Being a supermodel doesn’t sound like an easy job, but being a black supermodel is a particularly daunting task. Even those two words together weren’t a reality just a few decades ago…but luckily, the stunning, chocolate women on this list changed that. Some of these ladies are pioneers and broke through the industry in a prejudiced era, while others are younger and use those queens as inspiration in their own lives as models of color.
1. Naomi Sims
While Naomi Campbell might be the most recognizable name for some of you on this list, Naomi Sims was actually considered the world’s first black supermodel as she was the first black woman to cover Ladies Home Journal, and Life Magazine.
2. Tyra Banks
Tyra is known for standing up for her curves, and we’d like to stand up for them with her! So far, she was the first black model to cover Sports Illustrated, GQ, and the Victoria’s Secret Catalogue (never-mind her insane career as an Angel). She then became a business mogul and host of “America’s Next Top Model”
3. Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell hasn’t aged a day since her career blossomed in 1986. She was the first African-American woman to cover French Vogue, British Vogue, and Time Magazine. Nowadays she’s more famous for her show “The Face” and appearances on “Empire”, but this babe was part of a coveted group called “The Trinity”, with fellow models Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. She’s a little notorious for her attitude.
The famous supermodel and wife of David Bowie came on the scene in the 70s, killing the game in both print and runway – an unusual combination at the time. She worked with iconic people like Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton. She was the first black model to cover German Cosmo. Her elongated, graceful features immediately made people take notice, and designer Yves Saint Laurent dedicated a collection of his to her, called “African Queen”. She then started her own cosmetic company, catering to dark-skinned women who often aren’t catered to in the beauty market, and a line for HSN.
5. Alek Wek
This Sudanese stunner changed the fashion industry, and the standards of beauty all over. Her dark skin, bold featured, and shaved head remind of a beauty similar to Grace Jones, another mogul on this list. Her fiercely strong and gorgeous features have made her a polarizing topic in the industry, but also a role model: Lupita N’yongo has referenced her as an inspiration before.
6. Beverly Johnson
You might recognize this beauty – she’s decades older now, but is still as stunning. She was the first African American woman to be on the cover of American Vogue, and Elle France. It’s said by many that she inspired the fashion industry to use black models more after appearing on the cover of Vogue.
7. Jourdan Dunn
This beauty was the first black model to walk a Prada runway in over a decade, in the year 2008. In 2014, Maybelline NY made her the face of their brand, and she was the first black model to be on the cover of Vogue UK solo, in February 2015. She’s famous for being outspoken about discrimination in the industry, calling out casting directors who will only cast one black girl, and makeup artists who refuse to do makeup on darker skinned girls. In the 2012 Olympics she was one of the only two models honored (the other was Naomi Campbell)