Recently Supermodels were at the forefront of the docu-series and coffee table book In Supreme Models by Marcellas Reynolds. The supermodel hasn’t been a prevalent idea in this era of fashion. Still, in the 90s, Black supermodels were creating an essence and amalgamation of luxury and aspiration that Black women and fashion enthusiasts today still look at as the peak of glamour. We talk about Naomi Campbell often, but we have to stop tokenizing and give flowers to other models that propelled Blackness and luxury to the same space.
In the 1995 documentary Catwalk, you see the way that Campbell speaks about how she is paid thousands—because she brings the clothing to life. And Before that sad era of just white, thin, and identical models walking the runway lifelessly, Black models were cast in every single show. The late designer Issey Miyake cast all Black models in his show ‘Issey Miyake and Twelve Black Girls,’ because he saw the importance of inclusion and representation but also because Black models embody exactly what designers convey with their clothing; it’s intrinsic.
Twitter Fashion enthusiast @itgirlenergy touched on a bunch of other Black 90s models that you have to learn about.
The Black Supermodel gave young girls someone to look up to and women someone to emulate. Today we have the Black supermodel reemerging from suppression of the fashion industry’s tight grasp of what it thinks is exclusive as the industry thrives off exclusivity even to this day with rebrands and the push for diversity. These supermodels were the personification of diversity and inclusion for their time. It’d be a shame not to highlight these women more. From runways for huge fashion houses that are alive and well today to the front page of fashion glossies, the Black supermodel was a celebrity in the most elusive way. Today we don’t have that much anymore, but maybe can one day again. In the meantime, take a look at a few 90s supermodels and give them the flowers they rightfully deserve.
Beverly Peele was on the cover of over 200 magazines, including Elle and Mademoiselle. She got her start at modeling at just 12 years old and has since created an incredible career for herself. She’s walked shows like Comme de Garcon and Chanel and constantly booked runway jobs.
Sudanese model Alek Wek is still walking runways and shooting editorials today as she is a timeless beauty. Her difficult upbringing only made her stronger, and after getting discovered in London while in fashion school at just 14, her life was drastically changed. She went on to be one of the most wanted models for runways and was on magazine covers such as I-D, Elle, Glamour, and more.
The muse of Yves Saint Laurent was Mounia, and she paved the way for other Black models for Haute Couture as she was the first Black model to be a muse for Yves Saint Laurent. She was requested for every show. Going from flight attendant to modeling for Givenchy, her career quickly took off. She modeled for a few years and then turned to the arts after retiring from runways.
The late Guinean supermodel was another muse of Yves Saint Laurent. Her career started in Paris, and she began working for the late Thierry Mugler and went on to model for Paco Rabanne and other luxury houses. She retired from modeling as an iconic figure to move towards activism. She remains one of Paris’s highest esteemed models.
You might recognize Maureen Gallagher in the late photographer Peter Beard’s most famous image of a giraffe eating out of her hand. She’s writing a memoir about that image and her life around that moment. She walked for YSL and Dior internationally and replaced Iman for a role in a movie that Peter Beard shot. Her youthful glow made her an it-girl in the New York fashion scene.