7 Models Who Are Bringing Diversity and Inclusivity to the Forefront of the Fashion Industry

When Becca McCharen-Tran, creator and designed behind architectural swimwear brand Chromat, spoke at Marist Fashion’s “The Brunch for Future Fashion Leaders” on Sunday November 14, her speech revolved around diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry. As her brand is focused on empowering women of all shapes, sized, ages, and races, McCharen-Tran advocated for a change in the industry; a movement to accept and use models who look like real people in campaigns and shows. She believes that the norm on the runway is not the norm in reality, and utilizing models who do not fit into the traditional mold of what a model should look like is the first step in gaining wider acceptance and inclusivity in every aspect of the industry.

Now, models are beginning to break the mold. They’ve been challenging the stereotypes associated with the traditional image of a model, and are gaining recognition and success not in spite of their differences, but because of the characteristics that make them unique.

  1. Halima Aden: The first hijab-wearing model who has ever walked the runways in New York and Milan, and also the first beauty pageant to compete while wearing a hijab, Halima has broken down a huge barrier in the fashion industry and is paving the way for others like herself to follow in her footsteps. With a huge following on social media and a burgeoning public speaking career, Halima advocates for diversity and acceptance in the industry. Keep an eye out, because she will only be gaining more success and recognition in the upcoming seasons. 
  2. Hari Nef: An actress, writer, and model, Hari Nef is also one of the most prominent transgender activists today. Since making her debut in 2015 walking in NYFW, her influence and popularity has only grown. She is the first transgender model to be signed to IMG Worldwide, and while building her career in the industry she has used her platform and influence to advocate for transgender rights, as well as to educate and inspire others. 
  3. Ashley Graham: One of the most recognized models in the industry, Ashley Graham is challenging the stereotype of the “ideal” model. As a plus-size model, she empowers women of all sizes and shapes, promoting the idea that everybody is beautiful and the typical model figure is not the only definition of beauty. She was the first size 14 model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition and the first to ever land the cover. Spearheading the body positivity movement, Ashley Graham is changing the modeling and fashion industries for the better. 
  4. Jasmine Tookes: Fashion has been lacking in diversity for decades, but with the movement towards inclusivity, Jasmine Tookes is at the forefront. She has become one of the world’s most influential models, and a fan-favorite of the Victoria’s Secret Angels. In 2016, she was the first black model to wear the $3 million fantasy bra, and her influence success has been increasing ever since. Inspiring women to embrace their bodies and their imperfections, she is a strong role model for young women of color, as well as for anyone looking to feel empowered. 
  5. Carmen Dell’Orefice: The world’s oldest working model in the industry, Carmen Dell’Orefice closed a Paris couture show this past January at 85 years old. Radiating timeless elegance and beauty, Carmen covered his first Vogue issue in 1946 and has since become an icon in the industry. Challenging ageism and continuing to be successful throughout the entirety of her length career, Carmen is still one to watch.
  6. Madeline Stuart: Not only a supermodel, but also the “world’s most famous model with Down syndrome,” Madeline Stuart has become a worldwide phenomenon. She is changing society’s perception of people with disabilities, and inspiring others with her courage, beauty, and talent. She has walked in New York Fashion Week and been featured in publications such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and is using her influence to call for more diversity in not only fashion, but the media and popular culture as well. 
  7. Thando Hopa: Born with albinism, a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes, Thando is challenging the prejudices associated with her appearance. In some parts of Africa, being born with albinism can result in discrimination or even death. However, Thando radiates confidence and beauty, not in spite of her skin color, but because of it. She sees modeling as a way to change the perception of albinism, to raise awareness about the number of people living in constant fear or torture or death based solely on their appearance.