hair story: fashion’s new guard of black models

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– by Kendria Jordan, Contributor

We are upon a new era of Black Models in the fashion industry. We are seeing relatively more and more women of color stomping the runway and splattering campaign ads nationally and internationally. They are not the traditional “pretty” faces that we have grown accustomed to seeing. These women are starting young with defining features and international backgrounds. With Fashion Week just leaving New York and making its way to Paris, we’re highlighting some of the top ranked international beauties that have taken the industry by storm and, of course, we’re checking out their hair!

jourdan dunn, the first


Jourdan Dunn is one of the hottest models in the industry. In 2014, she was declared an icon by and has appeared on their top Top 50 Models Women list for seven consecutive years. This British model was discovered in Hammersmith Primark in 2006 where she signed to Storm Model Management shortly after. Dunn is known for being the first black British model to enter Forbes’ “The World’s Highest Paid Models” list, earning $4 million in one year. Another first she is known for is being the first black model to walk in a Prada show in over a decade. One of her most notable catwalk appearances was when she sported her baby bump in the Spring 2010 Jean Paul Gaultier show. Meanwhile, one of her most notable hair styles was featured in her 2012 i-D cover where her usually long straight brown locks became short wavy and blonde. Paired with her still dark eyebrows, the look was play on a shabby chic modern Etta James.


joan smalls, the highest paid


Joan Smalls, born in Puerto Rico, professes herself to be an island girl because of her blended roots (per Wikipedia, “her mother is Puerto Rican of Spanish, Taino Indian and South Asian (Indian) heritage; her father has African and Irish ancestry, from St. Thomas). Currently, she is ranked #1 on’s Top 50 Models Women list, and she is ranked as one of the highest paid models in the industry by Forbes. She began her career in 2007 with Elite Model Management in New York City. Smalls has graced the pages and covers of magazines like Vogue, Elle, W and Bazaar, to name a few. She is well known for ripping the haute couture and ready-to-wear runways for major fashion houses, such as Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Lois Vuitton, Dior and many more. As for her hair, you can typically catch her rocking her tresses bone straight or in loose curls. One of our favorite shoots featuring Ms. Smalls was a 2012 Vogue editorial shot by Steven Meisel, where her usually sleek straight her was blown out into a voluminous vivacious mane (likely with the help of clip-ins).


ajak deng & ataui deng, the besties


This African beauty went from being a refugee to runway model. Originally from Sudan, Ajak Deng grew up in Australia after her mother died of malaria in a refugee camp. At the age of 19 she signed with Chic Management and then later signed with IMG in New York. She is known for her breakthrough into the industry in 2010 when she walked for the fall Maison Martin Margiela, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lanvin, and Chloe shows in Paris. She has been in editorials for Vogue, Italian Vogue and i-D. She has also graced the cover of French Revue de Modes and can also be spotted as one of the faces of Benetton. She always rocks a teeny tiny weeny afro but she was shot in a punk double faux hawk version of her ‘do for a 2011 i-D cover.


Ataui Deng, who is besties with Ajak Deng (and not her sister), is also a native of Sudan and is known for wearing her head shaved. Ataui started her career when she was 17, in the footsteps of her well known aunt super model Alek Wek. She was recently in the news, as she was reported missing for 10 days and was later found in a New York Hospital. She is best known for her runway fall in a Zac Posen show but regardless, she has walked for other top designers, such as Jeremy Laing, Kai Kuhne, L’Wren Scott, and Proenza and has appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue several times. We love the versatility Deng shows with her short hair style, playing with length and texture by straightening it every now and then.

jeneil williams, the athlete


Jamaican native, Jeneil Williams, got her start in the industry after she won a beauty contest and Caribbean Model Search in 2005. She has appeared in runway shows for all the major designers in the fashion capitals of the world such as Isaac Mizrahi, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith, Lanvin, Narciso Rodriquez, Nicole Miller and Prada. Williams has been on the cover and appeared in editorials for Teen Vogue, i-D, Harper’s Bazaar, E, W, Russian Vogue, Italian Vogue, French Revue Des Modes and Love. She was in the Pulse Fashion and Beauty Hall of Fame in 2013 and was once interviewed stating that if she wasn’t modeling she would pursue a career in track and field. She also shared that since her hair is short, she usually wears it slicked back. In a photo shoot for Bon in 2010 her hair was pulled into a high ponytail, sculpted to sky with chopsticks to create a funky look.

maria borges, the up-and-comer


Maria Borges, who is well known for her cat-like eyes and her long stems, has been looked at as one of the up-and-coming beauties in the industry. The Luanda, Angola native’s career took off in 2010 when she placed second in Elite Model Look Angola. Since then she has stomped the runway for Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Marc Jacobs and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few. Other notable moments include being booked for a Tom Ford runway show and posing for former Vogue Paris editor for CR Fashion Magazine. Most recently, she has been photographed for the H&M 2014 campaign. Borges has been seen sporting her tresses straight and loose or in messy curls. One of Borges’ most interesting hair shoots was when she wore an oversized razored red wig for the Warrior Stance editorial shoot for W Magazine, shot by Steven Klein.

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