When you think of the word “Supermodel,” you think of those few models who have worked their way to the top of the fashion industry and become a brand in themselves. You think of supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss. You think of today’s Instagirls: Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevigne, Gigi and Bella Hadid. What you might not know is that there are Africans who have attained the Supermodel status. Here are 7 you should know:
Born January 1, 1986 in Mogadishu, Somalia, Fatima Siad is a Somali-Ethiopian fashion model based in New York. She first came to limelight at America’s Next Top Model Cycle 10 where she came third. She went on to feature in various top fashion magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan and Essence Magazine. She lends her voice against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) having been circumcised herself when she was seven years old.
Born August 1 1980 in Lagos, Nigeria, Oluchi Orlandi launched her blazing modeling career by winning the first Face of Africa modeling competition in 1998. She would then appear on the covers of Italian Vogue, Elle, Pop and Surface. She has walked the runways for world renowned brands such as Gucci, Chanel and Christian Dior. Highlights of her career include walking for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show for 7 years and appearing on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for four years between 2005 and 2008. In 2008 she founded her own modeling agency, OModel Africa. She is also a host and judge at Africa’s Next Top Model.
Alek Wek’s is globally recognized for affecting the perception of beauty in the fashion industry. Born on April 16, 1977 in South Sudan, she started out from a lowly background and climbed up to the legendary status synonymous with her name in the fashion industry. She became the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle in 1997. She is celebrated by black community all over the world for refusing to compromise her sub-Saharan beauty for a Caucasian aesthetic as was usually the case for black models. With Alek Wek, the question usually isn’t what notable fashion house she has walked for but which she hasn’t. She has appeared on the cover of American, French, German and South African Elle, as well as that of Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
This South African super model was born on October 28, 1988 and is considered one of the highest paid models in the world having been counted among the top ten earning models since 2010. This is made more interesting when you consider that she was discovered by a model scout at a flea market in Durban when she was 15 years old. Swanepoel has among many others walked the runway for Fendi, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Sportmax, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren. She has been a Victoria’s Secret angel since 2010. She is also known for her involvement in charity work aimed at making possible a generation mothers and children in Africa that are HIV-free.
Born on February 26, 1986, Lopes is recognized as the first Angolan and Second African to win the Miss Universe title in 2011. She walked the runway at the New York Fashion week in 2012 and has appeared on the covers of Maxim and New African Woman Magazine among others. She launched a record a record label, The Uprise, in 2018 and has focused on raising awareness of HIV and AIDS in Africa in her role as Miss Universe.
Born on May 16, 1988 to a church minister, Prinsloo is Namibian and was discovered while on vacation with her grandparents in Cape Town, South Africa. She gained major international recognition when she became the face of Victoria’s Secret casual clothing line ‘Pink’ and will go on to walk on Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. She has also walked for Louis Vuitton, Versace, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Chanel, Ralph Laure, Christian Dior among others. She has also featured among others on Spain’s, Brasil’s and Russia’s Vogue, as well as on France’s, Spain’s and Italy’s Elle. Prinshoo helped raise fund and awareness for Haiti in 2010 after the massive earthquake that devastated the country, collecting and delivering hundreds of letters of hope to the country from around the world.
Born in Mombasa, Kenya on March 23, 1994, Malaika Feith gained international aclaim in 2012 when she became the second black model to star in a Prada advert after Naomi Campbell. She has walked the runway of the New York Fashion Week as well as for designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabana, Marc Jacobs among others. One interesting point about Firth is the makeup of her identity; she has Kenyan, Swiss, British, Seychellois and Ugandan roots.