The model industry is an immensely difficult industry to break into, especially for women of color. African models have often been excluded from international runways, even in shows that incorporate African culture in its looks. However, there are women, both on the African continent and abroad, who are working towards breaking such barriers. Whether you are a budding model yourself or a fan of everything fashion, here is Ayiba’s list of ten African models who are on top of the runway game.
Malaika Firth: British-Kenyan
Malaika was born in Kenya and raised in the UK. She joined Premier Model Management at the young age of seventeen. She clinched a campaign with Prada, thereby being the first black woman in twenty years (since Naomi Campbell) to do so. She’s walked in several runway shows for industry greats such as Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, and Victoria’s Secret.
Grace Bol: Sudanese
Though often compared to Alek Wek, Grace Bol has earned her own right to be called a top model. She has modeled for Vivienne Westwood, Diane Von Furstenburg, and Givenchy and is represented by Elite New York City. She has also been featured in an editorial for Vogue Italia.
Kinee Diouf: Senegal
Kinee made her grand debut at the Fall Givenchy and Vivienne Westwood shows of March 2006. She has since walked for Dianne Von Furstenburg, Giambattista Vali, and Zac Posen. She has been featured in British Vogue and then made history when she was the first black model to be on the cover of Vogue Netherlands in July 2013. The model, who is signed to IMG, launched the Kinee Diouf Foundation Children which works towards supporting orphanages and schools.
Flaviana Matata: Tanzania
Flaviana won Miss Universe Tanzania in 2007, and went on to sign with Whilemina New York. She has taken to the runway for brands like Vivienne Westwood and has been featured in campaigns for the Diesel + EDUN campaign for Africa, as well as Topshop. She also launched the Flaviana Matata Foundation which aims at improving education and livelihood opportunities for women and girls.
Maria Borges: Angola
Maria was discovered in a model search in Angola for Elite Model Look in 2010. Since then, she’s taken to the runway for such impressive brands as Givenchy, Diane Von Furstenburg, Dior, and Versace. She was named Forbes Africa magazine’s Top Model of 2013 and is signed to Supreme Management. She has also been featured in Vogue Italia, Vogue UK, Harper’s Bazaar, among others, and has walked the runway for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Gelila Bekele: Ethiopia
Gelila was discovered by an advertising art director as she was on her way to school. She signed up with Ford Models and soon began appearing in Marie Claire, Essence, and Allure. She has also been in hair campaigns for L’Oreal and Pantene. She is also an activist with the aim of working on preserving natural resources.
Agbani Darego: Nigeria
The Nigerian-born beauty came into the limelight when she won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 2001 and went on to represent Nigeria as Miss Universe where she was a top ten finalist. She then made history when she was crowned Miss World in 2014. She is currently signed to Ford Models NY and has graced the pages of such magazines as Vogue and Allure, and has walked for Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hillfiger, and Ralph Lauren. In addition, she currently runs her own retail brand, AD by Agbani Darego.
Yasmin Warsame: Somalian-Canadian
Yasmin is signed to IMG Models, and has been in runway shows for Valentino, Chanel, and Dolce & Gabbana, to name a few. She has also been on the covers of American Vogue and Vogue Italia, and was a judge on Cycle 2 of Canada’s Next Top Model. Yasmin is also an activist and works towards improving lives in Somalia.
Philomena Kwao: British-Ghanaian
Philomena Kwao is an international plus-size model who was discovered in a model competition held by Evans. Philomena who had previously won Miss Ghana UK in 2008, is now one of the faces of Torrid and has been featured in Cosmopolitan. She is signed to Models1. Philomena also proved that she was more than just a pretty face when she graduated with a first class from Imperial College London in MSc International Health Management.
Aamito Lagum: Uganda
Aamito Lagum was the first winner of Africa’s Next Top Model and has since opened the runway for Balenciaga and walked for designers such as Hermes, Lacoste, and Marc Jacobs. She has also featured in such magazines as Marie Claire, British Vogue, and Vanity Fair. She is currently represented by DNA Model Management.