Anok Yai Recounts Racist Experience on Zara Photoshoot

<p>Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images</p>

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images

Supermodel Anok Yai came forward on social media this week to recount a discriminatory incident that took place during a 2019 photoshoot for the Spanish retailer Zara.

"I remember in 2019 being called a cockroach by a photographer. It was from this brand that I used to always work with," she wrote in a series of since-deleted posts on her X account. At the end of the thread, she revealed the brand in question to be Zara, for which she used to model product for e-commerce. According to Yai, on the second-to-last day of a multi-day photoshoot, the photographer referred to her as "la cucaracha" (Spanish for cockroach), at which point, "Everyone on set starts smiling and laughing."

"I can't react the way I want to react because at the end of the day I'm young, I'm alone, I'm Black...anything that I do will affect me, my family and other Black models," she continued.

She recalled refusing to return to set if the photographer (whom Yai didn't name) was still there — and while she was assured he would be fired, that wasn't the case. Instead, she alleged, "Someone from the team pulls me aside and says 'I asked the team what happened and they said you made it up. Honestly, whenever you come here, you're never smiling and you're never happy to be here.'"

"By now, there's tears running down my face. I told her I wasn't lying, she still doesn't believe me. But I could tell she wanted me to sit down and shut up so I forced them to call my car to the airport and pay my full rate regardless," she continued. "I remember wanting to come out with the story to magazines but I was told 'think about what it will do to your career.' That was my first (and not only) time being blacklisted."

Zara didn't immediately responded to Fashionista's request for comment on the matter. We will update this story if and when they do.

This isn't the first time Zara has been under fire for racist and discriminatory actions: Over the years, the Spanish fast fashion chain has been denounced for racially profiling Black customers, reached a $30,000 settlement with a transgender customer turned away from the fitting rooms and faced a $40 million discrimination lawsuit against a former employee.

Want the latest fashion industry news first? Sign up for our daily newsletter.