7 gorgeous African models

2014-07-06 15:00

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1. The icon – Iman (Somalia)

After being discovered on the campus of the University of Nairobi in 1975, her first modelling assignment was for Vogue in 1976 after a move to the US.

She soon ­established herself as a supermodel and muse for many designers, including ­Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint-Laurent.

She founded Iman Cosmetics, a multimillion-dollar business, focusing on shades for black women, in 1994. In 2010, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honoured her with a Fashion Icon lifetime achievement award.

Alek Wek

2. The trailblazer – Alek Wek (South Sudan)

Discovered in 1995, Wek broke the barriers in the fashion industry with her gorgeous looks that were the complete opposite of the conventional/mainstream ideas of beauty.

In 1997, she was named model of the year by MTV and was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle.

Wek’s mainstream success has been celebrated by black women across the world, including Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o and Oprah Winfrey.

Ajak Deng

3. The new kid on the block – Ajak Deng (South Sudan)

The Melbourne-based model got her big break with the March 2011 issue of Vogue Australia. Deng, who has said she looks up to fellow South Sudanese model Alek Wek, was the face of Kate Spade’s Spring/­Summer 2013 campaign and has become a runway favourite for the likes of ­Givenchy, Lanvin and Louis Vuitton.

Candice Swanepoel

4. The angel – Candice Swanepoel (South Africa)

The Victoria’s Secret Angel made the Forbes World’s Highest-Paid Models Of 2013 list and is currently the only African model to have worn the $10 million Fantasy Bra by Swiss jeweller Mouawad.

Swanepoel has landed some big covers, including various ­national editions of Vogue; and has starred in campaigns for Swarovski, Gucci and Diesel, among others.

Waris Dirie

5. The activist – Waris Dirie (Somalia)

Having survived genital mutilation as a child, this former model has been a UN Special Ambassador and African Union Peace Ambassador.

While in London, Dirie landed the cover of the 1987 Pirelli Calendar.

She went on to appear on international runways and in international fashion magazines such as Elle, Glamour and Vogue. Dirie played a minor role in the James Bond film The Living Daylights (1987). Her first book, Desert Flower (1998), an autobiography, was an international bestseller.

In 2009, a film adaptation of Desert Flower was released, and supermodel Liya Kebede played the role of Dirie.

Liya Kebede

6. The beauty – Liya Kebede (Ethiopia)

This former face of Estée Lauder was previously named one of Time’s 100 most ­influential people, and in 2007, was 11th on the Forbes list. Kebede’s big break came when she landed an exclusive contract for the Gucci Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show.

She subsequently appeared on the cover of the May 2002 edition of Vogue Paris, which dedicated the entire issue to her.

She has appeared in numerous other national editions of the magazine.

Oluchi Onweagba

7. The top model – Oluchi Onweagba (Nigeria)

Onweagba was just 17 when she won the inaugural Face of Africa competition in 1998. She went on to grace the covers of Elle, i-D, several national editions of Vogue and the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

In 1998, the former Victoria’s Secret Angel launched a modelling agency in South Africa, OModel Africa. Onweagba is currently the host and head judge of Africa’s Next Top Model.

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