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5 Black Models to Watch

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5 models to watch

As we’re sure many of you know, February marks the beginning of Black History Month. In the fashion industry, as we’ve mentioned before here at College Fashion, race is of particular importance. Yet despite constituting a large share of the fashion and beauty markets, black models and other women of color continue to be severely underrepresented on the runway and in advertising. For example, at New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014, just 8% of models were black, while a full 80% were caucasian.

This lack of representation has significant effects. The whitewashing of the fashion industry further contributes to Euro-centric beauty standards. And while we know how harmful unrealistic beauty standards are for all women, studies show the effects are particularly compounded for black women and girls. The Clark Study, for example, first conducted in 1950 and since replicated with similar results, revealed that when shown a white doll and a black doll, black children overwhelmingly identified the white doll as the “pretty one,” which hints at the internalization of negative beauty standards.

It’s important that we recognize women of color all the time, and not just for one month of the year. So, though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are five black models to watch in the coming Fashion Weeks and beyond:

Malaika Firth

Malaika firth
Photo- Elle

Malaika Firth first gained widespread recognition last year as the face of Prada’s F/W 2013 campaign. She was the first black model the brand had employed in almost twenty years. Malaika has since gone on to land the cover of Vogue UK, in addition to the S/S 2014 campaigns for Valentino and Burberry, as well as spreads in this month’s issues of Vogue Paris and British Vogue.

While the model makes it clear she’s happy to serve as the second black model for Prada, she also emphasizes the fact that she’s bi-racial. The campaign seemed to spur a positive trend for Prada, as their S/S 2014 campaign also includes black model Cindy Bruna.

Lyndsey Scott

Lyndsey scott
Photo- Elle

You might remember Lyndsey Scott as the model who codes. In addition to her modeling career, Lyndsey has developed seven mobile apps, including two that have been picked up by Apple. Where did she learn these skills? In 2006 she graduated from prestigious liberal arts school, Amherst College, with a dual degree in theatre and computer science.

In 2009, she was the first black model to receive a runway contract from Calvin Klein, followed in subsequent years by multiple runway shows for Victoria’s Secret, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. Currently, Lyndsey is signed to Elite Model Management. We hope to be seeing a lot more of this beautiful brainiac in the future!

Liya Kebede

Liya kebede
Photo- Elle

Ethiopian businesswoman Liya Kebede is already well-established within the fashion world. In 2002, she rose to fame after appearing on the cover of Vogue Paris. She subsequently appeared in campaigns for numerous top designers, including Dolce & Gabbana, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Escada. In 2003, she was named the face of Estée Lauder’s campaign and was the first woman of color to ever represent the brand. A few years ago, Liya made her comeback, after a nearly ten-year hiatus, working as a World Health Organization ambassador for maternal health.

Most recently, you can find her as the face of Prabal Gurung’s S/S 2014 campaign, which also happens to be the designer’s first-ever print ad! In addition, she’s on the cover of Elle Germany and currently serves as the face of L’Oreal’s S/S 2014 campaign. Did we mention that she also runs a philanthropic foundation dedicated to reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality in her free time? We think Liya rocks!

Ajak Deng

Ajak deng
Photo- Elle

Ajak Deng came into the spotlight in 2011, and she’s had a steady stream of work ever since. Her repertoire includes shows for some of the top designers, including Chloe, Givenchy, and Lanvin, as well as numerous editorials and ad campaigns. Most recently, she was in Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton, and Gap’s S/S 2013 campaigns and she walked in eight S/S 2014 fashion shows worldwide. Though it appears that as of yet, she has no new campaigns or editorials booked, we’re sure you’ll see her face around!

Beyond her immense beauty and modeling talent is also an incredible story of triumph. After fleeing the Sudanese civil war at a young age, Ajak lost her mother to malaria while living in a Kenyan refugee camp. In her teens, she emigrated to Australia as a refugee, where she became the sole caretaker for her siblings. This has only fueled her determination to succeed, though. When asked why she wants to model, Ajak responds, “to give my brothers and sisters everything.

Sabina Karlsson

Sabina karlsson
Photo- H&M

Swedish-Gambian Sabina Karlsson began modeling in 2005 as a straight-size model. Though she was heavily criticized for her size and shape as being “bottom-heavy”, she nevertheless went on to walk in 12 shows during her first New York Fashion Week.

In 2010, Sabina crossed over to plus-size modeling, where she found similar success. She’s currently featured in H&M’s plus size campaign, though the brand has come under fire for using the relatively small-sized Sabina for a plus size campaign. Black women in fashion already experience incredible under-representation, but the issue is compounded for plus-size black models, an issue Karlsson talks about at length in an interview with fellow plus size model, Ashley Graham.

What do you think?

Do you agree that representation is important in fashion? Who are your favorite models? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Posted on on February 5, 2014 / Filed Under: Fashion News / Tags: , , ,

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16 Responses to “5 Black Models to Watch”

  1. 1
    February 5th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    so glad for this post and the light it shined on the lack of representation and the white-washing that goes on in the fashion industry! thanks for highlighting it! on the other hand, it would be great to see some more diversity in your other posts, i.e looks on campus, the photos you use and the celebrity style bit! thank you!

  2. 2
    February 5th, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you, CF, for this post! As a woman of color, it’s nice to see someone else recognize the fact that black women are severely underrepresented in the fashion/beauty industry. I wish they would represent ALL women of every color equally, but progress is slow for anything important.

    Great post, and I will definitely be on the lookout for these models!

  3. 3
    February 5th, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    This article is great but what about Hispanics? We are also the minority, it would be nice to include other races and not just black and white models.

  4. 4
    February 5th, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. Representation is extremely important and it’s wonderful that there’s a space to have that dialogue here at CF.

  5. 5
    February 5th, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I applaud you all at CF trying to create greater representation within your own blog posts, and I sincerely appreciate your efforts. This was a great post, keep up the work guys!

  6. 6
    February 5th, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    this was a great article. I really enjoyed it. Only problem I had was the title. I would’ve perfer a title that didnt just say BLACK. what about “Models of color to watch” or “African American models to watch.”

    beside that it was great. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

  7. 7
    February 5th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!

    Mallory- I definitely agree about incorporating diversity in other parts of the site. Speaking for myself, that’s definitely something I’m trying to do going forward.

    Joann- you’re right that it’s important to represent every ethnicity, but this post was specifically because February is Black History Month.

    Mieya- That’s a good point and one that I debated for a while. However the article only discusses black or black bi-racial models so I felt models of color would have been too broad. And it’s worth pointing out that Lyndsey Scott is actually the only African American model featured! The others are either African or African-European. Still, I understand that the language we use is a sensitive and important issue!

  8. 8
    February 5th, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I read this blog everyday and it is nice to see women who looks like me.

    Again, thank you.

  9. 9
    February 6th, 2014 at 12:57 am

    this was a wonderful article and definitely sensitively written!!! i am african-american and sometimes people are either not educated about diversity and/or don’t care to write about it in a respectful manner. i just really appreciate the care given to the article – its still about fashion, but race and representation is SO important. ignoring issues don’t make them go away; discussing issues in a clear, understanding manner allows for healthy conversations and learning experiences! great job!

    in addition, i’d love to see more diversity pieces; as the earlier poster said, hispanic models and asian models and others – it would be great to more about them in the future! :)

  10. 10
    February 6th, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Thank you, Kate, for this segment. It is so pleasing and refreshing to know that Black History month is a month of celebration, appreciation and education for more than Black people alone. As an African American female, I deeply appreciate the time and sensitivity you invested into this article. Excellent job! Thank you for your work.

  11. 11
    February 6th, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Alek Wek
    Jasmine Tookes
    Jourdan Dunn
    Are also fabulous Black models! Awesome showcase of stunning black women and! Thanks College Fashion :-D

  12. 12
    February 7th, 2014 at 8:47 am

    check out nyasha matonhodze

  13. 13
    February 8th, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Oh my!!! They are all sooooooo gorgeous!! :D

  14. 14
    February 9th, 2014 at 9:49 am

    They’re all so pretty! I just love how bright colours always look beautiful on darker skin tones! Would it be possible to do one for Asian models?

  15. 15
    February 19th, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Considering that 72.4% of the population is white, while 12.6% is African-American (2010 census), I wouldn’t say that blacks are “severely” underrepresented. Of course, I agree that it is important for young girls to see these models so they believe that they are beautiful.

  16. 16
    March 2nd, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Uhhh… Person above this post is about under representation in the fashion industry…. Not in society. And to everyone else she daid directly this post was made for black history month.

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