August 30, 2017

Zarina’s Runway Debut

The waft of arabica roasted beans filters through the studio, attempting to escape the four stark white walls. The wood flooring strives to hide the severity of the artificial lights, while the mirrors taunt the surface imperfections of each individual standing within the room. “I’d love to see more diversity,” Zarina pipes up, distracting us all from our insecurities. To talk wholeheartedly about the skin tone difference between herself and the majority of the models within the Australian industry.

Like many other aspiring models, 22 year old Zarina Copeland was given a call back for auditions regarding her placement with Melbourne Fashion Week 2017, hosted by The City of Melbourne and beginning on the 1st of September.


She’s the perfect build for modelling, with her father an ex-professional basketball player she stands, without heels at 181cm tall. She also has the bonus features of a slim physique and a symmetrical face.

Zarina’s modelling career began by wearing clothes from her mother’s fashion line, and after graduating with her degree in advertising, she decided to explore other avenues for potential career ideas.

With the lack of African representation in the modelling industry, in particular in the shores of Australia, Zarina’s hoping her input can add a little more of a skin tone variation in the line up for the events.

Globally, the presence of models of colour in runway shows has slowly increased. With ‘The Fashion Spot’ conducting a survey that described the Fall 2017 runway shows, in New York, Paris, Milan and London, inclusively having 27.9% of the talent as women of colour, which is more than any other fashion season displayed previously.

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However, with Australia, the inclusivity of races seems to be behind the rest of the world, “You look around, and Melbourne is full of different cultures,” Zarina states matter of factly. The last ABC report cited by marketer Sheba Nandkeolyar claimed Australia was 15 years behind the rest of the world when it came to employing people from different ethnic backgrounds to sell beauty or fashion products.

Being an inspiration to many women of colour, Naomi Campbell who is very successful with her modelling career in America as well as internationally has been an influential woman of colour and additionally a mentor to up and coming models like Zarina. “The way she’s so sassy and knows who she is, makes me want to be like her,” claims Zarina “I do think New York is more accepting of different cultures though.”

Joining with Skin+Pepper Model and Film Agency in August, she saw the opportunity and decided she was ready to commit. “I love the close-knit family experience this agency provides me,” Zarina laughs, warmly.

On signing, her head shots and a video of her walk were sent immediately to Melbourne Fashion Week. The response was a call back for a walk audition in front of a panel. “I’m so nervous to know the outcome.”

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Many Aussies are pushing for a better representative range of models to reflect, rather than disguise, Australia’s varied ethnic makeup.

With the rates of diversity never to fully match New York, it’s easy to see why people are frustrated. A simple search on the internet will display runway shows with one dark skinned model to 15 white models. “Generally people don’t want to see the same look,” Zarina so simply states, echoing the sentiment of many Australians.

Zarina’s hope for the next five years of the fashion industry is for the diversity to spread further, accompanying more ethnic variations and furthering the agenda of a multicultural representation of Australia. You go girl.

By Rhianne Cottam-Starkey