Israel is a long way from color-blind, a failing painfully demonstrated during Sunday night’s massive protest in Tel Aviv by Ethiopian Israelis. It’s a reality that model Yisraela Avatowin, an Ethiopian-born Israeli, experienced during the years she lived in Israel.
Interviewed by “Good Evening with Guy Pines” on the day of the demonstration, Avatowin commented that Ethiopian Israelis are “tired of being quiet and polite.”
“I never saw something bad in that kind of behavior, but here, if you don’t make a big fuss, it doesn’t work,” she said.
A former Israeli beauty queen, Avatowin left Israel eight years ago when her modeling career stalled. She now calls herself Israela Avtau.
“A dark-skinned model can’t lead an [advertising] campaign in the State of Israel,” she told interviewer Guy Pines. “It doesn’t catch on, it’s very sad.”
Avatowin ultimately left Israel for New York, where she also had a hard time snagging the bigger advertising campaigns.
She ended up heading to Europe, where she has appeared on magazine covers for Elle Germany and in campaigns for Clinique and designer Ralph Lauren.
“It’s funny because abroad, I’m the Israeli model, and here I’m the Ethiopian model who succeeded abroad,” she told Guy Pines. “I do well because of who I am, not because they need a black model.”
When asked if Israeli models of Ethiopian descent may have more success in Israel after Yityish Titi Aynaw won the Miss Israel title in 2013, or after Tahounia Rubel, also of Ethiopian descent, won the fifth season of the popular “Big Brother” show, Avatowin said she didn’t think so.
“I don’t think it will happen here. I don’t see her getting hired by Castro,” the Israeli clothing brand, she said.