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10 African Models Making Waves in the Global Fashion Industry

10 African Models Making Waves in the Global Fashion Industry

This selection spotlights African models making waves in the global fashion scene, emerging as prominent figures on international runways, gracing magazine covers, and starring in leading popular campaigns in recent times.

By Abioye Damilare Samson

In every industry, there exist pioneers whose extraordinary accomplishments set the stage for future generations. These individuals defy conventions, set new standards, and ignite change. The fashion industry is no exception. Before the recent surge of African models who are captivating global runways, dominating magazine covers, and securing endorsement deals with high-profile fashion brands worldwide, there were the likes of Nigerian model, Agbani Darego — a trailblazer of her time, who in 2001 became the first black African woman to clinch the coveted Miss World title. This iconic achievement shattered the glass ceiling for African models and laid the foundation for a new era of African representation in the fashion world.

Over a decade later, Janet Jumbo, the Lagos-born model, would etch her name in the record of fashion history as the first Nigerian model to grace the runway for the renowned international French luxury fashion house, Louis Vuitton. This Jumbo’s historic stride solidified Africa’s imprint on the global fashion stage, signalling a seismic shift in the fashion industry. Among these trailblazers, too, is the Sudanese fashion model, Nykhor Paul, who, in 2015, took to Instagram to address the rampant discrimination faced by models of colour in the fashion industry.  In the footsteps of trailblazers — like Agbani Darego, Janet Jumbo, and Nykhor Paul — a new generation of African models is ascending to prominence, armed with a fierce determination to dismantle barriers and redefine the boundaries of fashion. These models are making waves and paving the way for future generations of African models.  

In this feature, Afrocritik introduces 10 African models who are propelling their artistry to worldwide recognition. This selection spotlights African models making waves in the global fashion scene, emerging as prominent figures on international runways, gracing magazine covers, and starring in leading popular campaigns in recent times.

Mayowa Nicholas

Mayowa Nicholas On Her Modeling Career
Mayowa Nicholas|ELLE

Mayowa Nicholas, a Nigerian model, captured the spotlight when she was a finalist in the Elite Model Look Nigeria competition in 2014. She is the first Nigerian model to strut the runway for Dolce & Gabbana — a groundbreaking moment for African representation in fashion. 

Nicholas’s achievements have blazed a trail for burgeoning models across the continent. Her portfolio boasts covers of esteemed magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She has also modelled for Calvin Klein, solidifying her stature as a prominent figure in the global fashion space.

Cherif Douamba

Cherif Douamba
Cherif Douamba

Cherif Douamba, born and raised in Ivory Coast, is an embodiment of versatility — excelling as a male model, photographer, creative director, and philanthropist. He started modelling in 2019 after he was discovered on Instagram, and ever since then, it’s been an upward trajectory. He has graced the covers of esteemed publications such as Hunger and Numéro Magazine, while also strutting the runways for renowned designer houses including Balmain, Dior, and Vivienne Westwood, among others. 

Malick Bodian

Malick Bodian jpg
Malick Bodian

Born in Senegal and brought up in Italy, Malick Bodian made his mark in 2023 by gracing the runways and campaigns of renowned fashion houses including Wales Bonner, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Dior Men, AMI Paris, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jil Sander, Gabriela Hearst, and Bottega Veneta. Recognised as one of the industry’s top male models to watch, Bodian’s talent and presence continue to captivate audiences worldwide.

Ottawa Kwami 

Ottawa Kwami jpg
Ottawa Kwami

Ottawa Kwami was born and raised in Ghana. Standing at 6’2, Kwami is an up-and-coming star. Kwami has already had a successful 2023 as he has walked and advertised for MSGM, Etro, Louis Vuitton, Amiri, Kenzo, Elie Saab, COS, and Isabel Marant.

Ugbad Abdi

Ugbad Abdi jpg
Ugbad Abdi

Ugbad Abdi, a Somali-American model, stepped onto the runway for the first time for Valentino Haute Couture S/S 19 after being discovered through Instagram. Since then, she has graced the catwalks for renowned brands such as Burberry, Victoria Beckham, and Simone Rocha, notably opening for Marc Jacobs A/W 19. 

Abdi holds the distinction of being the pioneering model to wear a hijab on the runway for prestigious designers like Fendi and Lanvin. Her presence has been celebrated in esteemed publications including British Vogue, Vogue Arabia, and Vogue US.

Nyagua Ruea

Nyagua Ruea jpg
Nyagua Ruea

South Sudanese model, Nyagua Ruea, is based in London. In January, 2023, she walked in shows for AMI Paris and Ashi Studios. Ruea is featured in Harper’s Bazaar US Editorial for February 2023, a huge accomplishment for a young model. She has walked in the Vogue World fashion show with an ensemble cast of both models and celebrities.

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Abdulaye Niang

Abdulaye Niang
Abdulaye Niang

Abdulaye Niang is a model renowned for propelling his unique street-style brand to fame. He has graced the runways of JW Anderson, Gucci, and Fendi, gaining traction by exhibiting his creations on Instagram. Niang’s presence has commanded attention on the catwalks of prestigious brands like Givenchy, Tommy Hilfiger, Off-White, Coach, and Louis Vuitton. Presently, Niang resides in New York City, continuing to thrive as a model.

Dara Gueye

Dara Gueye
Dara Gueye

Dara Gueye, a Senegalese model based in Milan, is swiftly making a name for himself in the realm of men’s fashion. He has notably featured in campaigns for renowned brands such as Dior, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Fendi, Zegna, Wales Bonner, Louis Vuitton, Kenzo, and Valentino.

Akuol Deng Atem

Akuol Deng Atem
Akuol Deng Atem

Akuol Deng Atem, who is originally from South Sudan, was born in Ethiopia and raised in Nakuru, Kenya. Now based in London, she has graced the runways and campaigns of prominent fashion brands such as Lemaire, Rains, Juun. J, Marine Serre, Viktor & Rolf, Ashi Studios, Robert Wun, Jean Patou, and Harper’s Bazaar US. 

Alaato Jazyper Michael

Alaato Jazyper Michael
Alaato Jazyper Michael

South Sudanese rising star, Alaato Jazyper Michael, is ranked in the Top 50 on Models.com. She is one of the African models making waves in the fashion industry, walking the runway and featuring in advertisements for renowned fashion houses such as Saint Laurent, Fendi, Sacai, Chanel, Valentino, Azzedine Alaia, and Marc Jacobs.

Abioye Damilare is a music journalist and culture writer focused on the African entertainment Industry. Reading new publications and listening to music are two of his favourite pastimes when he is not writing. Connect with him on Twitter and IG: @Dreyschronicle.

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