‘Israelis don’t see black as beautiful’
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‘Israelis don’t see black as beautiful’

Ethiopian-born model Yisraela Avatowin, who had to move to Europe to find success, says Israel is far from color-blind

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Ethiopian-born Israeli model Israela Avtau left Israel when she couldn't get any modeling jobs because of the color of her skin (Courtesy Israela Avtau Facebook page)
Ethiopian-born Israeli model Israela Avtau left Israel when she couldn't get any modeling jobs because of the color of her skin (Courtesy Israela Avtau Facebook page)

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.

Avtau's Elle Germany 2011 cover, a modeling success that is still hard to come by for models of color (Photo credit: Patric Shaw)
Avtau’s Elle Germany 2011 cover, a modeling success that is still hard to come by for models of color (Photo credit: Patric Shaw)

“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.

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