The African fashion industry isn’t entirely credited to the authentic, colourful and cultural look it can create. Much of the credit falls upon the iconic African fashion models who have stormed into the industry over the last few decades. Together, they have brought to light the fact that cultural diversity should be celebrated, specifically through the art of fashion rather than vanity.
Alek Wek, South Sudan : She was discovered in London in 1995. A scout spotted her at an outdoor market in Crystal Palace. This led her to later appear in the music video for “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner and fashion modelling wasn’t far behind. 2 years later Alek was named “Model of the Year” in 1997 by MTV. She was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle in 1997.
Out of every model in the public eye, Alek Wek has the most captivating a raw look. Her shaved head gives her a tribal image intertwined with an authentic African vibe. Her impact of the industry has brought the athletic figure and shaved hair into the spotlight, making the African female a more popularized vision worldwide. Back in the 90’s, dark-skinned models were rare in the high fashion industry and her success was celebrated by black women all over the world.
Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, Somalia: She was discovered while attending college in Kenya by an American photographer and moved to the United States where her exotic looks set her apart on the runway and in fashion magazines.
With her long neck, tall stature, slender figure, fine features, copper-toned skin, and exotic accent, She had a successful career, serving as a muse for several well-known photographers and designers including Halston, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Issey Miyake and Donna Karan. She was considered a mega-success because she was able to excel at both runway and print modeling.She retired and began focusing on charity work, developing her very successful makeup company for ethnic skin and other endeavors.
Oluchi Onweagba, Nigeria: Oluchi is known for exposing the world to Africa as a source for supermodels. Not only is she beautiful, but she has brains as well. After winning “Nokia Face of Africa” competition, she won a $150,000 and a three year modeling contract with Elite Model Management.
She moved to New York and her career skyrocketed. She worked with famous photographers such as Steven Meisel, Nick Knight, and David LaChapelle, and walked runways in Paris, Milan, and New York. She quickly rose to supermodel status, and in 2002 she became a member of the elite Victoria’s Secret angels. In 2005 she married Italian Fashion designer Luca Orlandi and began a four year stint in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She has since used her success to open a modeling agency in Africa to pay it forward for the next generation of aspiring African models.