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I am not going to lie, championing for equality and diversity in this industry is really TOUGH.
The resistance at times is palpable. Continuously being challenged about why diversity is important, why it matters if we see more variations of beauty, why it even matters if a black woman ever graces the cover of the top wedding magazines. I continuously have to justify why equality is so needed. Going against the grain, confronting the status quo, allowing myself to be completely vulnerable putting myself, my story and heart out there. Whilst it is my job to campaign and I knowingly (and perhaps naively) took on the magnitude of the challenge, it is exhausting and there are many many times I simply want to give up.
But I won’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I am tenacious. (LOL!) I am used to stigma and challenging societal norms. I have always been a justice seeker in work and play from the moment I was old enough to recognise inequality or unfairness. I even ended up working with under (or mis)-represented communities for many years in both disability and mental health to advocate and drive through barriers and policy change. So it is not unique to the wedding industry. Championing for diversity and inclusion, in all its glorious forms, requires much effort, for it is indeed a massive cultural change and sometimes even I forget that.
I recently received some Nu Bride survey results back from UK wedding couples and over 80% who are in a multicultural relationships do not feel they are adequately represented in the mainstream wedding industry.
This stat made me stop and stand to attention. I mean, I knew the UK wedding industry wasn’t leading on this front, hence why I was inspired to start Nu Bride, but I didn’t think it would return these numbers, especially 5 years after Nu Bride was born.
In addition to these stats, this strident article written by recently engaged journalist Tobi (who you’ll be hearing more from soon!) it reminded me of a dialogue I had back in 2011 when I got engaged, a dialogue that continues to be repeated. It made me wonder:
Why haven’t we moved further forward than we have?
Why are magazine publishers still maintaining that ‘black’ is seen as risk?
Why are some editors less likely to use images of designers lookbooks using curvy women or women of various ethnicities, than others? (Don’t believe me? I’ve got a great video where I interview the wonderful Jenny Packham on this very subject, coming up soon).
I know why. This is all tucked into our subconscious bias and memes around what society deems as desirable and in turn, what is not.
And then when I continue to regularly see such strong and often discriminatory reactions to push forward both race and marriage equality in media, it reminds me that more work has to be done around equality as a whole and to remind people that equality for one group does not mean inequality for another.
So the survey has definitely highlighted more work has to be done, perhaps in society first before we can really, really tackle the industry. Not even I was expecting such a high result to come out of the survey, especially with some GREAT drives from colleagues, wedding suppliers and blogs to up the anti and have a real genuine desire to feature more couples from eclectic communities, to share more diverse love stories. Especially after witnessing such a powerful and inspirational shift in so many wonderful businesses and press who attended unconvention London. There are definitely REAL steps in the right direction, but not enough from those in positions of real lasting power and there lies the challenge. Until they lead, ‘the many’ will be reluctant to change and continue doing things the way they have always been done.
Societal and cultural change is not going to happen overnight.
Millennials are coming through the ranks, they are changing our societal landscape in so many exciting ways, they are not tolerating what mine and other generations have for years. They are also the most diverse and integrated generation of couples the UK has ever seen. The wedding industry is an exceptionally traditional industry, and I often say in my masterclasses, if businesses in the industry and also as human beings, do not evolve in our practices and in our thinking, we will 100% get left behind.
Hell. I don’t have to say it, Forbes and researchers have said it for several years over and over again that if businesses are not diverse they will lose business. Even Pinterest is upping their diversity game. So whether we like it or not (and I am aware and no fool that not everybody does, I am a thorn in the side for some). We have to diversify.
SO the reason I am writing? If you see things slowing down with content on Nu Bride, please forgive me, it is not because I do not care about you, or am taking the foot off the pedal, quite the contrary, it is because I can’t do this for you on my own. I need to up the anti, I need to do more front-facing work with media, business owners and allies, employees, brands and progressive industry leaders to educate, to break down some doors, to challenge memes around the perception of beauty and push forward with inclusively showcasing more couples, women and men who look like you.
If you want to join me on this quest, do sign up to my mailing list, I have a few projects up my sleeve and will NEED your help. For now, I’ve kindly been sponsored to put on a diversity and inclusion event for businesses. Where I’ll be talking about all this and more. I’ll be delving into diversity, inclusion and segregation, PC gone mad fears, race and perception and and how our subconscious bias affects our behaviour, how we communicate and market (or as is more often the case, not!) AND I will be also be joined by fab former BBC journalist to talk about equal marriage too. If you want to come – please do grab your ticket, (or if you want me to come directly to your business, that’s possible to0)!
We all deserve to be represented and marketed to on our wedding day, not as tokenism, or as a badge of honour, but as human beings who deserve to have their story told and to be celebrated.
To those of you who follow and support Nu Bride, thank you, you are the reason I keep going. To those of you who are already gorgeous inclusive businesses, thank you let’s keep evolving, to those of you who have the desire to be the change, please come and join the party, we need more of you!