Over the years, the fashion industry has been marred by the controversial lack of diversity. When Jasmine Tookes modeled the coveted “fantasy bra” at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last year, it marked the third time in the show’s 21-year run that a woman of color was chosen to make the brand’s ultimate fashion statement. Italian label, Prada, has also faced racism accusations, including when the luxury house used 19-year-old Malaika Firth in a 2013 ad, making her the first black model to be cast by Prada for almost two decades. If we were to list all the instances the fashion industry has failed to address the lack of models of color in fashion runways and advertisements, we’d be here all day.
In December 2016, I came across the “Black Mirror” project, a concept by model Deddeh Howard in response to the industry’s whitewash. In the project, the Liberian model recreated campaigns casting herself in ads that originally featured white models by brands such as Guess, Chanel and Calvin Klein to mention but a few. “Black Mirror” was aimed at raising awareness of the issue while highlighting how black girls are almost invisible at the top of the modeling pantheon.
While we wait for the fashion industry to end this sorry plight, I have decided to celebrate some of my favorite black models that are getting some much-deserved attention from brands.
Born in 1992, Angolan fashion model Maria Borges was named Forbes Africa Magazine’s top model of 2013. She has since made history by being the first black model to ever walk in the November 2015 Victoria’s Secret fashion show whilst wearing her natural afro hair. “I feel like I did my part. I showed women they don’t have to look one way to feel beautiful. Be you and showcase your beauty,” she told glamour.com backstage at the show. In her booming career, Maria has walked the runway for fashion heavyweights like Ralph Lauren and Badgley Mischka. It’s also no surprise that beauty giant L’Oréal Paris tapped her as the newest face of the brand. She’s redefining the standards of beauty and I love that she is a champion for self-expression. “ I believe in the beauty of diversity and the empowering message that a girl who started from the bottom can be an international beauty symbol,” she said in a statement regarding her new endorsement.
Tanzanian model Herieth Paul made her entry into fashion as Elle Canada’s cover star at the tender age of 14 in 2011. The cover was striking, with a bold “Naomi Move Over: Why We’re Hot For Herieth” caption. The now 20-year-old has the credentials of a bona fide supermodel, having walked in top international runway shows from New York to Milan, starring in big-time ad campaigns. As one of Maybelline NY brand ambassadors, Herieth had this to say about her global beauty endorsement, “I actually got a lot of emails and messages saying you’re a black girl, you have short hair and that’s not the ideal that society thinks is beautiful – you have to have blonde hair and blue eyes.” She also gushed, “to be in the same family as Adriana Lima and Christy Turlington is a dream come true.”
One of the most refreshing faces on fashion runways at the moment is Dutch model, Imaan Hammam. Five years after being discovered, the beguiling beauty has appeared on the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy, modeled for Victoria’s Secret, appeared in her first movie and featured in the international editions of Vogue and Interview magazine. With an impressive résumé of major runway shows, fashion campaigns, and magazine spreads, there’s no doubt the 20-year old is well on her way to becoming an industry icon.
Images: Vogue/Deddeh Howard/L’Oreal/Maybelline