12 Amazing Dark-Skinned Models You Need To Follow RN
They're not only smashing the runways, but speaking out about changing the fashion industry too.
While it’s still more common to see light-skinned black entertainers top the charts and bag the leading lady roles, things are changing slowly but surely. Colourism is increasingly being called out in the entertainment industry, and elsewhere too, and the beauty of dark-skinned women is increasingly being recognised and championed by the global modelling and beauty industries.
10 Brits talk about their earliest memories of growing up black in the UK...
And it’s about time too, as there’s been a lot of missing talent on the scene. Here’s a list of our fave dark-skinned beauty idols (who are not only smashing their careers but making waves in the fashion industry) that you deffo need to follow on Instagram RN. So, in no particular order...
1. Duckie Thot
Duckie, obviously. She’s a seasoned Sudanese-Australian model. Having grown up down under in Aussie land, she came third in Australia’s Next Top Model in its 8th season. She then went on to walk on Yeezy’s runway in 2017 and is well known for modelling for Fenty Beauty, as well as featuring in lots of other campaigns. If you’re not already following her, you need to re-think your life choices.
2. Anok Yai
Anok is an Egyptian-born American fashion model of Sudanese descent. She became the second black model to open a Prada show following in the footsteps of none other than Naomi Campbell 20 years later (IKR - long gap inbetween). She got discovered by a photographer who met her at a festival called Yardfest and took a photo that he said would go viral. It did, the next day, and she started getting calls from agencies.
“Growing up, I looked up to Naomi Campbell and Grace Jones, but I needed more than just two people. Everywhere I looked, I saw people praising lighter skin and mocking people with dark skin. Now that I have this platform I can hopefully be the person I wanted to look up to. The industry is changing. It's really slow, but it is changing," she told Vogue in an interview.
3. Zuri Tibby
Scouted at just 15 in a mall in Florida, Zuri Tibby started off her career with a shoot for Teen Vogue (casual) and went on to become the first black model to be a spokesmodel for Victoria’s Secret PINK. She’s also modelled for brands like Vivienne Westwood and Thom Browne, and graced the covers of Vogue internationally.
She copied Candice and added ‘angel’ before her name on social media long before she actually got a job modelling for Victoria Secret, proving that determination really does out. She’s also on YouTube, so you can nab all of her top beauty tips!
4. Philomena Kwao
Philomena is a Ghanaian-British plus-sized model taking the industry by storm. She grew up in London, wishing she looked more like the woman she saw on TV, and told the Daily Mail in an interview that her darker skin tone made her feel so insecure growing up that she once tried a whitening soap.
Her under-confidence took a positive turn, however, when she got into modelling. She has modelled for magazines like Essence, New York Times and Cosmopolitan and not only featured alongside the one and only Ashley Graham in the Swimsuits For All campaign in Sports Illustrated, but in other global campaigns by MAC, Torrid and Evans. Above all she's a humanitarian, and continues to speak out about the need for more skin tone diversity in the industry, writing a piece for Huffington Post called Is My Black Not Beautiful? all about the lack of representation of darker-skinned women in the media.
5. Ajak Deng
Like Duckie, Ajak is Sudanese-Australian and has modelled for huge brands like Marc Jacobs, Dior and Valentino, despite saying to her career advisor at school that she wanted to join the army.
A couple of years ago, Ajak announced that she was going to quit modelling because of the discrimination she kept experiencing within the modelling industry. But when she received a huge inpouring of distraught messages from fans who looked up to her at the news, she decided she needed to carry on inspiring them and returned to the industry. Thank god, because an Insta feed without her modelling pics is not an Insta feed we’d like to be a part of.
6. Nyakim Gatwech
Nyakim is a South Sudanese-American model who, like Ajak, formally lived in a refugee camp. She has talked in the past about how she was bullied for being “too dark”, and when she posted a story about how she was asked by a taxi driver in the US if she’d considered bleaching her skin for $10,000, it went viral.
“I couldn't even respond I started laughing so hard,” she wrote. “Than [sic] he said so that a no and I was like hell to the f*king yeah that a no, why on earth would I ever bleach this beautiful melanin God bless with me.”
Nyakim has already built up an impressive portfolio of work working for big brands like Calvin Klein and walking runways at high profile events like New York Fashion Week. Constantly using hashtags like #queenofdark #myblackisbeautiful and #melaninpoppin, she not only has an Instagram full of beaut pics, but she uses her captions to send out empowering messages about confidence and self-worth.
7. Khoudia Diop
Khoudia, like Nyakim, used to be bullied for her dark skin and, like Nyakim, is now a successful model heading for greatness. Originally from Senegal, she rose to fame in 2016 when she featured in a campaign with The Colored Girl, and made a name for herself on Instagram under the handle @melaniin.goddess.
In an interview with Glamour this year, Khoudia describes how more than 25% of women in Senegal bleach their skin and that, though she was tempted, her older sister persuaded her not to, showing her pictures of Alek Wek (stay tuned to hear all about her) to explain that she could become a model with darker skin. She could, and she did. Khoudia walked New York Fashion Week last year, the first year when every runway show at NYFW had a model of colour and, at just 20 years old, her career is only on the up from here.
8. Leomie Anderson
Leomie is a British runway model who’s not only super talented and successful, having been a Victoria’s Secret angel and appearing in Fenty Beauty’s first ever campaign, but is unafraid to call out bullsh*t. She’s spoken out about colourism and racism in the fashion industry before, raising the issue of make-up artists not catering to darker skin tones and hairstylists to afro textured hair.
Talking to us at MTV last year she said that a lot of the time at Fashion Week, “Either the make-up artists are ill-equipped or are not very confident in doing dark skin, and as a result we either walk down the runway looking really ashy or we have to correct our make-up in the toilets, which I’ve had to do for my friends many times.
“It has to be spoken about in order for any change to come, and I don’t think people should be scared to have a conversation about race in fashion.”
9. Shanelle Nyasiase
South Sudanese model Shanelle Nyasiase grew up in Kenya. She was studying to become a flight attendant, as she wanted a job that allowed her to travel, but her plans were disrupted - she was discovered by a photographer. She started off modelling for African brands, but soon she was busy absolutely smashing the international modelling scene.
Now Shanelle's huge in high fashion, taking to the catwalk for brands like Alexander McQueen, Hugo Boss and Versace and featuring in high profile fashion publications like Vogue.
10. Alek Wek
We can’t talk about dark-skinned models without mentioning Alek Wek (total Queen). She’s a Sudanese model who fled to the UK with her family due to the civil war and, after arriving in the UK, ended up studying at the London College of Fashion. She moved to the US, was scouted by a modelling agency while out shopping and promptly rose to fame, featuring in a Tina Turner video and being snapped up by top designers who all wanted her on their runways. Soon, she was featuring in Vogue, and walking for the likes of Ralph Lauren. Alek had her Victoria Secret debut in 2001.
Among being an amazingly successful international supermodel, she's also a Goodwill Ambassador to The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, an author (her memoir became a bestseller) and a designer. AKA a total role model.
11. Adut Akech
Adut is a Sudanese model who made her debut at the Saint Laurent exclusive fashion week show last year, and hasn’t looked back since. She’s been gracing the runway for huge brands like Tom Ford, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Versace and Prada ever since she shot to modelling fame and has, of course, featured in Vogue.
She’s one to watch, and definitely one to follow on Insta.
Akiima is based in Australia but was born in a Kenyan refugee camp. She’s a young model who’s already worked for some of the biggest names in fashion, including Marc Jacobs, Valentino, and Chanel. Her first Vogue cover was for Vogue Australia, just a year into her modelling career. Which says a lot.
Akiima’s always using her growing platform to speak out about the need for more diversity within the industry. She's also driven AF, and we can’t wait to find out about all the great things she's going to achieve in the future.