Looks Like Me Model agency

Selma Nicholls and her daughter Riley-Ann (above), are redefining beauty with Looks Like Me, a modelling/talent agency that raises the profile of under-represented groups

‘Looks Like Me was inspired by my daughter Riley-Ann, aged three. During summer 2015 Riley-Ann kept wearing a hat and came home each day from nursery expressing that she wanted straight, long hair like her teachers and friends at nursery and cartoon characters.  I stayed silent for a while hoping that this would pass, thinking that all children must do this. But Riley-Ann kept on asking for straight, long hair. I found this quite surprising as I had always made a conscious effort to make sure that she had a diverse range of books, dolls, family and friends. But still, Riley-Ann insisted she wanted different hair.

I told Riley-Ann that her curly afro hair was beautiful – verbal affirmation – but this did not work! In August 2015 she came home from nursery saying she wanted her skin to be white and that she didn’t want to be brown anymore. My heart sank but I knew I shouldn’t and wouldn’t show a reaction.

I was saddened and angry even, to hear what my child was saying to me but also overjoyed that she was able to articulate herself and felt comfortable enough to share her thoughts with me.

I knew that me verbally telling Riley-Ann to recognise her inner and outer beauty wouldn’t work, rather that I needed to show her that there were children out there in advertising that looked like her.

Because my daughter is so visually aware of images around her, in August 2015 I had a light-bulb moment. I decided to put on the latest Annie film featuring Jamie Foxx, where Annie is played by the young black actress Quvenzhané Wallis. I thought to myself, if this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.

Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role of Annie

I put the DVD on and walked into my kitchen to make a drink, hoping that this final attempt to get Riley-Ann to acknowledge and recognise that her hair and skin is beautiful just the way it is, would work.  Five minutes into the film, during the first song even, Riley-Ann ran into the kitchen screaming ‘Mummy, mummy take out my plaits.’  Grabbing me by the hand she pulled me into the living room and said ‘Mummy take out my plaits now, please.’  So I did. I took out every single one of those small plaits with beads on the ends that I had only just put in the day before.

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Halfway through the film, I finally completed taking all her plaits out, then Riley-Ann jumped up shouting ‘Mummy, mummy look, Annie is beautiful… I am Annie and Annie is me, she LOOKS LIKE ME.’ For me, that was the moment  I saw the power of positive reflective imagery for a child via the media…. Look Like Me was born.

I realised that in her role as Annie, Quvenzhané Wallis had inspired Riley-Ann to embrace her natural hair and beautiful brown skin. To Riley-Ann, Quvenzhané Wallis was a superstar, the first young, female and black child with naturally curly afro hair on TV/film that my daughter had seen.  My daughter saw a reflection of herself through Annie and she felt great about this, she felt empowered, she felt inspired!  So much so that she watched the film short of 20 times over that weekend, but hey I sure didn’t mind because my child fell back in love with the hair that grew out of her scalp and her beautiful dark brown melanin skin.

Riley-Ann (4) image 2

Riley-Ann. (Riley-Anne photographs by www.rakiyashayphotography.com and www.minttphotography.com)

Although Riley-Ann was a child model with a reputable agency who treated her amazingly well, offering multiple jobs. I quickly noticed a pattern in advertising, that children of colour in campaigns in the UK are often the only one, Riley-Ann became the token black girl and I didn’t feel comfortable with this. What about all the other little beautiful black girls? I wondered.

The visibility of underrepresented groups deserves to be increased. Currently in the UK only 7% of children’s advertisements feature black and Asian children. Approximately 13% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority group, but the spending power of Britain’s black community is now worth an estimated £300 billion according to new research compiled by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

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I, like many mothers believe it’s important for all children in the UK to be fairly represented within all forms of media. We owe this to our children, so that they not only feel like a part of our society but also so they feel comfortable with the skin they were born with. This is why I’m setting up Looks Like Me, a children’s modelling agency that will increase inclusivity and raise the profile of underrepresented black and brown children in the media.

The new agency will be launching in Autumn 2016, with little black girls all shades of brown and all hair textures, because Riley-Ann is the inspiration for Looks Like Me (LLM).’

Register your interest:  www.lookslikeme.co.uk
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6 Comments

  1. Pingback : Looks Like Me child model agency goes live |

  2. by Rainy on 09/02/2016  10:48 AM Reply

    She looks so so good. You consider only kid model is it?

    • by IShelley on 09/02/2016  4:00 PM Reply

      Yes, Looks Like Me is a children's agency

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  4. by Y Pitter on 05/10/2016  8:53 AM Reply

    Great idea, will you do boys too?

  5. by Sylvia Donovan on 05/07/2016  9:50 PM Reply

    This is such a fantastic idea!
    I'll watch this space with interest ☺

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