1. Beverly Johnson
Number one on our list of the best Black supermodels is none other than Beverly Johnson. Every knee shall bow when her name is mentioned because she was the woman who broke ground for women of color in the modeling industry. “Beverly Johnson was the first African American model to cover American Vogue in 1974, as well as the first Black model to cover French Elle. She was also named by The New York Times to be one of the most influential people in fashion of the 20th century,” says Stylecaster. “Johnson’s appearance on the cover of Vogue changed the beauty standards in U.S. print media, and inspired lots of American designers to include Black models in their runway shows the next year and thereafter.”
When the world caught a glimpse of Beverly Johnson, everyone wanted to see her up close. According to The Models Kit, “She is considered to be one of the most influential people in fashion and has graced more than 500 magazine covers. She has also written several books and branched out into acting.”
In addition to being known for her beauty, Johnson continues to speak about injustice and prejudice within the industry. “In fact, in her 2015 memoir, The Face That Changed It All, Beverly discusses these issues in addition to others commonly found in the industry such as bulimia, anorexia, and the need to maintain a certain look,” shares a reviewer at Hello Beautiful.
2. Naomi Campbell
Whether she is gracing the covers of magazines or making history on the catwalk, Naomi Campbell has always been a shining beacon of inspiration for Black women. “Born in London, Naomi Campbell started her modeling career at age 15 and has been blazing trails ever since,” writes Hello Beautiful. “Known for her walk and undeniable beauty, Naomi has worked with numerous designers from Versace to Isaac Mizarhi to Ralph Lauren. At the age of 18, Naomi was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of French Vogue and she was also the first Black model on the cover of TIME. Also notable is Naomi’s appearance on the cover of the U.S. Vogue’s September issue in 1989 – usually the fashion edition and one of the most popular – Naomi was the first Black model to ever do so.”
We were fortunate enough to enjoy the grown-up beauty icon that Campbell became but Cosmopolitan learned a little-known fact about young Naomi’s rising star. “Naomi’s first experience in the limelight was actually at 7 years old when she was in the Bob Marley music video for ‘Is This Love'” adds Cosmopolitan.
Campbell can stand tall next to other supermodel legends in the fashion industry. A Biography writer shares, “Linked with fellow supermodels Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista during the ’90s, Campbell has appeared over the decades in a dizzying array of fashion editorials, runway shows (she is an industry standard-bearer of fierce catwalk precision), ad campaigns, and music videos. She has worked with a legion of fashion luminaries, counting Azzedine Alaïa, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Vivienne Westwood, and Donatella Versace, among others, as her mentors and inspiration.”
3. Tyra Banks
Just because Tyra Banks is third on our list does not mean she is any less spectacular than the two supermodels mentioned above. In Tyra’s case, she can easily stand beside the trailblazers without needing to outshine them because she has a spark that is all her own. A Scubby writer shares, “Born in Inglewood, California, Tyra Lynne Banks began her career as a model aged 15. She became the first African American woman to be featured on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She appeared twice on the covers. She was a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 1997 to 2005. By the early 2000s, Banks was one of the world’s top-earning models. In 2003, Banks created and began presenting America’s Next Top Model. The show became an instant hit.”
Before she was the iconic “America’s Next Top Model” judge, she walked in shows from Christian Lacroix to Victoria’s Secret, according to a review from Cosmopolitan. “She was the first Black model to sign a contract with the latter brand and was an Angel from 1997 to 2005.”
Beauty is standard in the fashion world, yet Banks has demonstrated that intelligence will take you much further. “Tyra Banks epitomizes the transformation from model to mogul, signing to Elite in 1990 as a teen,” mentions Biography. “Having become the hit of the Paris runway world with designers like Chanel, Christian Dior and Claude Montana, she landed major beauty campaigns and graced the cover of publications like Sports Illustrated (the first Black model to do so), Elle and Essence. Banks delved into acting for a bit with roles in the sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the John Singleton film Higher Learning and the romance Love & Basketball before fully taking the reigns of her career with platforms that had huge impacts on pop culture.”
A writer at Biography shares, “Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1955 to professional, forward-thinking parents, Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid and her family fled to Kenya during her teens. While enrolled at the University of Nairobi, she was approached by photographer Peter Beard, who took photos of her after he agreed to pay a fee that would cover her tuition. Beard convinced Iman to relocate to New York in 1976 and she signed with Wilhelmina Models. Iman quickly became an international fashion icon, working with the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Donna Karan and Versace. She was popular in print while having a hypnotic, often gliding runway presence. Encouraged as a youth by her mother to know her worth, Iman refused to be paid less than her white counterparts and was said to be involved in the styling of her shoots.”
Soon after her face became a source of inspiration for being featured on the cover of magazines like Vanity Fair, Elle, and Italian Vogue, Iman upgraded her resume to business woman. “Iman started her own cosmetics firm in 1994. She began by creating make-up for women of color. By 2010, Iman Cosmetics was a US$25-million-a-year business,” Scubby shares.
Izzy and Liv also applauds Iman’s business acumen, “Since her work as a supermodel, she has continued to benefit black women by creating her own makeup line, Iman Cosmetics. The line is specifically created for women with deeper skin tones who may have trouble finding makeup.”
5. Leomie Anderson
Leomie Anderson is living evidence that when you know who you are, you never stop trying until the rest of the world knows too. According to The Models Kit, Anderson was rejected over and over again before she got her break. “After auditioning 3 times she was finally accepted to model in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Since then, she has become one of the faces of the Fenty Beauty and Pat McGrath‘s make-up lines. She has also launched her own clothing line.”
Unlike the Black supermodels mentioned before, Anderson is a new face among the stars. Stylecaster writes, “Leomie Anderson is an English model who first began her career in 2010, having walked for brands such as Moschino, Tom Ford, Yeezy and Oscar de la Renta.”
Obviously inspired by the social justice work of the Black supermodels before her, Fashion Republic Magazine celebrates Leomie’s work to empower young women. “Leomie Anderson has cemented herself as one of today’s top sought-after models not only for her striking beauty but also due to her powerful persona that shines through on every runway appearance,” adds Fashion Republic. “However, what sets her apart from other supermodels is how she uses her influence positively to inspire future generations of female leaders through ‘Role Models.’ With this initiative. She equips young women globally with confidence by imparting tools necessary for their success despite prevailing societal challenges they may encounter along their journey toward becoming role models themselves.”
If you had the influence of a Black supermodel, what would you share with the world? Leave a comment to let us know!
You might also be interested in:
- Best Supermodels of the 1960’s
- Best Fashion Magazines
- Best Makeup Brands for Black Women
- Best Supermodels of All Time
- Fashion Republic
- The Models Kit
- Izzy and Liv
- Hello Beautiful
- The Top Tens
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.