The unrealistic standard of beauty we’ve been habituated to expect has been drastically changed over the last couple of years, and these models have been at the centre front of it all. They are embracing their distinct physical features that may be seen as imperfections to some people, but in reality are really just quirks that set them apart from the rest.
1. Ashley Graham
If you expect to find a model with a wispy-thin bod, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Not only did Ashley become the first plus-size model to grace one of three iconic covers of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit editions, but the 29-year-old is also a self-described body activist who encourages others to "Dream big and get what you want," she said in an Instagram post.
After being scouted at a modelling convention in 2001, she realised later that she would "never be perfect enough for an industry that defines perfection from the outside in", so she decided to reclaim her body and acknowledged that her greater purpose was to redefine beauty.
In her inspiring TedX talk, she claimed that women need to work together to redefine the global vision of beauty. Last year, she ended up walking Paris Fashion Week alongside Jourdan Dunn and Queen of Cool, Freja Beha Erichsen as part of H&M’s Fall 2016 Studio show. From being called thunder thighs in high school to learning to love and embrace what her momma gave her, this sista has sure come a long way.
2. Madeline Stuart
Madeline was born to stand out. She made headlines two years ago for becoming the first-ever professional adult model with Down Syndrome and also became the second model (after Jamie Brewer) with Down’s syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. This year, the ambitious 20-year-old launched her own trendy fashion label, 21 Reasons Why by Madeline Stuart.
According to the Independent the label was inspired by and named after her 21st chromosome and her upcoming birthday. And last year she took part in a bridal shoot with photographer Sarah Houston that sparked a heartfelt reaction on social media. In an interview with Expresso, her mother joked that Madeline believes she is Miss Superwoman. Well, that she totally is.
3. Carmen Dell'Orefice
Four times a cover girl for Vogue (her first one when she was just 15), this Ice Queen turned 86 this year and is still slaying her way through the fashion industry. See for yourself:
As the "World's Oldest Working Model", Carmen is defying ageism on the runway and is still the face of many luxury brands' campaigns, including Rolex.
She admitted to the Daily Mail to having regular silicone injections for decades to enhance her bone structure, and also underwent a ‘medical dermabrasion’ almost 50 years ago to get rid of her wrinkles and sun damage, a treatment that is no longer available to the public.
Although she also stressed the importance of moisturising her skin over the years, for her, the key is taking care of the inside of your body by drinking plenty of water and eating probiotic yoghurt.
4. Chantelle Young (Winnie Harlow)
Diagnosed with vitiligo – a skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigment – at the age of 4, Chantelle Young, better known as Winnie Harlow, subsequently had a difficult time at school, being singled out and bullied by her classmates who labelled her "cow" and "zebra".
Fast forward twenty years later, the 23-year-old Canadian model has garnered serious attention after being scouted by Tyra Banks for the 21st season of America's Next Top Model and is killing it in the fashion industry. She has since appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and walked the runway at fashion week shows in New York and Madrid.
"If God wanted me to be black, I'd be black. If God wanted me to be white, I'd be white. But he chose for me to be both and original. So I guess that's the way I'm supposed to be."
She's inspired hundreds of others with the same skin condition by tackling the stigma and believing that beauty really is skin deep. Earlier this month she went nude on Instagram to celebrate the uniqueness of her skin.
5. Léa T
Léa T underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2012. A long time muse of Givenchy's Ricardo Tisci, the designer admitted to choosing the Brazilian transgender model for his 2010 campaign so that she could actually afford the reassignment surgery, as well as break down barriers in the fashion realm. Léa T has since continued to be featured in Givenchy's ads and runways and she has also graced the cover of Elle.
Despite provoking the anger of her Catholic family, she said the "war in her head" has been worth fighting.
6. Diandra Forrest
Diandra was 18 was she was first signed as a model, yet she was still uncomfortable with her albinism. In an interview with Glamour, she says it took her many years to accept and be comfortable in her skin especially because of a lack of education on the skin disorder.
But her unique aesthetic has encouraged her endeavour to prosper in the fashion world. She has landed gigs on the runways of Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier and the covers of Ebony magazine.
She also gave birth last year and when asked what's the biggest piece of beauty advice that she would pass on to her daughter, she said:
"I would tell her what beauty really is. And what beauty is to me is a beautiful person, a beautiful soul, a spirit—a person who has good energy and who is caring and kind to other people. There's a glow about them. That's what's really important."