Most of you have been directed here to read the events that lead me to work for Gothic Lolita Wigs (abbr. for Gothic Lolita Wigs) as their newest spokes model, which will be covered here shortly.
For anyone who does not know anything about this wig company, they sell wigs designed for cosplay, lolita, natural and drag queen styles.
In all of my online Japanese fashion communities, everyone grew to know the name of GLW when they started to expand their company. Needless to say, I was thrilled to own my first wig of theirs after buying the rose colored Rhapsody wig on Cyber Monday. All in all, it was a pleasant experience! So I looked forward to future opportunities to collect more of their wigs when they’d go on sale.
Since then, they became successful enough to take their muses to conventions and fashion shows which motivated me to step my game up to work with them. In other words, they inspired me!
Fast forward, it’s 2015 and I logged into my Facebook to discover a racially insensitive image shared by the Rockstar Wigs Facebook fanpage. A lot of people by now have seen it, but if not click here and it is the first image on the post. I was one of those people who immediately declared I would no longer support GLW again. To say the least, I was repulsed by the lack of consideration of black PoC who supported this company as it has grown into the size it became. I even left a comment stating so on that post because I was so angry for believing in a company that didn’t have consideration for their black customers. The post was taken down as it was upsetting their followers, and they attempted to find some kind of appropriate resolution.
As time went on, the trending topic slowly died down and before I knew it, Anime Matsuri 2015 weekend came up. Lo and behold, GLW was present with an elaborate booth. We all naturally gravitated towards the free candy and colorful photo booth they had there, but I didn’t have much intention to spend my money while browsing. As we scanned the area and took our selfies, a man with glasses approached me kindly complimenting my look. I thanked him and proceeded to take pictures in front of their photo booth after he encouraged me to do so. In this moment, I had no clue who he was but I just assumed he worked for the company. Little did I know that I was speaking to one of the co-owners, John Reger.
He and I spoke about keeping in contact with each other after I was informed how they were searching for new site models. In my head, I was torn. Part of me said to not even give him the time of day after what the Facebook post revealed about their controversy. The other part of me wanted to have him thoroughly explain the point of the post in hopes that there was a potential misunderstanding. In the end, I accepted his card and shortly after the convention, reached out to him via email.
We spoke and he informed me that he wanted to send me some wigs to try out and take pictures of for the site. Before I gave him confirmation to send the wigs, I asked if I could speak to him about some concerns I had with representing their company. Luckily for me, he made the time to have a conversation with me over the phone soon after that.
For over an hour, I learned a lot about John, the company, his family, GLW staff, and their values. Did anyone who already knew about GLW also know that their staff consists of predominately PoC? Neither did I. It’s actually noticeable on their about us page here. Did you know that their MUA is Marc Harvey? Marc Harvey who is this man here:
Again, neither did I.
To condense our hour long phone call into a few sentences, I explained to John how upset the communities I was apart of were with the post from earlier this year. I also expressed how it wasn’t what I would want to represent and is the opposite of what I stood for. Then I asked if he could give me a better understanding on why it was allowed on the page to begin with.
After I was done, he went into how the character was not to resemble Jezebel as people concluded. While they are observable aspects that make a connection to that archetype, there are some notable pieces of information that have been overlooked about where the term.
In the drag queen community, the word jezebel is said to be commonly used, hence why the Jezebel wig was fitting to their designer who chose that name. Anna, GLW Operations Manager, let me know the wig was popular and remained on the site for more than two years prior to people bringing it up.
Once they were aware of the concerns given from their customers about it, they removed the picture and followed up with an apology in efforts to avoid offending anyone. Interestingly, there is an old movie called Jezebel Anna gave me as a reference to clarify that the intent of naming the wig was not to disrespect the image of black women, but rather to portray the characteristics from the protagonist in the film.
Inspiration of the wig’s name derived from this definition of Jezebel:
noun Jez·e·bel ˈje-zə-ˌbel
Definition of JEZEBEL
After learning this, I had to still state how the act was careless. But even so, I couldn’t help to notice an authentically earnest tone in his voice as he spoke to me. It also didn’t dawned on me that there are different divisions that work for bigger companies. So the entire company as a whole doesn’t always necessarily agree with every executive decision.
Another accusation GLW got was segregating all of the black models to a different site from the others they already had up with the other models. The site was called Dollite which catered towards black women interested in natural colored wigs. Volunteer intern, Elizabeth Losoya, replied to those concerned on a Facebook thread, but understand that English is her second language. I will try to interpret certain points made in her response:
To reword some of this, she stated that they brighten the image of their skin to create a more dolly look. She also said the best way to market towards black women is to take away the kawaii aesthetic of the models.
The last point seems fair to my standards, and here is why.
Customer profiles for targeted demographics to any business is a commonly practiced marketing technique. Even your small businesses do this to ensure they are getting exposed to the right potential buyer of their product. This same method is taught in a lot of business and marketing courses at my university as well, that I have even taken. Are there generalizations made in this process? Of course. Is it effective in appealing to the majority of the demographic your company is trying to appeal to? Of course. Studies are made to learn more about what particular groups of people like and do not like so that businesses can learn more about who they are selling their products towards.
To put it simply, what I think Elizabeth was getting at was that there needed to be a site where black women in the market could see a mirror of themselves. Black women in everyday attire, make up and most importantly hair. As such, this calls for models that most accurately represented them in as opposed to the models seen on the other GLW sites.
Quite honestly, I can see why they thought of executing this idea. Not only is it efficient, but it is fair to the actual customers of the wigs displayed on these sites.
So let’s think of the sheer quantity of black women who want natural hair colors with little to no interest in cosplay and kawaii fashions. Personally, I pictured a lot just now that it made my head hurt. Their needs would not be met on the sites of GLW, so the business would easily miss out on a large group of customers as a consequence. Having that said, it does to a large degree make sense when assessing who the customer is, what do they find most attractive and give it to them on an inviting site. Relating with their customer in other words. When I shop for naturally colored wigs, 80% of the time I search for them on women closest to my skin tone.
What GLW did here was make that process easier by providing a site for black women to see other black women wear wigs they wanted to buy. From that point of view, this seems like a harmless act that got thrown into the controversy with little inspection.
Let’s talk about this one.
Claims of dark skinned women being lightened were said to be false by Reger during our phone call, as he informed me that they do not alter skin tones during any part of the photo editing process. The same can be said about how their MUA does the make up for all of the models in their studio. Mr. Harvey and James worked on my own personal shoots and neither of the two modified the appearance of my skin tone.
See for yourselves:
|click to enlargen|
For the last 23 years, I have woken up with the same skin every single day. So it’d be wise to trust me when I say that they kept the color of my skin in these photos as close to what it looked like on the day of this shoot.
In regards to Elizabeth’s comment on brightening the skin, I feel differently. Based on my own personal experience with photography and videography, brightening the skin isn’t always necessary under perfect lighting conditions. Fortunately, this was the case with my own photos after using their superb lighting set up in their studio. No lightening of my skin had to be done because my skin was already evenly well lit with the equipment that day.
If they did do this before, it’s no longer being practiced by them now. I would hope they remain consistent on no longer practicing that as I know very well that shades of brown skin glows best when it is not washed out by overly exposing their pictures.
….again, if they did it in the first place.
Because we are capable of looking dolly without needing to adjust the levels of brightness. In fact, that is largely the point of why I took up the offer in being a spokesmodel for them. So I could prove to everyone that black girls are naturally just as kawaii as every other race is. I have always wanted to communicate that message through my online activities, and I am now also doing it through this company.
Since originally speaking with John, they released another newsletter you can view below to email subscribers:
|Sent on May 22, 2015|
If you received their emails during this time of the year, you can sort through your inbox to find this same one. John told me that their Facebook apology post received little attention which could be for a number of reasons. Typically, Facebook has funny way of highlighting posts that get the most engagement so even when they addressed this concern, only a fraction of their customers saw it.
In the newsletter, take notice how he left his cell phone number and email for concerned customers to reach him at. Knowing how busy he is to still do this shows to me that there is a level of authenticity with his statements. In these cases, I would expect businessmen to pass off this work to their PR managers to handle instead, but he responded differently. On the phone, he encouraged that I should tell all of my friends and followers to contact him directly to further talk about these problems.
Keep in mind that it has only been a few months since I started working with GLW as a model, so our current relationship could change. I will say this. From the moment I was introduced to John through the trip to their studio leading to today, I have been treated exceptionally well.
I was sent over 10 wigs to keep and use for their site’s photos. When planning my trip to their studio for a photoshoot, Victoria and I were provided accommodation in The Westin Oaks Hotel at the Galleria for the entire day and night we were there.
|Hotem room they paid for us to stay in|
|Victoria laying on the bed|
There’s even more. By the end of the day, I felt more than happy with all of what they did for us, but they still gave me payment for my work done as a model. Truly, they made me feel valued as a new addition to their team. Even speaking with them was comfortable because they knew how to make me and Victoria laugh! I’m usually timid and socially awkward especially around business people, but they opened up with us as we did with them. Ultimately, they made the entire trip enjoyable and stress free, and I knew that I welcomed into their brand.
Of course I cannot speak on behalf of the other models, but I personally am treated well.
In the moments I learned more about how NOT racist this company was, I realized I had fallen guilty of the online mob mentality that I hated so much. Unfortunately, mob mentality does not only exist in the physical world, but also in the virtual world. It’s natural for a lot of us because of how we detach ourselves from our morals when engaging in online activity. However, we all know that bad habits aren’t an excuse to keep doing them. I forgot to check myself during the frenzy on my Facebook and Tumblr feeds during the time of the GLW controversy. I didn’t stop to think about how the post came to be, who ran GLW and or most importantly where all of the allegations’ sources were coming.
I’ve seen it happen in the gyaru community and lolita community. Hatred for another entity brings people together in some sick way…but I have never been about that.
Had I never reached out to John after attending Anime Matsuri with the same close minded mentality I had, I wouldn’t have learned so much about who they really are. Information like this only comes when you are open to hearing both sides of an event, not just naysayers.
Plastering Gothic Lolita Wigs as a racist company to me now no longer seems reasonable. It was a poor move on their end, yes, but they are certainly not racist. Racist companies are those like Limecrime with no shame attached. But the staff behind GLW are good people willing to learn from their mistakes and welcome a diverse representation of models and customers into their business.
If after reading all of this, you are still skeptical about anything I’ve shared, then you know where to reach John through his email or phone shared above. If you have further questions to ask me on anything I did not address in this post, let’s have a discussion in the comments below about your thoughts.
Hopefully this cleared up any misinformation you all have received about GLW and also gives you the right idea about me working with them.
I sincerely love spreading positive messages of black women through any means possible in the Asian pop culture communities. Never would I support anyone who demeans us because I know how difficult it is having the unique interests we share on top of being in a minority group. So I understand why a lot of you questioned why I worked with them and do not blame you for being worried. But after all of my experiences with them thus far, my gut is telling me that I am in the right hands.
Seeing so many beautiful black girls and guys show off their looks inspires me to continue doing the same. Working as a spokesmodel for GLW gives me a chance to expand that message to an even bigger audience than my own. I do it for the dreamers like us. My intentions don’t change with the promise of free items, money or status. But they do change for more of our voices to be heard. More of our faces to be recognized.
More of us to be seen as equal in every possible way.