From Iman to Yasmin Warsame, the global modelling industry has been blessed with various African beauties over the years. Not only have they inspired the newer generation of African supermodels but they have also given back to their motherland. Here we take a look at some of these supermodels, their contributions to the modeling industry and Africa, and finally, where they are now!
Iman (Somalia): She has walked in numerous coveted shows and landed some of the most prestigious covers in the industry, including Italian Vogue where she made history as being the first black woman to appear on its cover. During her modelling career, she served as a muse for designers such as Yves Saint-Laurent and Gianni Versace. Last year, she was awarded the title of “Fashion Icon” by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her signature style which has had a profound influence on fashion.
Over the years, Iman has been involved with a number of charities including “The Children’s Defense Fund”, “Action Against Hunger”, and is currently the global ambassador for “Keep A Child Alive”. In addition to being a mother of three and married to legendary rock star, David Bowie, for almost 19 years, Iman is the founder and CEO of Iman Cosmetics- an approximately $25-million-a-year business founded to cater to women of colour. Iman also has a line on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) called “Iman’s Global Chic collection” which is one of the top sellers amongst HSN’s fashion and jewellery brands.
Oluchi (Nigeria): After winning M-Net’s Face of Africa competition, Oluchi moved on to grace the covers of several magazines including Italian Vogue; walked in runways of the likes of Chanel, Christian Dior and Victoria Secret; awarded cosmetics contract with Cover Girl; appeared in catalogue and print ads for brands including Lancome, Victoria Secret, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in which she appeared on the cover four times.
Oluchi also volunteers her time and her image for NGOs such as LEAP Africa, an entrepreneurship incubator. In 2008, she launched a modeling agency in South Africa called Omodel Africa as a way of giving back to the continent and inspiring young African women. Oluchi is married to Luca Orlandi, the founder of luxury label, Luca Luca. They are blessed with a son and are currently expecting another child. In 2010, she graduated from NYU with a bachelor’s in leadership and management and she was also recently featured in Nordstrom lingerie catalogue shoot.
Liya Kebede (Ethiopia): Kebede’s modeling career took off once she debuted at the Ralph Lauren and BCBG Max Azria shows. She was also chosen by Tom Ford to walk in thethe Gucci F/W 2000 fashion show. Kebede has featured on the covers of several magazines including Italian, Japanese, American and Paris Vogue;in ad campaigns including Yves Saint-Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Victoria’s Secret, and Louis Vuitton. In 2003, she made history becoming the first ever black model to represent cosmetic company Estee Lauder.
Kebede has also starred in three movies, one of which was the film-adaption of the bestselling autobiography Desert Flower by former supermodel Waris Dirie. Liya Kebede is an activist and travels to Ethiopia to support maternal health projects, she’s worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on their Living Proof Project and currently serves as the Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health for the World Health Organization. Furthermore, she founded the Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission is to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world. In addition to being married with two children, she launched a clothing line in 2007 called Lemlem to help preserve the art of traditional weaving in Ethiopia and to offer work opportunities to local artisans. Lemlem is various stores including sold at Barney’s and Net-a-Porter.com.
Waris Dirie (Somalia): In addition to appearing on runways around the world and in fashion magazines such as Elle and Vogue, she appeared on the 1987 cover of Pirelli Calendar and scored other top ads for brands such as Chanel and L’Oréal. She played a minor role as a James Bond girl in the 1987 movie ‘The Living Daylight’.
Waris Dirie moved on from her modelling career to focus on her work against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She has written three books including her biography titled ‘Desert Flower’ which became an international bestseller. She was appointed as UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of FGM. She founded a foundation in 2002 which is today called the “Desert Flower Foundation” to support her work as a campaigner against FGM. Waris Dirie has been awarded several awards in recognition of her work including ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur’ which was awarded her by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Alek Wek (Sudan): She has walked in some of the world’s coveted fashion shows including Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix and Diane von Furstenberg. She has also appeared in ads for brands such as Victoria Secret, Moschino and Issey Miyake, and in several magazines including German Vogue and Elle.
In addition to contributing her time to UNICEF, she is a member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council, an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan and a missionary for World Vision, an organisation which combats AIDS. In 2001, Alek Wek launched a range of designer handbags called “Wek 1933” which is sold at select high-end stores across the U.S.
Yasmin Warsame (Somalia): She has walked an impressive list of fashion shows including Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Elie Saab and Alexander McQueen. She has appeared on the covers of Italian and American Vogue, and American and British Elle. She has featured in ad campaigns for brands such as Chanel, Valentino Couture, Banana Republic and Dolce &Gabbana, Shiseido, Escada, H&M and GAP.
In addition to having a son, she is involved with “The African Future”, a Toronto-based NGO that focuses on improving the educational and medical communities in Somalia.
We at Ladybrille look forward to seeing the continued contributions of these women to the modeling industry and to the African continent!