Chanel Iman Covers 'The Edit,' Says 'In The Fashion Industry There's Only One Black Girl Allowed'

Beauty & Style | Bené Viera | 03/26/2014 | 10:00 AM EDT

Model Chanel Iman covers 'The Edit' magazine, talks racism, Beyoncé, Lupita Nyongo's win and gaining weight as a model

Model Chanel Iman was popping in the fashion world long before Beyoncé featured her in the visual for “Yonce.” By the age of 18 she’d already landed the coveted cover of Vogue.


Don’t ask Chanel Iman a question if you don’t want to hear the honest answer. And if talking about racism makes you uncomfortable, so be it— Chanel’s still going to speak frankly. The long-legged beauty graces Net-A-Porter’s The Edit proving she has much more to offer than just a pretty face.


The journalist noticed Chanel was the supermodel who didn't just say she loves to eat, but truly does. After hearing about how skinny she was her entire life, she's happy to gain the weight.


“I’ve been skinny my whole life,” the 23-year-old supermodel said. “And now that I’m getting older I’m gaining weight. I love it, because when you’re teased at school and everyone’s always asking ‘Do you eat?’, it’s like being bullied.”


Not everyone in the industry has adjusted to her weight gain, though. In the 10 years she's had a successful modeling career she's recently overheard clients say, ‘Oh she’s getting so big!’


"But that only makes me think 'yay!'" she insists. "When models are criticized for being too thin, it’s just another form of bullying. It would make me feel so insecure when people used to say that about me, because you’re not allowed to go around telling people that they’re too fat and asking ‘Do you ever stop eating?’, are you?”


Chanel signed her first modeling contract at 13 and became one of Victoria’s Secrets youngest models in the brands history.


She moved to NYC alone at the age of 15 to pursue modeling full time. She says she had to grow up fast and sometimes wishes she’d had regular high school years, but had she not started so young she wouldn’t be where she is today. Yet as far as she’s come she said the fashion industry has a long way to go when it comes to diversity.


It’s partly why Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar brought her to tears.


“All my friends and I were holding hands in front of the television, willing her to win. Then when she did it was like we had been given the award. Because I really believe that having a black woman win an Oscar is going to help pave the way, not just in her industry, but mine.”


When asked if she ever feared speaking out about racism in the fashion industry she said 'no' because she’s only telling the truth.


“I don’t think so,” she said about fear of telling the press about clients that have told her they've already found one black girl and don't need another. “Because I was just saying things that were true. When people ask me questions, I’ll tell them how I feel.”


One of the reasons she loves Beyoncé is because she feels Bey casted her, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls to show there doesn’t only have to be one black girl, and that black women are far more powerful united opposed to divided.


"Beyoncé is such a great woman,” she told The Edit. “So positive and uplifting. All three of us models are very successful in our careers, but because in the fashion industry ‘there’s only one black girl allowed’, they’ve made us compete to be that one girl. Beyoncé allowed us to show the world that we don’t have to fight against each other. She gave us the chance to see that we are far more powerful together.”

(Photos: Net-A-Porter's The Edit Magazine, April 2014)

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