Defying fashion’s status quos is all part of the job for these modelling mavericks
These models aren’t just extremely pretty faces, they’re on a mission. Refusing to accept the modelling industry’s norms – whether that’s in regards to race, gender, able-bodiedness or dress size – these young women are paving the way for a new, more diverse fashion world. Thanks to social media, they have a voice and, crucially, an audience. Take Nykhor Paul, who, just last month, called out white people in the fashion for the racism that she experiences. “I’m tired of complaining about not getting booked as a black model,” she wrote, “And I’m super tired of apologising for my blackness! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?” Here’s three other models who, like Paul, are shaking things up the modelling industry.
VALENTIJN DE HINGH
Hailing from Holland, Valentijn de Hingh is signed with Paparazzi Model Management in Amsterdam and has walked for the likes of Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons. More recently, she starred alongside Dazed 100 model Hari Nef in & Other Stories new campaign which was created by an all-trans team. Aside from modelling, de Hingh is a writer, DJ and performer – she’s even given a TED talk on her life as a transgender woman.
Jillian Mercado is an fashion blogger, wheelchair user and, as of recently, professional model. Despite suffering from a disease called muscular dystrophy, Mercado has been signed with IMG Models New York – the same agency that represents Kate Moss. For her, there isn’t enough diversity in fashion and she wants to do everything in her power to change that. “I’m here for the long run and will not stop until the change is made,” she told us in an interview.
At 5’5” and a UK size 24, Tess Holliday made history earlier this year by becoming the first model of her height and size to be signed with a major agency (MiLK Model Management in London). As a self-described “body-acceptance activist” Holliday launched a campaign #effyourbeautystandards in an attempt to dispel body-type ideals in the fashion industry. “It’s such a simple concept, she explained to Buzzfeed. “It’s all about loving your body regardless of your size and chasing your dreams,” she said.
When it comes to racism, Sudanese model and former face of Louis Vuitton Nykhor Paul isn’t afraid to speak out. Earlier this year, she posted an open letter to her Instagram account, instructing white people to “sort your shit out.” The model is being an instrumental force in drawing attention to fashion’s racism – be it subliminal or overt. “...people need to expand their idea of what black models can do,” she told style.com. “Black beauty can be Chanel, black beauty can be Dior, it can be Lancôme and all those things.”