Five Brilliant New Black Models

The Black Models Matter movement of 2016 has borne some fruit. Model Ashley B. Crew – more of whom below – started the movement by sporting a Black Models Matter bag that led to a hashtag and umpteen viral stories as well as a plethora of social media posts. That movement is already two years old. How have we fared in the meantime? Have things changed? More than a little bit. Here are five models that are making waves, breaking boundaries and proving that #BlackModelsMatter in the fashion world today.

Willow Smith

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Seventeen-year old model (and Whip My Hair singer) Willow Smith, the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, is the “It” model right now at Paris Fashion Week. She was luxuriating in the front-row at the Christian Dior show on Monday of Spring ’18 Paris Fashion Week in a semi sheer skirt and black vest with Naomi Campbell. Black fashion royalty, y’all. She is also a social media juggernaut 3.6 million followers on Twitter; 2.6 million on Instagram. In March 2016 she was chosen as the voice of Chanel: "Thank you Karl Lagerfeld and the entire team at Chanel for expanding the perceptions of 'beauty'; by picking me to be the new Chanel ambassador." I am honored," she wrote on Instagram.

Her eyeliner at Paris Fashion Week is already causing a stir across the Atlantic during the this third week of January.

Winnie Harlow

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Winnie Harlow is also turning heads on the catwalk. She has been the face of Desigual, and has modeled for i-D and Dazed. Born Chantelle Brown-Young, Winnie Harlow, has vitiligo. “At school, she was constantly bullied and was called 'zebra' and 'cow’ ” said Huff Post UK. “Yet looking at her Instagram account, it's hard to see how people can view her as anything less than beautiful.” Indeed.

The winner of season 21 of America's Next Top Model in 2014, Harlow popped eyes in a skin-tight leather jumpsuit at perfume house Kilian's 10 Year Anniversary bash at Paris Fashion Week. Her Instagram account – with 2.8 million followers – is already chronicling her romp through Paris Fashion Week. Stay tuned.

Saleh Marley

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Lauren Hill’s statuesque model daughter Saleh Marley, the face of the fragrance Chance by Chanel, broke out last year as a major force in fashion. Wearing a perfect sculptural hairstyle with an elegant stack of pom- poms at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards party last November, the 18-year old models said: “My hairstylist Raheem Robinson and I were looking at African tribal looks.” She continued: “He suggested we try a ponytail at first, but then the idea of bubbles just came to me and we went for it—because, why not?” Vogue – and the rest of the fashion world -- took notice.

She has walked in shows for Kanye West and Karl Lagerfeld (Lagerfeld, always Lagerfeld). “There’s only a few people, like Karl and Kanye, that will leave me legitimately star-struck,” Marley told Vanity Fair. “I’m sure [Kanye] and my mom have met, but I’d never met him. The last show, my heart felt like it was about to fall out of my chest, but I just had to tell him, ‘Yo, honestly, you’re one of my biggest inspirations!’”

Ash Chew

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Don’t say Model Ash Chew, the poster girl of the Black Models Matter movement in 2016, is back – she never left. “The inspiration behind the ‘Black Models Matter’ bag was the lack of diversity I had noticed on the runways, working as a production assistant and runway model each season,” Chew told Nylon at the time. “Seeing the industry from different angles can really give you insight on how things work and what’s really going on. Being on both sides of the runway is so conflicting and frustrating. Season after season, you start to notice a trend or decline in the lack of diversity or representation. That’s how the idea started,” she said of the gonzo movement which heightened concerns about the lack of diversity on the catwalk – and in conceptions of beauty.

Mayowa Nicholas

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Nigerian models like Ruth Ayodele, are all the rage right now, rising stars. But Mayowa Nicholas is still perched high at the top, the standard of excellence. In another year, there will probably be five more Nigerian models on the lips of international fashionistas, and it will be because of Nicholas. Nigerian superstar Mayowa Nicholas has 51.4K followers on Instagram. Mayowa, of the flawless skin, of the sexy gaze, and of the drop-dead gorgeous looks asks via Interview in July "for all women to feel beautiful and empowered” as she herself feels like the greatest of her achievements is what she has been able to accomplish is such a short amount of time, and mostly the personal development she faced throughout the process.

2018 will probably be the Golden Age of Nigerian models, like Ruth and Elizabeth Ayodele, but right now, can we just bask in the brilliance of Nicholas?