Academic Staff

Dr Laila Haidarali

Staff positionLecturer
Telephone01206 873811
Office hoursThursdays, 11:30 - 1:30pm or by appointment

Laila Haidarali received her PhD in U.S. history at York University in Toronto in 2007. Following her year-tenure as the Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Studies in the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Presently, Laila assumed her post as Lecturer in Modern U.S. History at the University of Essex. She is finishing her first monograph entitled, Brown Beauty: Color, Sex, and Race from Harlem's Renaissance to World War II. Her  publications include, 'Polishing Brown Diamonds: African American Women, Popular Magazines and the Advent of Modelling in Early Postwar America' that first appeared in the Journal of Women's History (2005) and then reprinted in the 4th edition of Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History (2007). Her publications on African American modelling also appear in Fashioning Models: Image, Text, and Industry (Berg, 2012), and in Atlantis: A Women's Studies Journal (2007). Most recently, her essay, 'Browning the Dark Princess', a literary-historical analysis of the 'brown'-complexioned Indian Princess in W.E.B. Du Bois's second novel Dark Princess: A Romance (1928) was published in the Journal of American Ethnic History's Special Issue, 'Race and Literature' (Fall 2012). 

Research interests

Laila is currently examining the construction of African American women's gendered public identities in the immediate pre-civil rights era, circa 1920-1954. She studies how literary, social scientific and visual discourses on complexion structured an increasingly middle-class ideal of African American womanhood as the 'Brownskin.' She is particularly interested in how notions of feminized beauty were determined by complexion and how African American women re-worked colour-based ideals as professional fashion models in the post World War II era. She is working on her first book.

Supervision Interests

  • Black women & U.S. Women's History
  • African American history
  • Twentieth-century U.S. social, cultural and intellectual history
  • Sexualities in U.S. History
  • Race, Gender and Representation 
  • Beauty, Fashion and the Body
  • Consumer culture, business and practice
Teaching responsibilities

Undergraduate Modules

HR288: In Slavery and Freedom: The African American Experience

HR388: Women, Gender and Sexuality in U.S. History

HR644: Immigration and Ethnicity in Modern U.S. History

HR647: Black Women in U.S. History


Book Chapters

  • '"Giving Colored Sisters a Superficial Equality:" Re-Modelling African American Womanhood in Early Postwar America,' Fashioning Models: Modelling as Text, Image and Industry, ed. Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger (London: Berg Publishers, Autumn 2012) reprinted in Lopez D. Matthews, Jr. and Kenvi C. Phillips, The True Worth of a Race: African American Women and the Struggle for Freedom (Washington, D.C: Association of Black Women Historians, 2013).
  • Original Publication, with images:

Journal Articles

  • 'Browning the Dark Princess: Asian Indian Embodiement of New Negro Womanhood,' Journal of American Ethnic History, Special Issue, Race and Literature, 32, no. 1 (Fall 2012): 24-69.
  • 'Polishing Brown Diamonds: African American Women, Popular Magazines and the Advent of Modelling in Early Postwar America', Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 17, no.1 (Spring 2005). Reprinted in Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, 4th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2007), 535-550.
  • 'Is It True What They Say About Models?: Modelling African American Womanhood on the eve of the civil rights era', Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal, 32.1,(2007): 144-155.'

Research Papers (Works-in-Progress)

  • 'The New Negro Woman Goes to Campus: Gender, Generation and Inter-war African American Womanhood', Research Papers, No. 5, (Colchester, University of Essex, Department of History, September, 2013) pp. 1-26.

Book Reviews

  • Susannah Walker, Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women for Indiana Magazine of History, 105, no.1 (2009): 102-103.

Other publications

  • 'Frances Thompson,' 'Ma Rainey,' 'Bessie Smith,' 'Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus', in Encyclopaedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America, ed. Marc Stein (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003).

  • “NAFAD and African American Modelling in the early Cold War era,” Berkshire Conference for Women Historians, University of Toronto, Canada,  May 22-25, 2014.
  • “Modelling Beauty Brown: Sex, Race, Representation and African American Womanhood in the early Cold War era,” Gender and History in the Americas Seminar Series, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, England, February, 2014.
  • “Dressing the Model Body in Early Cold War Style: Fashion Designers, Models, and African American Womanhood” New Directions in US Studies: Re-imagining the 1950s and 1960s, York University, Toronto, Canada, October 11-12, 2013.
  • “The Body Browned: Colour, Contour, Beauty and African American Womanhood in early postwar consumer magazines” British Association for American Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, April 8-11, 2010.
  • “Stepping Up in Freedom Clothes: African American Modelling in Postwar America,” "Unintended Consequences" Hagley Fellows Conference, Delaware, April 4, 2009.
Additional information

Poetry and Academia:

Laila is also a published poet. She was first published in Trinidad and Tobago; in 2005, she debuted as a Toronto poet through Diaspora Dialogues--a non-profit organization directed to bringing immigrant and multicultural voices to a central position in the Canadian literary scene. Since that debut, her poetry has been featured in Tok 1: Writing the New Toronto Narrative; Cahoots Magazine; Descant; Sentinel Poetry; Monday's Poem; ditch poetry, and In My Bed Magazine. Laila's first chapbook of poetry, Sunday Frowns, was published in 2008 by Trainwreck Press.

Intersections between Laila's academic and creative work can be found in two poems, "Strange" (2013) and "Brown" (2006).

 "Strange," in Proudflesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness, Special Issue, "Caribbean Women: Riding the Waves of Resistance," No. 8 (August 2013).

"Brown," Calabash, A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters, Vol 4, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2006): 21.

Lails is always excited when her work reaches larger audiences. 

Shana Burg, Novelist, Interview.

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