For novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn, the problematic red-carpet question is far from trivial.
It’s the day after my appearance in Lagos, Nigeria, at the Aké Arts & Book Festival. I scroll through my Instagram feed, still too tired to do anything other than relive the moment online. “Love the dress!” says one response. “You look gorgeous!” says another. “Simply stunning!” Though the event was well attended and my books sold out, it was my dress—by Zimbabwean American label Shangani Fashion—that stole the spotlight.
A few years ago, the hashtag #AskHerMore went viral, as influential feminists raged against red-carpet reporters asking actresses who they were wearing— arguing that women’s achievements were being overshadowed by superfluous fashion choices. I understand their reasoning, but in my world, fashion has deep meaning. Although I’m not a celebrity, I am a writer who has been fortunate enough to have a platform, and the simple question “Who are you wearing?” is my opportunity to shine a light on those in the margins. I take pride in saying the names of black designers out loud in white spaces, because we matter.
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