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At only 23 years old, Chanel Iman has a wise head on her young shoulders. With a modeling career that began when she was signed by her first agency at 13, she’s got a decade’s worth of experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly in the fashion industry.

The good: By 18, Chanel landed her first Vogue cover, became the youngest Victoria’s Secret Angel, and starred and walked in several campaigns and New York Fashion Week shows. But the bad and the ugly came with criticism over her weight and discrimination by designers where their shows had “only one black girl allowed.” With wild success still ahead of her, she isn’t afraid to speak out against the injustices of the industry, sharing with The Edit her experiences and how others like Lupita Nyong’o and Beyonce are paving the way.

Keep on reading for excerpts and stunning shots from the interview.

On racism in fashion and film: 

“It’s an issue that my industry is still working on. I think that everyone should be equal; it shouldn’t be about color. It’s unfortunate that there is still a lot of politics involved in both the acting and modeling worlds. I do think we’ve come a long way, but things could still be a lot more diverse on the runway and in films.”

What Lupita’s Oscar win meant to her:

“It was a very emotional moment. All my friends and I were holding hands in front of the television, willing her to win. Then when she did it was like we had been given the award. Because I really believe that having a black woman win an Oscar is going to help pave the way, not just in her industry, but mine.”

How Beyoncé’s made a difference:

 “Beyoncé is such a great woman. So positive and uplifting. All three of us models are very successful in our careers, but because in the fashion industry ‘there’s only one black girl allowed’, they’ve made us compete to be that one girl. Beyoncé allowed us to show the world that we don’t have to fight against each other. She gave us the chance to see that we are far more powerful together.”

On being bullied about her weight:

“I’ve been skinny my whole life. And now that I’m getting older I’m gaining weight. I love it, because when you’re teased at school and everyone’s always asking ‘Do you eat?’, it’s like being bullied….When models are criticized for being too thin, it’s just another form of bullying. It would make me feel so insecure when people used to say that about me, because you’re not allowed to go around telling people that they’re too fat and asking ‘Do you ever stop eating?’, are you?” 

Head on over to The Edit for more of Chanel’s cover story.

SOURCE & PHOTO CREDIT: THE EDIT

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