We love catwalk queens like Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, and Adriana Lima, but also get super excited to see fresh faces on the runway. Many fashion houses have been accused of lacking diversity in their casting, so we’ve paid special attention to models of colour featured in the shows. From New York, London, Milan and Paris there’s been some great talent this past season — here are 15 models of colour to keep an eye on.
1. Hiandra Martinez
Martinez opened the first Anthony Vaccarello-designed Saint Laurent show as an exclusive, and it’s easy to see why the Dominican model got that coveted spot. Her look and walk exude sexiness and toughness — a true embodiment of the designer’s signature style.
2. Lameka Fox
Fox was scouted by mega-model agency IMG on Instagram, so there’s no doubt that she’s gorgeous. She also has an awesome walk that landed her in shows Paco Rabanne, Topshop, and Thakoon this past season.
3. Halima Aden
Halima Aden has been unstoppable since walking her first runway show for Yeezy Season 5. Wearing a hijab and rocking her flawless skin, the Somali-American model made waves in the best way and has since booked more high-profile shows.
4. Marie Fofana
Hailing from Senegal, Fofana was a runway fixture in New York, Milan and Paris walking shows such as Rochas, MSGM and Altuzarra. With her luminous mahogany complexion and high cheekbones, she was absolutely breathtaking.
Khann’s glossy black hair and perfect features have landed her campaigns with Ralph Lauren, Macy’s and Lacoste in the past, but she also makes quite the impression sauntering down the runway. We spotted her at Rebecca Minkoff looking boho-beautiful.
6. Tatiana Elizabeth
We first saw this glowing goddess at the all-WOC show for Maki Oh and fell for her hazel eyes and endlessly long legs.
7. Crystal Noreiga
Pretty much no one can pull off sequins, plaid, logo shirts and face paint but somehow Noreiga mentioned to do it all and still look incredible at Ashish.
Africa is home to beautiful women from diverse cultural backgrounds. So, who are the top African supermodels? Here’s a list of the 10 top African models that have successfully broken the negative stereotypes in the modelling world, making the continent proud.
1. Alex Wek
Alek is a top black model. She was born in South Sudan and belongs to the Dinka Tribe. Alek was forced to flee the country due to the civil war. She is currently residing in Britain. Alek Wek started her modelling career in 1995 when she was 18 years old.
In 1996, Alek was signed to Ford Models. The following year, she appeared on the cover of Elle magazine. She was also declared the model of the year by MTV that same year. The African supermodel has modelled for Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce n Gabbana, Moschino, Ralph Lauren, and many other fashion houses.
2. Maria Borges
Maria Borges is one of the top African supermodels. She was born in Luanda, Angola, on October 28, 1992. Maria was discovered in 2010 during the Angolan edition of the contest Elite Model Look. Two years later, she signed with Supreme Agency. Maria appeared in Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show from 2013-2017.
She has also modelled for different modelling agencies, including the Mega modelling agency in Hamburg, IMG Los Angeles in Los Angeles, and IMG Australia in Sydney, just to mention but a few.
Maria is famous as one of the African models with natural hair. She was the first African model to rock natural hair at Victoria’s Secret show. Maria has had a successful modelling career. She was the second African model to appear on the cover of the Elle magazine after Alek Wek. Maria has appeared in beauty campaigns for Givenchy, Bobbi Brown, L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline, Tommy Hilfiger, C&A and H&M. In 2016, Maria became a global ambassador for L’Oréal, signing a multi-year deal spanning across hair, makeup, and skincare products. She is credited for using her status as a supermodel to put fashion designers from each country she visits on the map.
3. Candice Swanepoel
Candice Swanepoel is a black South African supermodel and philanthropist. She debuted her modelling career at the age of 15 years after being spotted by a model scout in a Durban Flea Market. She has appeared in many editorials and has walked the runway for Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Kardashians’ swimwear and many other brands.
Candice has appeared in FHM’s annual 100 sexiest women poll multiple times, which makes her one of the most famous African female supermodels. In 2010, she was one of the featured models in the SWIM catalogue. The same year she became Victoria’s Secret Angel, and she officially opened the first Victoria’s Secret retail store in Canada. She was named the cover model of Victoria’s Secret Swim Catalogue. Swanepoel was chosen to wear the royal fantasy bra and its matching belt, which featured over 4200 precious gems. She won the Launch of the year award at the 5th annual Daily Front Row Awards in 2018 after launching her own swimwear collection.
4. Herieth Paul
Herieth Paul is a Tanzanian model born on December 14, 1995, in Dar es salaam. Her mother, a diplomat at the Tanzania High Commission, got a work transfer to Ottawa, Canada, and she moved to Canada with her. Her modelling talent was discovered when she attended an open call at Angie’s AMTI, a modelling agency located in Ottawa, Canada.
UGC She has walked the runway for brands such as Armani, Cavalli, Calvin Klien, and many others. Herieth has also appeared in editorials for Vogue Italia Magazine, i-D, Wonderland, and Teen Vogue. In July 2011, she was the cover model of the Canadian Elle. She was one of the three models in the Tom Ford Fall/Winter 2013 campaign, which was named one of the top ten campaigns of Fall. She is one of the African models with natural hair.
5. Gelila Bekele
Gelila Bekele was born on September 4, 1986, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She spent her early years living in the village before moving to the City at the age of 4. Bekele relocated to Europe with her family at the age of eight years. Bekele began her modelling profession when she was still studying at UC Berkeley.
However, she was hesitant at first because she feared her parent’s reaction to her new career. This made her begin the career at 19, unlike the other models who start their modelling careers in their mid and early teenage years. Her first signing was Ford Models. She has worked with big brands, including Pantene, Tony Burch, Diesel, and Levis. Bekele has featured in several fashion and beauty campaigns and has appeared in leading magazines. Gelila is the longtime girlfriend of famous actor and film producer Tyler Perry.
6. Ajuma Nasenyana
Ajuma Nasenyana is a Kenyan model born on January 14, 1985, in Lodwar, Turkana County, in Kenya. She began her modelling career after completing her studies at Greensteds International School. In the beginning, she dreamt of becoming an athlete and enrolled for truck running training.
In 2003, she participated in New York’s Fashion Week alongside Naomi Campbell And Alek Wek. She also modelled for fashion houses during the Italian Fashion Week. In 2012, she was named the African Fashion Week Model Of the year. Besides modelling, Nasenyana leads a campaign that helps appreciate the dark African skin and kinky hair.
7. Ajak Deng
Ajak Deng is an Australian fashion model born on December 7, 1989, in Tonj, South Sudan. Her family moved to Kenya after being displaced from South Sudan due to the civil war. She then moved to Melbourne, Australia, when she was eleven years. Ajak was spotted when she was still in high school. She signed to FRM model management in 2008. Her modelling career grew steadily, and she was absorbed by the Milk management and Esee management modelling agencies.
Her first international modelling jobs included an advertisement for United Colors of Benetton and fashion shows for Valentino, Givenchy, Marc by Marc, among many other brands. She has also modelled for Louis Vuitton, MAC Cosmetics, Topshop, and Valentino. Ajak has been vocal about how it feels like being black in the modelling industry, which made her quit modelling in 2016 briefly but made a come back later on.
8. Tanit Phoenix
Tanit Phoenix is a South Africa born fashion model, actress and a makeup artist. She was born on September 24, 1980, in Durban. Tanit began her modelling career at the age of 14 after being spotted by a modelling scout in her hometown, Westville. She is known for her famous swimwear and lingerie photoshoots. Tanit was ranked among the FHMs 100 sexiest women in the world between the years 2004-2006.
In 2011, she won the IGNs sexiest woman of the year and was the most famous girl ever photographed for Babeology by IGN. Tanit Phoenix has appeared on the covers of magazines countless times and has frequently been shot for sports illustrated swimsuit issue. The 40-year old has appeared in TV commercials and has starred in several movies.
9. Yasmin Warsame
Yasmin was born on May 5, 1976, in Mogadishu, Somalia. She relocated to Toronto, Canada, with her family when she was 15 years old. The model was noted by scouts from SHOK Models in LaChapelle. Her first modelling assignment was with Fiorio salon for the ABA (Allied Beauty Association) Annual hair show. Yasmin did the modelling while pregnant but later requested leave from modeLling to concentrate on her pregnancy.
She modelled for Ford Models from 2000 before switching to NEXT Models Canada, where she was featured as the cover model of Lush Magazine. Yasmin has done advertising campaigns for Valentino Couture, Dolce n Gabbana, Escada, among many other brands. In 2007, the 44-year-old model became a judge on Canada’s Next Top Model series. Currently, she is signed with IMG Models.
Iman is a Somali fashion model, actress, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Her official name is Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid. She was born on July 25, 1955, in Mogadishu, Somalia. Iman began her modelling career in 1976 after being noticed by an American photographer, Peter Beard, in 1975. She then moved to the United States to begin her modelling career. Iman’s first modelling assignment was for Vogue.
With her long neck, slender figure, and fine features, Iman gained a lot of success in the modelling industry. Signed to the modelling agency Wilhelmina, Iman began a career on haute-couture runways and in the pages of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She was instantly a favourite with designers and editors alike and was one of the first models in her day to be successful in both print and on the runway. Iman is the spokesperson for Keep a Child Alive Program and the Children’s Defense Fund. There you have it. A complete list of the most famous African supermodels in 2020. As you have seen, black supermodels are making it big in the global modelling industry. They have modelled for the top brands and fashion houses, and they have appeared on the covers of magazines. With the introduction of plus-size modelling, it is expected that the number of African models will be much higher than it is now in the near future.
Supermodel Adut Akech – as a global fashion industry darling that’s walked for all the top luxury houses and landed coveted magazine covers across the world – is hardly an unknown face. But her recent appointment as the newest ambassador for cosmetics giant Estée Lauder is set to catapult her from fashion industry notoriety to household name, and the significance and magnitude of such a role isn’t lost on Akech.
“To be part of the Estée Lauder family is a dream come true. Estée Lauder has such an amazing heritage, and the story of Mrs Estée Lauder continues to be an inspiration to women around the world,” the South Sudan-born model said in a statement announcing the partnership. “Like her, I hope to inspire girls everywhere to never give up on following their dreams.”
In a post on her Instagram, Akech further detailed her excitement about the opportunity. “Mrs. Estée Lauder said, ‘I never dreamed of success, I worked for it.’ Words cannot express how Proud and excited I am to share I’m now a part of the @esteelauder family as their newest #EsteeGlobalAmbassador,” she wrote. “All my hard work has led me to moments like this.”
Akech has spoken openly about being unable to see herself reflected in the fashion and beauty realms as a teenager in Adelaide, Australia. She revealed that she hopes her ambassadorship for a global brand will be able to change that for others. “Growing up in the western world I didn’t really see a representation of myself in [the] fashion and beauty world on television or magazines until I got into the fashion industry,” she continued.
“To now be the representation in the fashion beauty space I didn’t have a growing up means everything to me. My little sisters will now also see their faces in my beauty ads and campaign billboards, little back girls in South Sudan, Africa and all around the world will now see themselves in me through the work I will do in this space,” she wrote. “I hope you can see though we are more than WORTHY of being faces of the biggest iconic global beauty brands. I do it to break down barriers, to prove we are here, we are unique & beautiful, for the little girls and boys not seen and heard.”
The brand appears just as excited to be working with Akech, who spent her early years at a refugee camp in Kenya before emigrating to Australia. “Adut is one of fashion’s biggest and most influential stars,” said group president for the Estée Lauder Companies Stéphane de la Faverie. “We believe her incredible story, personality and beauty will help us continue to inspire and connect with our consumers and establish her as a beauty icon of her generation.”
We can’t wait to follow this one.
ANSM is a new modelling competition organised by Mode1 Management that aims to bring undiscovered faces across Africa the opportunity to be seen, sponsored and managed by top agencies.