Revenge Models: Flipping the Script on Discrimination

In 2022, discrimination remains an alarming issue. Be it racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, or countless other biases, marginalised communities exist all around us. That said, this month at Sunway Echo Media, the theme is revenge — so let’s flip the script on modern oppression and talk about how some minorities have reclaimed their right to freedom, and shoutout some of the people that made it possible.

1. Zendaya on Racism and Colourism

Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, born 1 September 1996, is an American actress and artist best known for being the most perfect human being to exist. For real though, she needs no introduction. In 2018, she made a statement at the Beautycon Festival to address colourism in the American film industry. “As a light-skinned black woman, it’s important that I use my privilege, my platform, to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” she said. In an interview, she referred to herself as “the industry’s acceptable version of a black girl”, going on to assert that these beauty standards must change. In fact, the actress has since pledged to pursue roles not meant for African-American actors, so as not to rob dark-skinned actresses of leading roles in the film industry, as it is common practice for studios to cast light-skinned African-Americans for black roles. “Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers,” she said. Zendaya is on our list of Revenge Models because she is aware of her privilege, and is actively using it to put pressure on the film industry to be more inclusive and battle racism.

2. Tom Daley on Homophobia

Thomas Robert Daley, born 21 May 1994, is a British diver and Olympic Gold Medalist. Tom is a queer athlete and LGBTQ+ activist. In his memoir, “Coming Up For Air” (2021), he shares his struggles and the discrimination he has faced in sports and fatherhood. He revealed that people often make him and his husband feel like inadequate parents. He wrote, “As gay parents, I sometimes feel like we are held to a higher level of judgment. When you are out in public, it feels like all eyes are on you to do the right thing or parent in the right way. People see two dads and there is a feeling that we don’t know what we are doing or that it won’t come easily to us, in the way that it does to women. I guess it is well-meaning, but can be unwanted, nonetheless.” Tom, having grown up in the spotlight as well as been criticised and condemned for his sexual orientation, is a fitting Revenge Model. He has proved that hard work, grit, and character define an athlete, and that no one should be discounted based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. Yuna on Islamophobia

Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, born 14 November 1986, is a Malaysian artist known professionally as Yuna. She grew up in Alor Setar, Kedah. “It was a very ­conservative environment — we watched what we said.” Yuna has been outspoken about female beauty standards in the music industry, and her struggles with Islamophobia. Malaysia might be predominantly Muslim, but much like in America, “women singers are seen as sexy here — you have to let your hair out and be ­beautiful. I struggled with that,” she said. Instead, Yuna shrouded her image in mystery, ­letting her music speak for her. “I didn’t put up a proper photo of myself — it was cropped, up until my nose. People didn’t know what I looked like until my first show. They were shocked in the beginning, but they accepted me.” Yuna deserves a spot on the Revenge Model list because not only has she had to face Islamophobia and xenophobia at the hands of foreigners, but our own Malaysians have been the most vocal to criticise her beliefs and morals as a Muslim. In spite of the slander, Yuna has made a name for herself in music, and she has done it all whilst holding firmly onto her principles. #Idola.

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3 icons of 3 different nationalities, and still even this article does not have sufficient representation of all the Revenge Models out there at work. Indeed, some are famous, but there are just as many, if not more, tearing apart conservative ideals from behind the scenes. Moreover, it’s crucial to never forget the efforts of those who came before us, the ones who paved the path for the people in our generation to make progress. Here’s to all of them — the unsung heroes, the ones who suffered oppression and discrimination. It’s up to us to do them justice and get revenge.

By Karran Kumar

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