of colour on their magazine covers. One token model of colour a year is not good enough or representative of our society. Listen to
what we, women of colour are saying, we don’t want to be erased from magazine covers anymore. There are plenty of talented models of colour to choose from. Plenty of talented Irish people of colour to choose from if only they were given the same exposure as white people."
You can sign the petition here.
Radio interview with DCFM
Blog: Glitter Mama Wishes