Model Watch: 3 African models that dominated Fashion Month
Words by Elaine Okoye
Once upon a time, the fashion industry was not a favorably industry for black models. Often underrepresented and unappreciated, black models did not get the same opportunities as their white counterparts.Though we have a very long way to go, we must admit that there has been a huge push for inclusivity. Now, we see black models on runways wearing their natural hair and walking in multiple shows.
This fashion month however, there are 3 African models that have dominated the catwalks. These three have walking in all the huge shows including Alexandre Vauthier, Fendi, Prada and Chanel and they have put new meaning to the term ‘supermodel’.
Anok Yai, an Egyptian-born American fashion model of South Sudanese descent was discovered by accident and a single photo launched her modeling career. Discovered after a photographer took a picture of her at Howard University’s Homecoming celebration, Anok’s life took a completely different path after dozens of modeling agencies reached out, all clamoring to sign the girl in the photo.
Though modeling was something her and her sisters had dreamed of, Anok said to the Washington Post that, “My fear was being able to stand out because there’s so many girls modeling and the industry is always changing.” Anok’s case is a perfect example of what is meant to be will always be and without even trying, Anok’s modeling career was launched.
In her short career, Anok has been steadily breaking barriers. She is the second black model to open a Prada show after Naomi Campbell, and the first South Sudanese model to do so.
Anok, whose skin is rich and dark is a perfect example to other dark-skinned black girls all over the world who were told that their dreams weren’t valid. Speaking to Washington Post about how she will use her new-found fame to effect positive change, Anok said, ‘’When I was younger I was extremely insecure about my skin color. All I saw was light-skinned and white girls in the media. Now, I can speak my mind on certain topics and have people that will definitely listen. Now, I can use my mind and tell people about colorism and teach girls about self-confidence.”
Adut Akech Bior
With her cherub face and rich dark skin, you don’t have to look far to realise why Adut Akech is the industry’s latest darling. Making her debut at the MET Gala last year in a dusty pink Valentino creation, Adut had people wondering who this new face was.
We didn’t have to wonder much longer as Adut began popping up at all the high profile shows including Chanel and Valentino.
The South-Sudanese Australian model, who made her debut at Saint Laurent was even chosen as ‘Model of the Year’ by models.com in 2018.
In a special feature in Vogue, Adut spoke about how the industry is changing before her very eyes, she said, “When I first started there were a select few black models who were doing good, and nobody else was noticed, but now every season there’s somebody coming in, there are black girls, and Asian girls – different girls. I always say there’s still a long way to go, but, you know, you can’t take away from the fact that movement is happening.”
Now, thanks to models like Adut we are seeing a shift in the culture. Black models are being given more runway privileges and we are seeing well-paying, high-profile campaigns increasingly available for a diverse range of women.
Nigeria’s very own Mayowa Nicholas is hurtling towards supermodel status if she hasn’t already achieved it. Her walk, her signature model strut is the stuff of legends and Mayowa is garnering more and more international attention by the day.
Mayowa, who won the Elite Model Look competition in 2014, went on to become the first Nigerian model to star in Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein campaigns and is ranked as one of the Top 50 models in the world on models.com.
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar about what makes Mayowa so special, Josie Crawley from Elite London (Mayowa’s agency) said, "Mayowa is one of the most incredible break-out models this season. Not only does she have an little incredible walk, but an attitude to match; she is one of the most passionate, fun and loveable models in the industry. Brand and industry heroes alike have all seen what an incredible spark this girls has, so we can expect big things from this little star."
Mayowa has certainly been doing the rounds this fashion month. Fresh from her Victoria Secret debut in late 2018, it’s clear that Mayowa’s career is on a upward trajectory and we cannot wait to see the talented model land among the stars.