25 Models Bringing Their Black Girl Magic to the Fashion Week Runways
More Black models walked the Fashion Week runways in 2020 than ever before, and hopefully the numbers will go up even more this year – specifically this spring 2022 season. Black models are making strides that in years past would have never seemed possible: opening and closing some of the biggest shows, appearing in groundbreaking campaigns, and splashing the covers of some of the biggest magazines. These models are showing what the power of a little melanin and a lot of strength can do for the fashion industry.
There is still a long way to go for inclusion on the runway. It’s not often you see someone who is differently abled, trans, or of any “>size that would qualify as “curve” walking the catwalk. But tides are shifting in the world of fashion, and it’s cause for celebration. Read ahead for some of the Black models who are changing the catwalk one step at a time.
– Additional reporting by Balim Tezel
Madel began modeling in 2019. She arrived in New York right in time for the spring/summer 2020 season and has already walked for big names like Tom Ford, Moschino, and Alexander McQueen.
Londoner Sacha Quenby has been one of the most recognizable faces, walking for big names including JW Anderson, Givenchy, and Chloé.
Kyla Ramsey’s career got a fast start when she walked for Louis Vuitton and had the opening spot at Prada’s Resort 2020 show in Manhattan. She’s already walked for brands such as Chanel, Versace, and Marc Jacobs.
After her debut at the Saint Laurent Fall 2019 runway, the Dominican model has been on the rise, booking shows like Gucci, Valentino, and Miu Miu.
Born in a refugee camp in South Sudan, Adut Akech has not forgotten her roots as she climbs the ladder to fashion stardom. A few years after being signed at age 16, she walked in Saint Laurent’s Spring 2017 show, her breakout moment. Her career has since skyrocketed, closing shows for Valentino and Alexander McQueen and appearing on the covers of i-D, British Vogue, and other publications.
Jari Jones is an influential model, actress, and activist making strides across each industry. She appeared in Calvin Klein’s Pride campaign and was the first Black trans woman to produce a film competing at Cannes Film Festival.
Having walked her very first show for Marc Jacobs, newcomer Imari Karanja was sure to be a star from the start. Here’s the crazy part: Imari is under 20 and has already walked for Christian Dior, Tom Ford, Hermès, and Giambattista Valli.
Naomi Chin Wing
Named a face to watch by Harper’s Bazaar in 2018, Trinidadian model Naomi Chin Wing has taken her elegant strut across the catwalks of Dior, Givenchy, and Valentino since walking her very first show for Saint Laurent in 2017.
Georgia native Precious Lee has been shaking up the fashion industry since she entered it. In 2015, she appeared in Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual campaign, becoming one of the first Black curve models to appear in Vogue. In 2016, she became the first Black curve model featured in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Jillian Mercado has appeared in campaigns for Nordstrom and Target and has been featured in editorials in Glamour and Cosmopolitan. She was also tapped by Beyoncé to be the face of her Ivy Park clothing line.
Yai was discovered when a photographer posted a photo of her at Howard University’s 2017 Homecoming Yardfest on Instagram and she gained popularity overnight. After that, she signed to Next Models and her career bloomed. In 2018, Yai became the first Black model to open a Prada show in 20 years, the last of whom was Naomi Campbell.
Scouted when she was barely 13 years old, Miu Miu muse Zoe Thaets opened her first show for Schiaparelli in January of 2018. She has been seen across many catwalks since then, including Dior, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors.
Licett Morillo Montero
In Fall of 2018, Licett Morillo Montero became the first woman of color to close a Prada show. Montero’s androgynous and powerful look is what brought her from working in a plastics factory and studying in the Dominican Republic, to the catwalks of Valentino and Saint Laurent.
Since appearing as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, Isis has become a well-known face in the transgender community, walking in shows such as Savage x Fenty.
Adesuwa Aighewi was rejected by several agencies for being “too Black,” but it was her perseverance that led her to be named “Supermodel in the Making” by Vogue, and to win Models.com’s industry vote for second breakout star of the year in 2018. Aighewi wrote an essay for The Guardian in 2017 addressing diversity issues within the industry, claiming “I can be whatever I want to be” and earning her status as one of the models who is changing the industry from the inside out.
At age three, Sabah Koj fled war-torn Sudan to settle in Australia where, many years later, she became the first African model in history to open a show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Since then, she has pushed to grow her career, walking for Armani, Miu Miu, and Balmain.
Instagram sensation and Afro-Swedish model Sabina Karlsson’s freckles and wild red hair have caught the eye of Christian Siriano and Michael Kors. Having modeled since she was a child, Karlsson has seen a shift in the industry both for both Black and curve models but remains a strong voice for inclusion and change.
Former America’s Next Top Model contestant Winnie Harlow has gone on to rock the Met Gala, numerous campaigns, red carpet events like film festivals, and more.
Janaye Furman went from a drama student in Los Angeles to an in-demand model when she was scouted in 2017 after a class. From that point, she became a fashion favorite, walking for Proenza Schouler, Valentino, and Balmain. Furman went on to become the first Black model to open for Louis Vuitton at the spring 2018 runway show during Paris Fashion Week.
Australian model Duckie Thot’s modeling career began when she came in third on the eighth season of Australia’s Next Top Model. After moving to New York in hopes of finding more opportunities for Black models, she quickly rose to fame. Now, she is one of the darkest-skinned models to become a L’Oréal ambassador, is a regularly featured Fenty Beauty model, and has walked for Balmain and Jeremy Scott.
It was obvious that Angolan model Maria Borges was going to be a star when she booked 17 shows in her first Fashion Week season. In 2015, Borges became the first Black model to walk in Victoria’s Secret’s annual show with her natural hair, which sparked a larger conversation in the fashion industry about inclusion on the catwalk.
London-born Saffi Karina has been defying industry standards since a former manager demanded she lose weight and she refused to do so, leaving that agency and joining IMG Models. Now, Karina can be seen in campaigns for L’Oréal and H&M and has walked in a few of Christian Siriano’s Fashion Week shows.
The first Muslim woman to wear a hijab on the international high-fashion catwalk and the first woman to wear a hijab on the cover of of an American fashion or beauty magazine, Halima Aden has never played it safe in the modeling world. Aden grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya and now works as a UNICEF ambassador and activist. Though she’s reportedly taking a break from the runway, she’s walked for Gucci, Calvin Klein, Balenciaga, and many other top brands.
Angolan model Blesnya Minher catapulted into stardom when she appeared alongside Christy Turlington and Lya Kebede in Valentino’s spring/summer 2017 campaign. Since then, she has proven herself a promising newcomer, walking on the runways of Miu Miu, Kenzo, and Christian Dior.