African Models Taking the Fashion Industry by Storm
By Anu Kehinde
These influential young African models have been blazing the runways for prestigious brands, capturing the attention of audiences all around the world on multiple occasions. They are also using their platforms and careers as models to build an inclusive and diverse community for other emerging models. This is who they are.
Born to South Sudanese parents in Nebraska, Achenrin has and continues to make her mark as a model. Shy of 20 years old, Achenrin Madit is dominating the fashion industry and becoming a voice for diversity, inclusivity and sustainability within fashion. Through her advocacy she encourages others to “be conscious” in their actions because we all have “the power to change the world.” (Stella McCartney)
Danish, Somalian, Ethiopian and Turkish Teen model Mona Tougaard is amongst the emerging faces in the fashion industry. Scouted at the age of 12, Tougaard’s unique striking features, talent and love for modelling has constantly “gotten [her an] opportunity.” (Dazed100) Since the age of 12 she has achieved a number of notable experiences and awards, including winning Denmark’s Elite Model Look competition in 2017 and starting her first prominent international show at Prada.
Women’s advocate and model Kadija Kallon dominated Prada’s Fall/Winter 2021 runway, donning several of Prada’s womenswear collection. The young Sierra Leonian model has appeared on four covers of Numéro Magazine and recently had the opportunity to be a part of Prada’s Spring Summer 2021 Campaign, Man and Woman Dialogue, a collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons.
Maty Fall Diba
Senegalese-Italian, student and model Maty Fall Diba was the face of Spring/Summer 2021 runway, starring in a remarkable 37 shows. Immediately signed to IMG during the summer of 2019, after submitting pictures of herself, Diba’s debut catwalk for Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 2020 paved the way for her promising modelling career. In an Interview with Vogue she stated, “Being able to wake up and do this is a dream.”
Grace is a South-Sudanese model, who got her big break when she moved to New York, age 19. In her debut season she walked for the likes of Maison Margiela, Vivienne Westwood and Givenchy and went on to shoot covers and editorials for Vogue, Elle, W, Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, Numéro and Flaunt globally to name a few. She has since walked for everyone from Zimmermann to Victoria’s Secret and featured in campaigns for the likes of Balmain.
Model Mayowa Nicholas is the first Nigerian to walk for Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana and Saint Laurent. She won the Elite Model Look Nigeria at the age of 16 and was one of the final 15 models at the world finals. Signed to Elite Paris and Milan, this 22-year-old is unstoppable. Since her debut runway show for Victoria Secret, Mayowa Nicholas has worked with prominent brands like Balmain, Moschino and Alexander Wang.
Sabah Koj made history as the first African model to open a fashion show in Australia at the Georgia Alice runway during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Originally from South Sudan and having emigrated to Egypt at the age 4 before settling in Australia. She has since modelled for the likes of Jacquemus, Pucci, Mugler, Off-White, Burberry, Armani, Elie Saab and Victoria’s Secret, covered the likes of L’officiel and was crowned Models.com ‘Top Newcomer’ in 2018.
Named Model of the year in December 2019, by the British Fashion Council, Akech continues to impress. Starting out from an early age, walking in Adelaide at age 13, the South-Sudanese refugee became the second black model to receive the bridal spot in a Chanel Couture show. She was featured on five issue covers for Vogue in one season and has shot campaigns for Versace, Fendi and Moschino. Akech is currently working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to raise awareness, advocate for and promote the support for refugees worldwide.
She is the first South Sudanese woman and second black model to ever open a Prada show since 1997. In an interview with Vogue she shared that opening for one of the top fashion houses is a statement to the world – especially for black women – that their beauty is something that deserves to be celebrated.” Yai is signed with Next Models worldwide and has bagged several campaigns with iconic brands from Versace to Tom Ford and Estēe Lauder and has covered and featured in editorials for the likes of Dazed, W, i-D and Vogue.
Model and filmmaker Aighewi is a rising prodigy. She was ranked ‘Top 50 models’ by models.com in 2019 and has walked for a number of esteemed brands such as Miu Miu, Chanel, Dior and Fendi. Whilst interning at NASA, modelling supported her, and now she is currently completing a book which is inspired by her late brother. This Chinese, Thai, Nigerian polymath became the second black person to ever appear on the cover of Vogue Thailand amplifying her career as a model. She uses her creative dexterity to promote the preservation of African Culture whilst vocalising societal issues within the fashion industry.
From Australia's Next Top Model to being signed by CAA, Hollywood talent agency, South Sudanese Duckie Thot continues to shine in the fashion industry spotlight. Her achievements and experiences include being the face of Fenty Beauty and L’Oréal, being on the cover of Paper, Harper Bazaar and Marie Claire Magazine and featuring in Balmain and Maison Margiela campaigns. She debuted at Yeezy’s show and has since then walked for other brands, such as Victoria Secret and Valentino.
Fronting Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2018 campaign, Shanelle Nyasiase’s emergence in the international fashion scene highlights her stunning talent. The Kenyan born model shared a cover in Vogue Japan’s September 2020 Issue with Mayowa Nicholas, Amar Akway and Aliet Sarah. Starting out modelling for Adele Dejak and Kiko Romeo, Nyasiase continues to impress and we can be sure we will be seeing more of her soon, having graced the runway for brands like Valentino and Iris Van Herpen.
Dutch model of Moroccan-Egyptian descent, Imaan Hammam was discovered at the young age of 13 and has since become one of the industry’s most popular faces. She has featured in campaigns for Maison Margiela, Coach and Céline and has also modelled for high street retailers such as Topshop and H&M. Hammam was the first black Arab model to be chosen as Chanel’s Beauty’s new face and has featured in eight iterations of Vogue on several covers. In April 2020, she partnered with Frame to produce a one-of-a-kind ready to wear collection, featuring an array of pieces that channel her desire for diversity and freedom in Fashion.
Hailing from Angola, Maria was discovered in 2010 at the Elite Model Look competition. She quickly became a fixture at fashion week, bagging 17 shows in her debut season and becoming a Givenchy exclusive in her second season. Maria was also the first African woman to feature on the cover of Elle US, 20 years after Sudanese model Alek Wek in 1997. She has walked the runway for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Ellie Saab, Victoria’s Secret and Versace. Whilst bagging campaigns for the likes of L’Oréal, Tommy Hilfiger and Stuart Weitzman.
Ajak is a South-Sudanese beauty who rose to fame with her iconic Colours of Benetton campaign and has since also become the face of brands such as Thom Browne, Valentino, Hermés and Thakoon. Blazing the runways for everyone from Lanvin to Oscar de la Renta and featuring in many striking editorial campaigns. After taking a break from the modelling world in 2016, Ajak is currently the face of Fenty Beauty.
Tanzanian born model Herieth was discovered at the age of 14 after moving to Canada with her diplomat mother. She landed the coveted spot of spokeswoman and face of cosmetics giant Maybelline and has also appeared in beauty campaigns for the likes of Tom Ford and their Autumn/Winter 2013 campaign. She has walked the runway for everyone from the likes of Diane Von Fürstenberg, Balmain, Victoria’s Secret, Marchesa to Armani and covered the likes of Elle, i-D and Vogue Magazine. Her most recent striking campaign is with the brand Ralph Lauren, of which she has been one of the faces since 2019.
Aweng is a South Sudanese, Kenyan born model who migrated to Australia at the age of 7. Discovered in 2017, she has since modelled for the likes of Fenty, Vetements and Pyer Moss, starred in campaigns for Ralph Lauren and also a feature in Beyonce’s ‘Black is King’. An advocate for the marginalised and oppressed Aweng hopes to be able to use her degree in Law and Psychological Sciences to make a difference and is an aspiring actress.
Born in Paris, France, Mélie was raised in Côte d’Ivoire and is of both Ivorian and Lebanese decent. Storming the runway for brands like Dior and Victoria’s Secret and bagging campaigns for the likes of Vera Wang and editorials in Harper’s Bazaar, Mélie splits her time between New York and Abidjan.