This 17-minute documentary, “The Colour of Beauty,” produced by, Elizabeth St. Philip, and released by the National Film Board of Canada, tells the story of a 24-year-old model, Renee Thompson, who’s a 10-year veteran, globetrotting professional. This as she strives to “make it” before “aging out,” she has moved to New York City.
But, as the title may imply, hers isn’t a frolicking story of the “glamour” of a professional pretty body and face. Instead, it’s a candid and somewhat in-depth examination of what the United States’ majority sees as the opposite of our standard of beauty – The money-losers of the glamour and beauty industry. Generally, those who have African, or obviously “other,” features.
There are “‘No black girls allowed’ on a lot of the break downs for castings.” Thompson said.
“Colour” stands out for its candor, for including sources of many different shades, and for its high technical quality. Ms. Thompson is a compelling character with a compelling story. Even the briefness provides a nice sense of a story, a narrative arc, and a well-developed personality and set of values. She’s relentless, committed, ambitious, and utterly charming. And she “has a little bit left in me” to compete in this brutal world. Of course, if your worldview or comfort level with this topic is superficial or timid, you won’t stay “tuned.”
“There still seems to be this crazy kind of a racism – I hate to say that – but a kind of consciousness in the fashion world..,” Jeanne Beker, Host Fashion Television. She called it tokenism.
For some that candor, that comfort level, may make or break their experience with this film: If Ms. Thompson’s story, and her peers’ professional plights, isn’t news, that “Colour” will be a stern and stark wake-up moment.
This is a world where, despite urges for a post-“racial” landscape, “White girl” features rule. They want white features, “dipped in chocolate. They really look like white girls who’re painted black – That’s beauty – to the industry,” said Justin Peery, Ms. Thompson’s New York agent.
CBC news showed “Black model’s struggle highlighted in film.”
As excellent and exceptional as the film is, there are problems: The duration of 17-minutes is awkward. It won’t be marketed or promoted in a conventional way. That may just be Ms. St. Philip’s intention. Too few people will know about or watch this.
- She could have filled out a full 30-minutes by either including another brown or black model, even a man, to juxtapose two different careers, attitudes, and results.
- Or why she’s only now doing the last sprint toward “top” status.
- Or by including more indelible and evocative details on Ms. Thompsons’ career.
Another speed bump is the focus solely on Renee Thompson’s experience: In some way, I think that Ms. St. Philip took the easy way out; even though brown and black bodies and faces scare or intimidate people, the men do so the most. Yet, she omitted a man’s story. There are far fewer of them, so that would have been an excellent way to fill out 30-minutes and have a film that is superior and also at a more marketable duration. It’s bizarre. The film and Ms. St. Philip leave questions that dangle.
Still, the “Colour” works: In the end “Colour of Beauty” shows how ugly the search for beauty can be, especially when those who choose don’t see an obvious beauty staring right back.