“Have you ever flashed anyone?” Slick asked with her one-of-a-kind grin. Without missin’ a beat, I lifted every layer of winter garb covering my front side and showed them my full goods. It is the coldest night of the winter so far—15 degrees on the 15th of December—however, in that moment, in the basement of Dune Studios, we were chillin’ like a hot summer’s day.
When on set, there are several things you have to get used to, and being confidently naked is at the top of that list. The modeling world hasn’t made it easy for Black models to be comfortable in their luscious skin. But the industry can’t hide from reality anymore—Black and brown people are here. To stay. Ad campaigns are adjusting their marketing promos to reflect raw, natural beauty in all its many forms.
Ebonee has been modeling for five years. After all that time she is just now beginning to see the fruits of her labor after breaking what she calls “the model stereotype. You showed up to castings in a black tank top, black pants, black heels, and, as a Black woman, with a center part and a weave, hair straight.” Trying to fit their mold.
Listening to Ebonee, I couldn’t help but relate. I was five when I started modeling, landing big campaigns with brands such as GAP. But after years of being the token Black girl, or the “ethnic” friend, I rebelled, tattooing my way to self-identity and self-love. Very taboo. GAP would hardly consider a tatted teen to represent their product lines. Flash forward and you’ll see me in GAP’s 2017 Spring campaign—tattoos, like Black girls, now in demand. Which brings me to Slick. She has only been on the scene for little over a year, and she is progressing quite nicely.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Slick expresses, and in her sassy boldness her bliss is apparent. When Slick and Ebonee are together they’re playful, honest and gratified. They don’t recall how long they’ve known each other, but Slick calls Ebonee her “Angel,” saying “It feels like I’ve known her my entire existence.” The two are different in various ways, but you can feel they’re kindred spirits, both benefiting from one another—symbiotic. Ebonee, as Slick says, “is full of passion.” Whereas Slick, reflecting on her childhood, “definitely lacked passion.” They have one of those scarce, rewarding loves; think Thelma and Louise, rum and Coke, Earth and Moon. On top of it all, they’ve worked on some of the same major campaigns: Urban Outfitters x Adidas, Calvin Klein, Kanye West’s Yeezy, showing up to Miami’s Art Basel both dipped in Moschino, and today, shooting a near twenty-page spread with Terry Richardson. They’ve come a long way from Seattle and North Minneapolis, indeed.
With their Instagram accounts collectively totaling more than 175,000 followers to date, more than ever these two public figures understand their roles and responsibilities as Black, professional women. Ebonee is no stranger to voicing her opinions. The day after the 2016 presidential election she took to the New York City subway and deliv- ered a heartfelt speech that she posted to her Instagram account. The sermon was unscripted and sincere. What better place to host a live speech than the underground railway? People of all backgrounds forced to tolerate one another, even if just for a train ride. She was conscious of America’s current situation and expressed herself accord- ingly. It ended with a round of applause from the city’s strangers, who are typically unreceptive to impromptu live performances.