Models From Africa
Since the beginning, the fashion and modeling industries have always been very exclusive when deciding who obtained the right look to play a part within these industries. Fashion and modeling were not favorable for black models. Black models were often underrepresented and underappreciated, never receiving the same and equal opportunities as deserved. As time has progressed, so have these industries. Nowadays, the story is very different. African models fill the scene, walking in high end shows, painting the cover of magazines, and continuously rising to the top. These models help showcase the rich and diverse African culture, as well as, help shape the future of these industries everyday. This article will introduce some of the most well known African Models.
Alek Wek is a South Sudanese-British model and designer. She was born in South Sudan and belongs to the Dinka Tribe. She fled to Britain in 1991 to escape the civil war in Sudan. She began her modeling career at the age of 18. She was discovered at an outdoor market in 1995 by a modeling scout. She appeared in a music video by Tina Turner called “GoldenEye” and after, began fashion modeling. In 1996 Alek Wek was signed to Ford Models and appeared on the cover of Elle Magazine the following year. This same year she was declared “model of the year” by MTV. Since Elle, she has appeared in many other editorials such as Vogue and Ebony. Alek Wek has modeled for names such as Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce n Gabbana, Moschino, Ralph Lauren and more.
During her early modeling years, dark skinned models were rare, if not unheard of in the high fashion industry. Alek’s success was celebrated by black women all over the world. She was an inspiration to black women and children alike. Oprah Winfrey once said “If Alek had been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have a different concept of who I was”.
Alek is also involved in philanthropic work. Since 2002 she has been an advisor to the U.S Committee for Refugees Advisory Council. This council helps raise awareness about situations within Sudan as well as help refugees worldwide. Alek Wek is also a missionary for World Vision. World Vision is an organization that dedicates time, money and resources to combat AIDS. She is also an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan, and also dedicates some of her time to UNICEF.
Maria Borges is a supermodel from Luanda, Angola. She was raised by her siblings during the Angolan Civil War and in 2010 was discovered when she placed second at the Angolan contest called Elite Model Look. She is considered one of the top African supermodels. In 2010 she was signed with the Supreme Agency. A month after being signed she debuted her first ever fashion week and walked 17 runway shows. Maria Borges has appeared in many high fashion editorials such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and more. In 2017 Maria was the second African woman to be featured on the cover of Elle Magazine, 20 years after Alek Wek. Maria Borges was the first African model to to wear her natural hair at the Victoria's Secret runways show, inspiring a new wave of natural African beauty within the industry. Maria Borgeous is credited for using her supermodel status to help put fashion designers from each country she visits on the map.
Herieth Paul is an African Supermodel born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. She moved to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at the age of 14 and was discovered at an open casting call at Angie’s AMTI. She signed with a modeling agency called Women Management New York in 2010. She has been featured in many high fashion editorials such as Vogue, and has walked runway shows for brands such as Armani, Calvin Klien and more. In July 2011, she made the cover of Canadian Elle. Herieth Paul is well known for being an African model with natural hair.
Growing up Herieth Paul helped volunteer with her mother at a Tanzanian orphanage called Sachia Society. Throughout her whole life and career, Herieth has never forgotten her roots and dedicates most of her success and inspiration from people who didn't have the same opportunities she did. She has continued to help and support children at Sachia Society in hopes to open doors for them and expand their horizons through education. She has also been a motivational spokesperson for African children of color. Herieth Paul believes everyone deserves to celebrate their own unique beauty and helps to inspire the African youth to believe in themselves and their natural beauty.