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David Cardoza — Handsome and Humble

Canadian fashion is heavily influenced by minorities, many of whom do not get the recognition  they deserve for their work and for the impact they have made on the communities they work in. One Canadian model who influenced Toronto’s fashion and entertainment industries was David Cardoza.

Cardoza was a fashion influencer and model who helped change the way Canada’s fashion and entertainment industries hired individuals of colour. He advocated for Black models to receive work in predominantly white spaces.

By carefully choosing jobs that aligned with his morals and goals, Cardoza influenced how Black models were seen and used in fashion campaigns and on runways, helping to break the stereotypes in which Black male models were often portrayed.

Early Life and Career

David Cardoza was born in 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica. His father was Portuguese and Scottish, and his mother was descended from Maroons, who were the enslaved Africans of Jamaica.  He lived in an expansive family of 11 siblings: nine boys and two girls.

Cardoza moved to Canada in his early 20s, but didn’t and start modelling until later in life. His primary source of income was from his full-time job at the aerospace manufacturing company, McDonnell Douglas.  

As life went on, he married and had two children, who also became child models. He used to bring his children with him for seasonal campaigns such as the Bay’s Christmas Catalogue, where he often made appearances.

David Cardoza’s career in the fashion industry happened by chance. Donna explains that while taking his sister to a model casting, the agency offered to sign him instead, kickstarting Cardoza’s career as one of the first black male models in Toronto. Donna states, “He was a humble man with great depth that just happened to be outstanding in his looks.”

She explained that David was more connected to the African side of his identity. “He did not call himself biracial, but declared his identity as a Black man. He didn’t identify as BIPOC or mixed; he was Black” said his wife Donna.

He advocated for black models to receive work in predominantly white spaces.



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Breaking Barriers

Cardoza spent the majority of his career with the modelling agency, Bookings Inc., now known as B&M Models. Bookings helped to establish and steadily build his reputation as a hard worker, a relationship builder, and someone who led with humility, humanity and empathy.

“He was genuinely a happy guy. I don’t ever remember him coming to a shoot where he wasn’t going to give it his all. He never came in flustered or down about anything” says Evangeline (Vangie) Sipidias, a former fashion coordinator in the advertising department at Eaton’s, who booked Cardoza for jobs.

Adds Diana, “He was always pleasant, respectful, kind, and he just loved what he did. He laughed a lot. He considered his good looks as a gift and never took it for granted, but was never puffed up and pompous about it. Speak to the people that booked and dressed him back in the day, they’ll always tell you.”

Vangie Sipidias described that David Cardoza’s energy would shine through each piece of work he participated in. On the runway, Cardoza’s spirited walk would bring the clothing to life. In print, his positivity would beam through the photograph, adding a dimension of liveliness to each still.

Sipidias adds, “His joy and ease while working with others was a major contributor to his continuous influx of modelling gigs. Cardoza was booked by Eaton’s and featured in Christmas catalogues, newspaper ads, weekly flyers, direct mail pieces, and commercials.”

While his modelling career primarily took place in Toronto, he travelled to Montreal multiple times and also toured around Europe.

However, for all the great career opportunities that came his way, there were many others that Cardoza missed because he did not fit into the modelling categories that were predetermined by fashion’s gatekeepers. As Donna explains, “They didn’t see him as Black. They didn’t see him as white. At the time, biracial intersectionality wasn’t on the table.”

Often, Cardoza was not given speaking roles in commercials because of his accent. His wife feels that he had the skills and potential to achieve more lucrative jobs, but who locked out of these opportunities because of his biracial identity and the fashion world’s resistance to representing a wide array of people at the time.

His presence in the fashion industry smashed layers of prejudice held towards black models, because he pushed his colleagues to view him as a human being, rather than a token of the group he represented.



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Influence and Legacy

As a result, Cardoza’s advocacy and influence did not take the form of targeted speech and obvious action, but materialized through his kindness, respect and teamwork.

Donna says that Cardoza knew many people recognized him for his modelling work, and used his platform to model compassion, uplifting the client, and giving a voice to the voiceless. Donna goes on to say that he deconstructed barriers “very silently with grace and elegance.”

Cardoza booked gigs because people loved him and valued how he worked with others, rather than using him as symbolic representation.

Sipidias reflects on the fact that in Toronto during the early 1980s, Black models struggled to et work because of the systemic barriers the fashion industry and the discriminatory mindset of fashion leaders.

However, David Cardoza’s presence in the fashion industry smashed layers of prejudice held towards Black models becasue he pushed his colleagues to view him as a human being, rather than as a token of the group he represented.

Cardoza passed away July 12,1997.

“He connected with people on set. He was a person first, before he was a model,” says Cardoza’s son [who would like to remain anonymous]. “His best advice: be comfortable, don’t force anything, be humble, and let it come naturally.” 

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One of Toronto’s first Black male models made strides in the fashion and entertainment industries for Black opportunities.

He made strides as one of Toronto’s first Black male models

NameDavid CardozaYearsb.1949 - d.1997BirthplaceKingston, JamaicaEthnic OriginJamaican Maroon, Portuguese, Scottish FatherOccupationsModel, ActorShare

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