01 February 2024

Black Models Are Breaking Barriers

Growing up, I never saw anyone who looked like me in the fashion magazines my friends and I read.  Even the so-called "diverse" models were often just light-skinned women with straight hair, not dark skin and natural hair.  I never felt like I could be part of the fashion world, because it didn't seem to have space for someone like me, and I know I wasn't the only one who felt that way.  Many women spoke about the lack of representation in the fashion industry.  And when it finally attempted to include models of color, those efforts often fell short, with only one or two in a campaign or show.  But when I look at the industry today, I see huge progress being made.

Popular Instagram model Nyakim Gatwech, aka the "Queen of the Dark",
has dealt with negativity and offensive suggestions due to the color of his skin.

One of the biggest barriers that Black models faced was lack of representation in major fashion magazines, which revolved around a very narrow definition of beauty.  But now, we are seeing more of them on the covers of these publications, not as token representations but centerpieces of large photoshoots.  And as time progresses, more brands and designers are including Black models.

Winnie Harlow @ 2023 Milan Fashion Week

These models are breaking barriers and redefining what it means to be beautiful in the world of fashion . For example, take Winnie Harlow, who was born with a skin disease called vitiligo.  She has become an inspiration to many people with that disorder.

Winnie Harlow modeling for Desigual in 2015.

Winnie rose to fame on America's Top Model and has since been featured in major campaigns for brands like Diesel (2015), Nike (2017) and FENDI (2023). She's also been a brand ambassador for prominent fashion companies, like Desigual.  Harlow is not only redefining beauty standards but also showing that people with skin conditions can be brave and successful in the fashion industry.

Halima Aden, the first hijab wearer to earn the distinction
of becoming an IMG Model.

And what about Somali-American Halima Aden?  She made history as the first model who wears a hijab to become a signee of IMG Models, one of the top agencies of its type in the world.  In 2017, Aden also became the first veiled model to be featured on the cover of Vogue Arabia, and she headlined the publication again in 2019 and 2023.  Halima is demonstrating that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs.

Naomi Campbell recounted how when she began her career, 
"there would be stylists who didn't have any experience working with Black models".

And it doesn't end there. There's Naomi Campbell (the queen of Black models), Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, Adut Akech and many others who are doing incredibly well and changing the narrative.                                             

CONCLUSION

Black models are breaking barriers and redefining what it means to be beautiful in the fashion industry.  They are not just changing the way we see beauty, but also using their platforms to speak out about important issues.  Their influence is having a positive impact on the world of fashion, and their success is inspiring the next generation of models.  I hope the industry will continue to embrace diversity and that more Black models will be given the opportunities they deserve.