Every season the fashion world goes into overdrive, clamoring for the new sensation, a discovery, the face that can launch a thousand campaigns. But beneath the makeup, behind the veil, and a very far cry from the pinup dolls on Instagram, the real top runway models of Spring 2017 are a fascinating group of individuals, from cities large and small, near and far, traveling the world and working incredibly hard. Here, we present 14 of the most in-demand models of the season, stripped down, as they are, up close and personal.
Photography: KARL TEMPLER
Stylist: MARIO SORRENTI
Khoudia Diop, aka Melanin Goddess, shares her love for traditional Senegalese wear and her Wolof heritage in this gorgeous photo series.
Titled, NYENYO, the name of the caste her family originates from in Senegal, she represents an element of her identity she’s not only proud of but embraces fully—and looks like a queen while doing it.
Meet Nyakim Gatwech, the South Sudanese model who’s teaching people not to be afraid of the dark. With her deeply pigmented skin and fierce determination, she’s breaking down the barriers of conventional beauty, and encouraging others to do exactly the same.
The 24-year-old burgeoning fashion icon, who now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has no shame about her melanin, and she makes sure the world is aware. “My chocolate is elegant. So is what I represent… A nation of warriors,” she captioned one of her many Instagram photos, which routinely exceed 10 thousand likes each. In another, she details an experience in which an Uber driver suggested she try ‘bleaching’ her skin – and her only response was laughter. “You won’t believe the kind of questions I get and the kind of looks I get for having this skin.”
Gatwech is not only an advocate for diversity in the fashion industry, but also a voice for Black rights around the world. She’s even been dubbed “Queen of the Dark,” a title she ha…