From Runway to Revolution: How Models in Africa are Reshaping the Fashion Landscape

From Runway to Revolution: How Models in Africa are Reshaping the Fashion Landscape

Forget stereotypical images of a singular beauty ideal dominating how models in Africa are reshaping the fashion landscape. The reality is vibrant, multifaceted, and bursting with potential. From established icons gracing international runways to aspiring talents emerging from bustling cities and remote villages, African models are rewriting narratives and captivating the world with their unique stories and captivating beauty.

Models in Africa

A Historical Context:

While the perception of African modeling might conjure recent images of social media stars and high-fashion campaigns, its roots run deep. Before the age of globalization, renowned figures like Iman (age 67, from Somalia) and Alek Wek (age 45, from South Sudan) challenged established beauty standards, paving the way for a more inclusive industry. Today, diverse talents like Thando Hopa (29, South Africa), Maria Borges (34, Angola), and Ajuma Nasenyana (60, Senegal) carry the torch, inspiring aspiring models across the continent.

Beyond the Stereotypes:

The African modeling landscape is not a monolith. From the bustling fashion capitals of Lagos and Johannesburg to the untapped potential of emerging markets like Ethiopia and Rwanda, diverse regional aesthetics and cultural influences shape the industry. We witness a celebration of diverse skin tones, body types, and facial features, challenging narrow beauty standards and representing the true richness of African heritage.

Models in Africa

Facing Challenges, Embracing Opportunities:

Despite its growth and potential, the African modeling industry still faces hurdles. Limited infrastructure, lack of funding for training and development, and discriminatory practices in international markets remain challenges. However, resourceful agencies, innovative platforms, and supportive organizations are paving the way for change. Initiatives like the African Fashion Week Network and digital platforms like Arise Fashion TV are amplifying African voices and creating new opportunities for local talent.

Celebrating Success Stories:

The journey of a model is rarely smooth, but the triumphs resonate louder. Success stories like Adut Akech (23, South Sudan), who rose from a refugee camp to grace international runways, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (45, Nigeria), who uses her platform to advocate for diversity in the industry, inspire countless aspirational models. These individuals and countless others prove that talent, resilience, and a determination to break barriers can lead to remarkable achievements.

Models in Africa

Regional Spotlight: Unveiling Hidden Gems:

Moving beyond the established hubs, we discover vibrant regional scenes with unique flavors. Morocco boasts stunning models like Imaan Hammam (26, Netherlands-Morocco), while Kenya flourishes with talents like Patricia Okine (34, Kenya). South Sudan, once ravaged by conflict, now witnesses the rise of stars like Alek Wek’s daughter, Alek Deng (24, South Sudan), showcasing the transformative power of the industry. Each region contributes its own cultural influence and aesthetic, enriching the tapestry of African modeling.

The Future Unfolds: Embracing Technology and Sustainability:

Technology plays a crucial role in shaping the future of African modeling. Social media platforms offer a direct connection with a global audience, while digital fashion shows and virtual campaigns create new avenues for exposure and inclusivity. Additionally, the industry is embracing sustainability, with eco-conscious fashion brands increasingly collaborating with African models who embody these values.

In-Depth Look at Featured Models:

Ajuma Nasenyana (Senegal):

Age is just a number for this Senegalese stunner! Starting her career at 50, she defies stereotypes with her timeless beauty and silver hair. Gracing campaigns for L’Oréal and Vogue Italia, Ajuma advocates for women’s empowerment and inspires others to embrace their individuality, proving true beauty knows no age.

  • Age: 60
  • Instagram: unknown
  • Agency (representation): None (independent)
  • Known for: Breaking age barriers in the industry, starting her career at 50, and advocating for age inclusivity.
  • Notable campaigns: Vogue Italia, Off-White, Lancôme
  • Interesting fact: Ajuma is also a successful entrepreneur, running her jewelry line and advocating for sustainable fashion practices.

Thando Hopa (South Africa):

South African model Thando Hopa’s story is one of resilience and self-acceptance. Openly discussing his albinism and challenging discriminatory practices, he uses his platform to advocate for inclusivity and inspire others to embrace their differences.

  • Age: 29
  • Instagram: unknown
  • Agency: IMG Models
  • Known for: Defying conventional beauty standards with her striking albinism and advocating for inclusivity on and off the runway.
  • Notable campaigns: Vogue, H&M, Glossier
  • Interesting fact: Thando is also a talented artist and writer, using her platform to share her perspectives on beauty and self-acceptance.

Imaan Hammam (Netherlands-Morocco):

Bridging cultures and captivating audiences worldwide, Imaan Hammam is a Dutch-Moroccan model who has graced the covers of Vogue and walked prestigious runways. Her diverse heritage and stunning beauty make her a true global citizen and a role model for aspiring models everywhere.

  • Age: 26
  • Instagram: @imaanhammam
  • Agency: VOGUE Management
  • Known for: Promoting diversity and cultural awareness in the fashion industry, representing both Dutch and Moroccan heritage.
  • Notable campaigns: Prada, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs
  • Interesting fact: Imaan is also a UNICEF ambassador, using her voice

Imaan Hammam Imaan Hammam

Chipo Mushonga (Zimbabwe):

Zimbabwean model Chipo Mushonga isn’t afraid to use her voice. A vocal advocate for body positivity and inclusivity within the fashion industry, she challenges narrow beauty standards and empowers others to embrace their unique selves.

  • Age: 34
  • Instagram: unknown
  • Agency: Wilhelmina Models
  • Known for: Representing brands like L’Oreal and championing gender equality, inspiring young girls worldwide.
  • Notable campaigns: L’Oreal, Essence Magazine, Elle South Africa
  • Interesting fact: Chipo is a vocal advocate for girls’ education and founded the P.A.N.G.A. Project, which provides scholarships and mentorship to young women in Zimbabwe.

Abdoulaye N’Diaye (Senegal):

Breaking gender barriers in the modeling world, Abdoulaye N’Diaye is not just a successful Senegalese model, but also a fashion icon. His unique style and confidence challenge traditional beauty standards, inspiring a new generation to embrace individuality.

  • Age: 28
  • Instagram: unknown
  • Agency: NEXT Management
  • Known for: Advocating for sustainability in fashion, collaborating with ethical brands and raising awareness about environmental issues.
  • Notable campaigns: Stella McCartney, Patagonia, COS
  • Interesting fact: Abdoulaye is a co-founder of the Be You Project, which promotes sustainable fashion practices and empowers young people to become eco-conscious consumers.

Nana Mitch (Ghana):

While her age remains undisclosed, Nana Mitch’s talent is undeniable. This rising Ghanaian star is making waves on runways and in campaigns for brands like Johnny Walker and Trace Africa, captivating audiences with her beauty and drive. Keep an eye out for this emerging talent who advocates for female empowerment.

  • Age: Not publicly available
  • Instagram: @nana_mitch__
  • Agency: DNK Models Africa
  • Known for: Rising star gracing runways and campaigns, advocating for women’s empowerment.
  • Notable campaigns: Johnny Walker, Trace Africa

Oluchi Onweagba (Nigeria):

Remembered as the first African face of M.A.C. Cosmetics and the winner of Africa’s Next Top Model, Oluchi’s modeling career is nothing short of iconic. But her impact extends beyond the runway. This Nigerian beauty is a passionate advocate for education and female empowerment, inspiring young girls across the continent.

  • Age: 40
  • Agency: IMG Models
  • Known for: First African face of M.A.C. Cosmetics, Africa’s Next Top Model winner, advocate for education and female empowerment.
  • Notable campaigns: M.A.C. Cosmetics, Vogue Italia, Dolce & Gabbana

Liya Kebede (Ethiopia):

Beyond her stunning supermodel status and captivating appearances in campaigns for Estée Lauder and Vogue Italia, Liya Kebede is a multi-faceted force. This Ethiopian talent is also an actress, a businesswoman who founded the LemLem fashion line, and an active investor in her home country’s fashion industry.

  • Age: 44
  • Agency: CAA Models
  • Known for: Supermodel, actress, businesswoman, founder of LemLem fashion line, investing in Ethiopia’s fashion industry.
  • Notable campaigns: Estée Lauder, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan

Aduakech Akuok (South Sudan):

This South Sudanese beauty isn’t just a captivating model who graced prestigious runways like Chanel and Valentino. A former refugee, Aduakech is a powerful advocate for education and mental health awareness, using her platform to empower others through her foundation.

  • Age: 27
  • Agency: NEXT Management
  • Known for: Former refugee, model on international runways (Chanel, Valentino), founder of the Aduakech Foundation (education, mental health awareness).
  • Notable campaigns: Chanel, Valentino, Fenty Beauty

FAQs & Beyond: Exploring the World of Models in Africa

Models in Africa


  1. Is the African modeling industry growing? Absolutely! While challenges remain, the industry is experiencing significant growth with increasing opportunities for diverse talents.
  2. What are the biggest challenges faced by models in Africa? Limited infrastructure, lack of funding for training, and discriminatory practices in international markets are some hurdles.
  3. What are some important initiatives supporting models in Africa? The African Fashion Week Network, Arise Fashion TV, and various local agencies play crucial roles in empowering and connecting models.
  4. What are some success stories of African models? Adut Akech, Chipo Mushonga, and countless others are inspired by their perseverance and achievements.
  5. How can I stay updated on the African modeling scene? Follow models and industry figures on social media, subscribe to fashion publications, and explore online platforms like Arise Fashion TV.

Beyond FAQs:

How to Become a Model in Africa:

  • Start with building a strong portfolio: Seek professional photoshoots, even amateur ones showcasing your potential.
  • Connect with agencies and platforms: Research reputable agencies in your region or utilize online platforms like ModelAfrique.
  • Develop your skills: Take workshops, practice posing, and learn about the industry.
  • Build your online presence: Maintain a professional social media profile showcasing your style and potential.
  • Embrace diversity: The industry celebrates unique features and body types, be confident in your individuality.
  • Be patient and persistent: Building a successful modeling career takes time and dedication.

General Resources:

  • OkayAfrica: African Models: The Most Iconic Names You Should Know:
  • Unorthodox Reviews: 12 African Female Models You Should Know: <invalid URL removed>
  • Arise Fashion TV:
  • African Fashion Week Network:

Additional Resources:

Models in Africa Models in Africa Models in AfricaModels in Africa