Name: Chizi Duru
Claim to Fame: Duru started a huge YouTube channel after her dad encouraged her to cut off her hair and go natural as a pre-teen.
Black women are chronically underpaid. Studies show this is a fact across a number of industries but in creative fields it is expounded on by an intentional lack of transparency. YouTube star turned professional model Chizi Duru is committed to changing this in creative fields. “There’s kind of been this culture of keeping quiet about the things that you’re doing, how much you’re making, what deals you’re making, what does your deal entail,” said Duru in an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful.
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Appearing in campaigns for major brands like Burlington Coat Factory and Clarks she has been able to see the full extent of a company’s resources from a more empowered perspective.The infiltration of influencers into spaces traditional models have dominated has been met with some tension but Duru feels Youtubers can actually be assets to what she refers to as, “traditional models.” Cultivating a personal brand can fortify a model against rapidly shifting industry trends or missteps made by representatives. Many of the top models in the industry have cultivated a more personable approach to the faces on the billboards. “You can always use that to negotiate a deal for an even higher deal,” said Duru.
“I definitely think there’s a bridge that’s being made,” she added. She wants her voice to be among those crossing that bridge.
“What I love about our generation and even the generation coming up after us is we’re more open and we’re like, ‘No we don’t have to keep quiet about things!’ I’m going to tell you how much I make so that you don’t ever get into a position where you’re undercharging or underselling yourself or you’re getting lowballed.”
She created an offline space to further conversations about knowing your worth through the development of the Afro Brunch series. “You need a community and that’s something that I didn’t have. There’s no books on it. Unless you talk to someone and ask them hey how much did you charge for this you’re probably not going to find that easily on the internet right now.”
She hopes her modeling work will allow her to use her face and 4C hair to add diversity to visual representation in mainstream media. She acknowledges that her level of influence allows her insulated from things other models experience.
“I haven’t been in any situation where they told me to wear my hair differently which I’m sure is different for a traditional model,” she said. She uses that privilege to advocate for inclusion and consideration of women with “with darker skin and kinky hair,” when she is in the room with brands often pushing back on their creative visions. “Whenever you are in the room with just people you’re bound to connect in some way.”
Duru desires for her image in store ads and commercials to not only impact little Black girls but people passing by who might not see them as the standard for what is beautiful. “I just I think it opens up their minds as well to see that beauty doesn’t just look one way,” she said.
“Growing up the images that we see or at least the images that I saw were of lighter skinned women. You always see the woman that’s in the forefront is the lighter woman and it’s kind of subconsciously tells you like ‘Well I’m dark skinned, I’m not always going to be number one kind of thing.’ And I think just being able to be representation for that little girl that has darker skin or has kinky hair and them being able to see me on tv for a national commercial with Burlington they’re going to go ‘Wow! So this is possible for me,’ and that completely changes someone’s mindset and what they think is possible for them, which is everything because that can change someone’s trajectory in their life in general.”
Tyra Banks inspired Duru to speak up for herself on and off set. Arguably one of the model influencer hybrids she addressed topics like fat shaming on her talk show the way Duru does on her YouTube channel. “She started gaining weight and she started gaining backlash for that and I just remember really connecting to her story, like I’m gaining weight too I’m not a figure eight.”
She started using the phrase “You cannot talk to me anyhow,” to formalize her rejection of other people’s labels and refusals to meet her standards. “Even if I’m not a two or a six or a zero you still can’t talk to me anyhow. It’s something that I said because it doesn’t matter how what size I am how big or how small or what I look like you still cant talk to me anyhow.”