Fashion Lifestyle

20 Black Models Who Changed the Fashion Industry

As we eagerly anticipate unveiling 2023 fashion trends, we must remember the trailblazers who helped shape the industry we know and love today. In this article, we’ll highlight 20 phenomenal black models who graced the runways with their poise and elegance, broke barriers, challenged stereotypes, and changed the fashion world forever.

From pioneers paving the way for diversity to modern-day icons inspiring the next generation, join us as we celebrate these remarkable individuals and their indelible impact on the ever-evolving landscape of fashion.

Pioneers in the Fashion Industry

Donyale Luna

Donyale Luna, a pioneering force in the fashion realm, was the first Black model featured on the cover of British Vogue in 1966. Luna redefined the traditional concept of beauty in fashion by possessing an enigmatic allure and mesmerizing features. Throughout her illustrious career, she collaborated with numerous esteemed designers and photographers. Luna’s groundbreaking accomplishments and lasting influence led subsequent Black models to follow.

Pat Cleveland

Pat Cleveland, a prominent model during the 1970s and 1980s, captivated audiences with her dramatic runway performances and extraordinary talent. Often hailed as the first Black supermodel, Cleveland shattered boundaries in the fashion industry for women of color. Her collaborations included working with iconic designers such as Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, and Karl Lagerfeld. Cleveland persistently championed the cause of Black models, advocating for increased representation and diversity within the industry.

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson etched her name in history as the first Black model to grace the cover of American Vogue in 1974. This revolutionary achievement signified a pivotal moment in the fashion industry, paving the way for other Black models to follow. Johnson’s career showcased an array of accomplishments, including features on over 500 magazine covers and contracts with major brands. Her enduring and meaningful impact on the industry inspires aspiring models and designers alike.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones, a Jamaican-American model, actress, and singer, emerged as an avant-garde icon during the 1970s and 1980s. Renowned for her androgynous appearance and bold style, she transcended conventional gender norms in the fashion industry, pushing the limits of perceived beauty. Jones collaborated with top-tier designers and photographers, such as Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. Her one-of-a-kind presence on the runway and in editorial work solidified her status as a trailblazer, laying the foundation for future generations of Black models to challenge and reshape beauty standards.

Jasmine Tookes

An American who made history as the third Black model to wear the Fantasy Bra at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Tookes has consistently pushed for inclusivity in the fashion world.

Sessilee Lopez

A model with an impressive career and a champion for diversity in the industry.

The Supermodel Era

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell is an iconic presence on the runway. She has collaborated with top-tier designers, including Versace and Chanel, and featured on over 500 magazine covers.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks is a model, actress, and businesswoman. She is best known for her role as the host of America’s Next Top Model, which she created and produced for 20 seasons from 2003 to 2018. In addition to her work on television, Banks has been featured on the covers of numerous magazines, including Vogue and Cosmopolitan; she was the first African American woman on both covers.

Banks has also launched several successful businesses, including a cosmetics line called TYRA Beauty (2010) and an international clothing line called TZONE (2003). In 2016 she launched her multimedia platform titled Bankable Productions, where she produces content around entrepreneurship with an emphasis on diversity in business ventures

Veronica Webb

Veronica Webb is a trailblazing supermodel who was the first black model to be signed to a major cosmetics contract. She has appeared on the covers of Vogue and Elle and has been featured in many other magazines.

Alek Wek

Alek Wek is a model and activist who has consistently challenged traditional beauty standards. She was born in Sudan but raised in London and New York City. Her iconic androgynous appearance helped her rise to prominence in the 1990s.

She has collaborated with esteemed photographers such as Ellen von Unwerth, Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, and Patrick Demarchelier for editorial shoots in magazines such as Vogue Paris (France), Elle (Germany), Harper’s Bazaar UK/US and Vanity Fair US among others.

Also Read: Top Black Actresses Under 40 in 2021

Modern Era Models

Adwoa Aboah

A British model and mental health advocate, she has graced numerous magazine covers and runways, all while using her platform to raise awareness about mental health issues and self-acceptance.

Joan Smalls

A Puerto Rican model who has achieved numerous milestones in her career, including becoming the first Latina face of Estée Lauder. Smalls has been an advocate for diversity and representation in the industry.

Duckie Thot

A South Sudanese-Australian model who has become a symbol of diversity in the fashion industry. She’s known for her unique beauty and advocated embracing one’s natural features.

Precious Lee

A trailblazing plus-size model was promoting body positivity and inclusivity. Liya Kebede is an inspiring figure for many around the world. From her humble beginnings in Ethiopia to becoming one of the world’s most successful models and philanthropists, she has shown that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Her journey from a small village in Ethiopia to becoming a global fashion icon is truly remarkable.

Liya Kebede

An Ethiopian supermodel and philanthropist advocating for maternal health and education.

Breaking Barriers

Leomie Anderson

A British model is known for her outspoken activism and focus on empowering young women, particularly in the fashion industry. She has walked for major designers and has become a prominent voice for change.

Winnie Harlow

A model with vitiligo, inspiring others to embrace their unique beauty. Winnie Harlow is a Canadian model and public spokesperson, which is characterized by depigmentation of portions of the skin. She first gained recognition after appearing in America’s Next Top Model in 2014 and has since become one of the most sought-after models in the world. Her journey to success has been inspiring to many, and she continues to use her platform to raise awareness about vitiligo and promote body positivity.

Anok Yai

A Sudanese-American model was discovered on social media and quickly rose to fame. She became the second Black model (after Naomi Campbell) to open a Prada show and has used her platform to advocate for diversity and representation.

Mayowa Nicholas

A Nigerian model who has broken barriers by walking for major fashion houses and being featured in international campaigns. She is a powerful voice for more African representation in the fashion industry.


She is an influential model and activist, fighting for diversity and representation throughout her career.

These 20 Black models have made significant contributions to the fashion industry. They have broken barriers, challenged norms, and created opportunities for more diversity and representation in the industry. Their impact serves as an inspiration for future generations of Black models and fashion enthusiasts alike.


The impact of these trailblazing Black models cannot be overstated. Their accomplishments have improved the fashion industry, creating more opportunities for representation and diversity. As the fashion world continues to evolve, it is essential to remember the legacies of these models and the foundation they laid for future generations to build upon.


Which brand was the first to start using black models?

Fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and PacoRabanne used the first black models. Using black models in France was almost a political gesture in the 1960s.

Who invented black fashion?

Ann Lowe is largely considered the first well-known Black American fashion designer. Lowe was born in rural Alabama in 1898

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