Models from Africa are seizing their moment.
By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
When the Somali makeup mogul Iman did her first shoot for Vogue in 1976 as a model, she paved the way for the international wave of black girls you see today. From supermodel Louise Vyent in the ’80s to the current Sudanese superstar Alek Wek, these African beauties further laid the foundation for fashion’s current African “moment.” Now, African women are among modeling’s most desired faces. Zandile Blay, editor of AfricaStyleDaily.com and a Huffington Post columnist, likens the recent rise of African girls to the popularity Eastern European models have enjoyed for the last two decades. Yet Blay is cautious. “Make no mistake,” the Ghanaian-American style guru said. “We are by no means fully represented in the rank and file of top models. But from the catwalks of Paris to the lookbooks of New York’s hottest designers, African models are a presence as never before.” Even more encouraging? The many “African” looks being promoted are “a beautiful representation of [our] diversity,” according to Ethiopian model Gelila Bekele. Here are the top 11 African models showing the world how beautiful black truly is.
The Super Woman: Liya Kebede
People toss the word “supermodel” around flippantly, but true “supers” boast an enviable resume that includes covers, contracts, and campaigns—coupled with the honor of opening and closing key runway shows. Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede has done it all from covering Vogue, Essence, Harper’s Bazaar, and i-D to starring in campaigns for Gap, Lord & Taylor, and Ann Taylor, plus nabbing a lucrative Estee Lauder contract. She is now the face of L’Oreal, and in ’08 earned a Forbes shout-out as the 15th highest-paid model. The former face of Yves Saint Laurent, she has also represented the World Health Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador. Kebede continues to model even as she runs her eponymous foundation and pursues a career in acting. Her onscreen credits include cameos in The Good Shepherd and Lord of War. Most recently she starred in Desert Flower, a biopic based on the memoir of fellow African model, Waris Dirie.