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Why Slick Woods is the modern beauty icon the world needs

We get Slick’s friends and fans to unpack the anatomy of what makes her a beauty icon

Between the contortionist choreography, pulsing beat, and elaborate set which was like a night owl’s view of the Garden of Eden, any model could have been overshadowed by the mania during the Fenty Lingerie show at New York Fashion Week last week. Not Slick Woods. Whether it was a pregnancy glow, or one enhanced by Fenty Beauty body shimmer, 22-year-old Woods held the attention of the viewers as she made her way round the runway, donning black pointed nipple pasties and nude patterned stockings. It’s the confidence she exudes, like she’s in little doubt of what makes her special. She knows she is that bitch. She has that Big Slick Energy. And despite what a few Twitter trolls may think, Slick Woods’ beauty isn’t up for debate; when you Google Image the word ‘beauty’, she is one of the first faces you will see, and throughout her short career, she has continually redefined what a model should be. How they should look. 

Over the last couple of years, Slick has had a meteoric rise to becoming one of the most recognisable faces in the beauty and fashion industry. She’s fearless, and unapologetic in ways every woman dreams of, and to further add to her legend she became one of the only models you can name to have contractions mid-show and give birth shortly afterwards. In an Instagram post, the 22-year-old model wrote about her unique entry into motherhood. "A lewk, 14 hours of labour, and a king is born. This is the face of a WOMAN in labour, we hold shit down most of us don’t even know how much we’re going through,” she said. “I’m here to say I CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT WHENEVER THE FUCK I WANT AND SO CAN YOU.”

Everything from her shaved head, gapped front teeth, bleached brows, and confidence – her most alluring quality although it isn’t a physical attribute – rips up the rulebook on what is expected of a beauty muse. And, it matters because with every cover and campaign, people who have been told that you have to blend in, long hair is the ideal, eurocentric features are the ultimate, and gaps should be closed, can see themselves.

Below, we speak to four fans to unpack what Slick means to them:

Ashton Sanders, 22, actor

"There is and only will ever be only one Slick Woods. She represents something refreshing and new - and does it well, her own way. She’s simply iconic."

Paula Akpan, 24, co-founder of Black Girl Fest

“I think that she’s just so beautiful in a way we’ve been told time and time again we should fix. The first time I was made aware of her I felt like she was very different. I suppose that when you see beauty outside of the eurocentric form you have to adjust to it. It’s something we’re all trying to unlearn. It’s like seeing my own features in her, like her lips are so huge and I can only imagine that we got the same sorts of comments in school. I used to get called fish lips, kids would joke I’d had an allergic reaction. You end up feeling ashamed of these features. It’s the same thing with my gap tooth – there was a time when I struggled to look in the mirror because I hated these features – but she shares them and when I see her I think she’s so stunning. The more I look at her and the more she comes up on my feed I can’t even take it! The features I’ve struggled with are being embraced through her. No one is at the end of the journey of loving themselves but I’m well on my way and it's refreshing to have a positive, unapologetic, unsubtle black model smash it and be on the cover of the magazine. If I had seen that when I was younger it would have changed my opinion of my own features.”

Ebere Anosike, 25, social and cultural researcher 

I think she's great at what she does and I love how bold she is with who she is. To me, she represents femininity in a way that is opposite to what our mothers and aunts told us growing up. She represents for the "alternative" black girl who might not fit into the narrow box developed in society and our own communities. I don't know to what extent she carries the full weight of having afrocentric features in society when analysing through a colorism perspective but overall it always comes down to representation. When we talk about the policing of bodies it's women who bear the brunt of this judgement. The skinny black girl with androgenous features is rarely celebrated in the black community unless there is the proximity to the capitalism e.g. 'model chick' status. Seeing different types of black women with all levels of Africaness should be normalised. We are not a monolith and we come in a range of sizes, shades, styles, personalities etc. and there should be a space for each of those, especially without judgement from our brothers and ourselves."

Chalyn Melendez, 27, stylist 

“Her look and style is tasteful raw edge but with versatility and she likes bold statements. The thing that makes her a great model is that she doesn’t try to be one. Even when we are playing around, her photos come out great. She’s so effortless. Her being is her look. It’s so natural for her. Her beauty is so unique because as young as she is, she has this old soul. She isn’t afraid to take risks. But to me it’s not about having a unique look because in the industry there’s so many kinds of unique looks. To me it’s about owning your unique look. Slick owns her look, body, mind and soul. She knows exactly who she is. That energy is exhilarating. She has taught me that it’s okay to make your own rules. She taught me a lot about worth in this industry. Know your worth and everything will fall into place.”

Holly Anderson-Whittaker, 23, support worker at a primary school

“Black women have a complicated history with hair, westernised beauty ideals and being perceived as ‘beautiful’ in the mainstream. So when I first saw Slick Woods, I saved a picture of her in my phone straight away. When I find beautiful pictures of PoC in the media I feel like they’re important to hold on to, celebrate, show people, archive.

Relaxing your hair/weaves/wigs/braids are in a sense 'expected'. As a WoC with a shaved head, it means a lot to see that celebrated in the mainstream. Shaving my hair, was one of the things that made me the most comfortable in my skin. Through that I stopped caring about wearing what everyone else does, or thinking what people might say and just satisfied myself. She is clearly someone who satisfies herself, and that is so evident, and I think that’s why she is beautiful, you can see that she's happy and confident. I love that she's a young woman of colour doing bits, walking in that Rihanna show was subverting all kinds of stereotypes about pregnancy, sexuality and motherhood. It was powerful.”

Artist: Rick Farin
3D scanning: Womp 3D Services
Concept and Creative Direction: Isamaya Ffrench and Ben Freeman
Carousel Web Development by Armin Unruh