I’m sorry, Nami. I have done you a grave disservice.
I was sorry to hear that you wish to withdraw from your position as a Competition judge, and I’m sorry for my inappropriate public comments in December. I did not intend to insult you, Maayankraj Singh, or anyone else for their objection to the peacock dress project. I acknowledge that for POC in the costuming community this project had been a source of pain for years, and that POC certainly did not cause the issue with the dress themselves. That was not what I intended to say, and I deeply regret that it came across that way.
I would like to take this opportunity to address not just the December blog post, but the whole subject of the peacock dress project. I apologise for my naivete and my blindness in both taking the project on in 2011 and going at it so insensitively for so long, but I also want to own up and apologise for some specifics too.
A couple of weeks ago I revisited the conversation Nami and I had just before she released her video “The Peacock Dress Is Problematic: Don’t Make It” in September 2021.
We had spoken about the project in the FR Diversity Panel, and I had pledged to make a video for the end of September that would show clearly and publicly that I had listened to feedback, and that things were changing.
I invited her to appear in that video, and she asked in reply for me to re-confirm exactly where this project was going before consenting to be associated with it. It was a perfectly reasonable request.
But I replied in a defensive and non-committal way. I apologise for that. In that moment you needed certainty and reassurance from me, Nami, and I did not provide it.
I missed that detail completely until last month. I was nervous about how to honour all of the recommendations in the room. I very much wanted to find a way to atone with everyone. I didn’t have all the answers yet and I was afraid that you were asking me to follow your advice exclusively, so I hedged and got defensive.
All I had to do was confirm that the dress was not going to be recreated as planned (which, genuinely, was true by that point). But I think you may have heard “I haven’t decided whether to take the panel’s advice and change yet.” And I realise now how that must have felt for you.
For a year and a half I have been angry with you. It didn’t make any sense to me that you would give me your advice and then release a video before the deadline to act on that advice. I made up all sorts of stories about what that meant, and that coloured my perspective on everything that came afterwards.
But when I saw how our conversation and my defensive email must have impacted you, everything fell into place.
I also want to apologise for asking the Diversity Panel to sign a document that came across as an NDA. This was a code of conduct intended to make the Panel a safe space, both for POC who were involved and for my team, which included people with disabilities. It was written up into a professional document, and I can see that in the process the tone and intention of the document changed in a way I did not intend. I apologise that it came across as forbidding and not reassuring, and I take responsibility for missing that.
I apologise to the community as a whole for not speaking up when Nami’s video went public. I believe I was right to sit down, shut up, and let other people speak at first, but there was a point at which I could have shown the leadership that this community deserves by making an unequivocal statement. I failed to do this. I want to take responsibility for my part in letting it go as far as it did, especially including the death threat received by Maayankraj Singh. I have apologised to you in private in the past, Maayankraj, but I believe you also deserve a public apology. By that time, in all honesty, I had my head so far up my own ass that I wasn’t seeing anything for what it was.
Ten years ago I walked right into the middle of my own unconscious bias and stayed there for a decade. It embarrasses me to think of this now. Until recently it was true that I only cared about a pretty dress, and I readily admit that there is still racism in me. I don’t believe that combatting it in myself is a “one and done”; it is a continuing practice for me to work on.
Nami’s video did not reflect where I felt I was at that stage in my learning, just as we were making real progress in the diversity panel and I was ready to do something about it. I have let myself feel resentful about that for a long time, instead of looking more closely at what might actually have happened. This was a disservice to Nami and to POC in this community as a whole.
I’m sorry to have let this go on so long. All the videos about the project have been taken down now, to show more clearly that the project will not be revived.
Nami, I deeply appreciate you initially agreeing to be part of the 2023 competition, and I am sincerely sorry that I made you feel unsafe and unable to continue to do so. I have a genuine wish for healing and reconciliation for all of us. I pledge to do better, and I welcome constructive feedback from both you and the community as we move forward.