One look at Tanaye White's Instagram and you'll be overwhelmed with messages of positivity and self-love. And now the model, who made her SI Swimsuit debut as part of the 2020 Model Search program, is hoping to use her new platform to spread those messages further. But she also wants to honor those who came before her and paved the way. We caught up with White during Black History Month to find out just who those women are as well as hear how the industry still needs to change.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
"To me, Black History Month is a special opportunity to honor and recognize both the incredible successes and gut-wrenching trials of the Black experience in America. I don't believe that recognizing Black history should be reserved for just one short month, but I appreciate that it gives us a chance to remember all that our ancestors have overcome and accomplished. It's important that we never forget where we've come from."
Are there any ways that you celebrate the commemorative month?
"Growing up, my dad made a point each and every February for me to spend time on the weekends watching his old Eyes on the Prize tapes. It's a 14-part documentary that recounts the Civil Rights Movement. As a kid, I didn't appreciate being forced to spend my playtime watching those tapes. However, as an adult, I find those experiences as one of the reasons why I am so forthright in conversations surrounding social injustice, diversity and inclusion."
Who are the trailblazers in the history of the modeling industry that you admire?
"The industry has so many Black icons who have paved the way for us all today. I feel there should be more conversations around Donyale Luna, the first Black woman to appear on a Vogue cover. And I always like to remind people that Whitney Houston was a model before she began her legendary music career. I have also always admired the multi-talented Grace Jones for her incredible works across modeling, music and film, and her confidence in defying gender norms with her androgynous style."
What does the modeling industry still need to do for the Black community and inclusivity?
"I think that great strides have been taken to diversify the models used in campaigns. However, I think there is a lot of oversight of inclusivity in the industry. We need Black people and people of color not just being considered for positions in the front of the lens but also behind the lens. Creative teams of photographers, directors, stylists and hair and makeup artists should reflect that same diversification effort. I feel that a lot of the controversies that have happened, especially in the last 10 years, could have been avoided if the creative staff had hired members of varying backgrounds."
What are some of the Black female-run businesses you support?
"I love that the conversations had in 2020 have helped to grow increasing support and awareness of Black-owned businesses. One of my favorite Black women-owned brands to support is MBM Swim, a luxury swimwear line developed by my dear friend Marcia B. Maxwell. The line has been in Victoria's Secret online and Revolve. I wore her swimsuit in one of my SI Swimsuit photos."