The modelling industry is one of the toughest industries to get into especially if one wants to make it big internationally. However over the years we have seen African models becoming successful in the U.S and Europe. This women’s month Jucy would like to salute these women for putting Africa on the map in terms of fashion. When the Somali makeup mogul Iman did her first shoot for Vogue in 1976 as a model, and from then more and more models came out of Africa and reached for greater heights internationally. She paved the way for the international wave of black girls we see today. From supermodel Iman to the current young African supermodels who are now making it big, these African beauties are further laying the foundation for fashion’s current African “moment.” To date African women are among modeling’s most desired faces.
Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid born in Somalia on July 25,1955. Iman was discovered in 1975 by photographer Peter Beard whilst a student at Nairobi University. Her slender and serene looks attracted Magazines from Tokyo, Paris and New York. Iman is fluent in five languages: Arabic, Somali, English, French and Italian. She married rock star David Bowie in 1992. She has a daughter Zulekha from her first marriage. In 2001 she completed her first book, I AM IMAN. She played in several films, like ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Out of Africa’. She is a former supermodel, entrepreneur, the founder and CEO of Iman Cosmetics.
Alek Wek was born in Sudan. She left home in 1991 to escape the civil war ravaging her country. Arriving in London at age 14, she was discovered soon after by a model scout in a South London market. Since 2002, she’s been an advisor to the US Committe for Refugess. Alek originates from the Dinka tribe of southern Sudan and has eight siblings. She went to school in England after her family fled there seeking political asylum when she was 14 years old. She went on to study fashion technology in London. She was discovered whilst attending a fete by Fiona Ellis, a scout from Models One. Alek has done a variety of work for charitable causes including World Vision (for which she is the spokesperson), the U.S. Committee for Refugees, Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign, New York City Special Olympics, Sudanese relief through UNICEF, London Refugee Week, Roots (in Brooklyn) and DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS).
Ethopian Model Liya Kebede born born January 1978. Forbes put Liya in the top 15 highest paid models list for 2007 and 2008, thanks to high-earning campaigns from brands like Estée Lauder, rumoured to be worth $3million alone. She is one of the industry’s most established black models, having appeared three times on the cover of American Vogue, as well as the Italian, Spanish, French and Japanese editions of the fashion tome, and in campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana, Victoria’s Secret and Lacoste (remember the polo shirts and evening dresses?). She has also appeared in three films and is the founder of the Liya Kebede Foundation, which aims to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethopia and around the world. This model-turned-entrepreneur has her own clothing line called Lemlem, which is stocked at Barney’s, J.Crew, and Net-a-Porter, and which she hopes will preserve the traditional Ethiopian art of weaving.
Grace Bol like Alek also born in Sudan.This statuesque 5’10” model made her first big splash walking for Givenchy in Paris last season. Now she’s gaining more exposure she often gets confused for that other big name Sudanese model – Alek Wek – and even has people chasing after her to ask Alek’s autograph. Despite the uncanny resemblance, Grace is definitely carving her own path in the fashion world, walking for DVF and Suno last month in New York, and she has aspirations of starting a clothing line in her home country to provide local people jobs and showcase their talent.
Oluchi Onweagba was born in Lagos, Nigeria on the 1st of August 1982. Growing up, Oluchi was very thin and did not have a lot of self confidence. When she turned 16, her friend persuaded her to do a competition called “Nokia Face Of Africa” (previously “Face Of Africa”) and won the competition. She is known (mainly in Africa) as the first “face of Africa” and now is wanted on the most popular runways today. She met famous fashion designer Luca Orlandi and soon married him on St. Barths in August 2005 and they are very happy together. Oluchi is still a popular model today. She is known as one of the tallest models in the fashion industry.
Since Elle Canada put Herieth on it’s July cover with the headline ‘Naomi, Move Over’, this fresh-faced model has gained a lot of attention. But the comparisons don’t end there, she is often referred to as a ‘black Kate Moss’, or compared to model Grace Jones. At 16, she is already being considered an icon by industry insiders like photographer Steven Meisel, who shot her for the cover of Italian Vogue with Freja Beha Erichsen and Arizona Muse. Having also appeared in an instalment of short fashion films entitled This One for CK One, this self-proclaimed shy girl is getting over her insecurities and plans to make an appearance on the cover of every fashion title in the world within two years.
Her full name is Ibiagbanidokibubo Asenite Darego. She was chosen to represent her country at the “Face of Africa” contest. She won and proceeded on by participating in the “Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria” contest. She finished as a runner-up. She competed in the Miss Universe Pageant. She was 19 years old when she won the Miss World 2001 competition. She was the first ever Nigerian and black African to do so. Her victory in the pageant was widely welcomed in her home country, and her one year tenure included goodwill trips and scheduled appearances on behalf of the pageant. Darego was honoured with the Nigerian national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON after her win as Miss World in 2001.
At just 16, Zimbabwean-born model Nyasha Matonhodze has been named as one of the faces of luxury label Louis Vuitton’s 2011 Autumn/Winter campaign. The news has made headlines around the world, turning the shy teenager into a household name overnight.She’s a Leo (born 31 July, 1995).
These are just a few of the phenomenal African women who have made their mark internationally, this only proves once again that it doesn’t matter where you come from or circumstances may be you can still make it anywhere. It has got nothing to do with magic, maybe a bit of luck but overall it starts with a vision then hard work then the rest will follow.
Palesa Matlebyane is a Lifestyle writer for Jucy Africa. She loves fashion, reading, writing and traveling. She is the shy type but can be loud! You can follow her on twitter @palesama