Ear­li­er this month mod­el Ebonee Davis deliv­ered a TEDX Talk expos­ing what the fash­ion indus­try thinks of black Amer­i­can women — that they can­not be beau­ti­ful unless they are for­eign or mixed.

“Cast­ing direc­tors would ask me, “Where are you from?” to which I would respond, “Seat­tle.”… I was met with looks of con­fu­sion. As if it were impos­si­ble to con­cep­tu­al­ize that black beau­ty exists right here in Amer­i­ca. If they were real­ly bold they would ask me, “But, like, what’s your eth­nic­i­ty? Where are your peo­ple from?” And I would say, “Well my peo­ple were kid­napped and brought here as slaves and had their iden­ti­ty erased so I don’t real­ly know.” And I wouldn’t get a great response. They would say to me, “You’re so beau­ti­ful, you must be mixed.” What may have been intend­ed as a com­pli­ment felt like an attempt to ratio­nal­ize the source of my beau­ty. If I was mixed it would all make sense.”

But these 9 up-and-com­ing black Amer­i­can mod­els, with names like Jazz, Ebonee and Iesha and hail­ing from places like Detroit, Atlanta and Brook­lyn, are proof of what we already know: “just” black is indeed beau­ti­ful.

1. Simone “Slick Woods” Thomp­son

Hails from: Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta then Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia
Has mod­eled for: Marc Jacobs, Fen­ty x Puma, Fen­di, Yeezy, Calvin Klein
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/slickwoods/

Back­sto­ry: 19-year-old Thomp­son was dis­cov­ered by anoth­er mod­el while stand­ing at a bus stop. He arranged for her to be pho­tographed by a well-known fash­ion pho­tog­ra­ph­er. When the pic­tures became pop­u­lar Thomp­son moved to New York and was quick­ly signed by an agency. Her gen­der-bend­ing style, bald head and dis­tinc­tive gap-toothed smile have facil­i­tat­ed her swift rise in fash­ion.
Quote (on the Win­nie Harlow/Duckie Thot bul­ly­ing inci­dent):

“Iden­ti­ty is an inter­nal war we often lose as black women. Grow­ing up we were told our hair isn’t beau­ti­ful. How do you build your con­fi­dence and self love as a young woman while peo­ple are telling you your hair isn’t “good hair”. We are made uncom­fort­able by social stan­dards to strip us of our cul­ture. We don’t edu­cate our­selves on how to main­tain it and are tricked into dam­ag­ing the hair we do have. We get teased at school our whole lives. I’m not in school any­more and nei­ther are my sis­ters. To see a top mod­el of col­or bash one of my sis­ters for a pho­to of her sport­ing her crown real­ly hurts. You will not use your plat­form to pro­voke my sis­ters to move back­ward. That’s when you become a pup­pet. Self love doesn’t allow you to have hatred for any­one let alone your own peo­ple. Wake up bro. There’s room at the top for every­body.”

2. There­sa Hayes


Hails from: Brook­lyn, New York
Has mod­eled for: Louis Vuit­ton
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/teeee_yourfav/

Back­sto­ry: This born and bred New York­er was hand picked by Louis Vuit­ton for an exclu­sive world­wide cam­paign.
Quote (on being dis­cov­ered):

“I woke up one Mon­day morn­ing, June 20th to be exact, and decid­ed that was the day I would agency shop. I had my list ready of which ones to go see and all their address­es. I made a few rounds in Soho and even­tu­al­ly made my way into the city. I often don’t get lost but on my way to vis­it an agency I was going the wrong way com­plete­ly and as I’m walk­ing the right way I hear some­one say “hey are you with an agency?” I tell this ran­dom guy that I wasn’t but I was on my way to vis­it some. With his strong accent he tells me he is a book­er at Ford Mod­els. It was real­ly serendipitous..in my head I’m think­ing “holy shit,” but I keep my cool. He tells me his name is Paulo San­tos and invites to me to take a look at the office. That was the moment I knew my career was going to start as a signed mod­el. [And the] next day, that is what hap­pened.”


3. Ebonee Davis

Hails from: Seat­tle Wash­ing­ton
Has mod­eled for: Calvin Klein, Yeezy, Liu Mag­a­zine, Teen Vogue, Adi­das
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/eboneedavis/

Back­sto­ry: Raised by a sin­gle dad, Davis left Seat­tle for New York after high school to pur­sue her life­long dream of mod­el­ing. After the police shoot­ing death of Alton Ster­ling and her own dis­heart­en­ing expe­ri­ences with racism in fash­ion, Davis wrote a Harper’s Bazaar edi­to­r­i­al blast­ing the dis­re­gard for black lives in both polic­ing and fash­ion.

“Despite the grave injus­tices we face as black women we can, and have and will con­tin­ue to rise out of the ash­es and become exam­ples of resilience, dri­ve and excel­lence. I like to call this black girl mag­ic. And with this mag­ic we are cre­at­ing our own pub­li­ca­tions, we are cre­at­ing our own tele­vi­sion shows, we are cre­at­ing our own nar­ra­tive… As cre­ators of media we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to rehu­man­ize the sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly dehu­man­ized.”


4. Zuri Tib­by

Hails from: Flori­da
Has mod­eled for: Victoria’s Secret, Bec­ca Cos­met­ics, Sev­en­teen Mag­a­zine, Teen Vogue
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/angelzuri/

Back­sto­ry: Born in Flori­da to Jamaican immi­grant par­ents, Tib­by was scout­ed while walk­ing around the mall after work. She was just 15. She is the first black woman to rep­re­sent Victoria’s Secret’s Pink col­lege line.

“When I was in kinder­garten, I was taller than my teacher, which was crazy…I used to get made fun of a lot for being very tall, lanky, and awk­ward-look­ing. My height was some­thing I was always inse­cure about. Now, in the mod­el­ing indus­try, it’s vital to my career and I’m using it to my advan­tage. It’s some­thing that I’ve grown to love.”

5. Riley Mon­tana

Hails from: Detroit, Michi­gan
Has mod­eled for: Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Jere­my Scott, Bal­main, Bran­don Maxwell, Vogue Italia
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/loveme_rileym/

Back­sto­ry: Mon­tana worked at Claire’s, Sprint and Radio Shack before being signed to an agency.
Quote (on what her fam­i­ly thinks of her suc­cess):

“They’re so hap­py because we’ve all had hard lives, so just see­ing me over­come it all and go after my dreams real­ly inspires them and that’s what I want­ed to do. My broth­ers and my sis­ters have dreams and now that they’ve seen me achiev­ing mine, they know that it’s obtain­able, they can do what­ev­er they want to do. That’s the thing that makes me most hap­py.”


6. Jas­myn “Jazz” Wilkins

Hails from: Atlanta Geor­gia
Has mod­eled for: Old Navy, Nike, Bare Neces­si­ties
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/jasmynwilkins/

Back­sto­ry: This com­mer­cial mod­el comes from a fam­i­ly of ath­letes — her uncle is 9-time NBA All Star Dominique Wilkins, her father is retired NBA play­er Ger­ald Wilkins and her broth­er Damien Wilkins also played in the NBA. In 2012 she was crowned Miss Geor­gia, and placed fourth in the 2012 Miss USA com­pe­ti­tion.

7. Jay­la Alex


Hails from: Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia
Has mod­eled for: Teen Vogue, NARS Cos­met­ics, Star­dust Mag­a­zine, Sev­en­teen Mag­a­zine

Back­sto­ry: This cutie was signed to an agency at 16. Now 17, she mod­els while attend­ing high school in LA.

8. Iesha Hodges

Hails from: Brook­lyn, New York
Has mod­eled for: Bot­te­ga Vene­ta, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, Vogue, Amer­i­can Eagle, May­belline, Paper Mag­a­zine
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/iesha.hodges/

Back­sto­ry: Hodges won Ford’s 2014 mod­el search when she was 18. She remained in col­lege while walk­ing run­ways in New York and Paris. The 21-year-old is active on Tum­blr and still main­tains a per­son­al blog.

“My biggest influ­ence would have to be my mom. I admire her tenac­i­ty, strong work eth­ic, and her abil­i­ty to take care of three chil­dren as a sin­gle par­ent mom. She is the epit­o­me of a strong, inde­pen­dent, beau­ti­ful woman. There is not a day that goes by where she isn’t encour­ag­ing me, uplift­ing me, or guid­ing me down the right path. I thank her for being my num­ber one sup­port­er and most impor­tant­ly, for believ­ing in me. One day I hope to be half the woman she is.”


9. Asia Hair­ston

Hails from: A small town out­side of Detroit, Michi­gan
Has mod­eled for: Aki­ra, Macy’s, Tar­get
Insta­gram: https://www.instagram.com/asiahairston/

Back­sto­ry: This com­mer­cial mod­el and small town girl blogged about her jour­ney into fash­ion before land­ing a con­tract with Ford. 

Asia H
Asia H, Source: Ford Mod­els

Just beau­ti­ful! Ladies, are you famil­iar with any of these mod­els?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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4 Comments on "All-American Beauty: 9 Up and Coming “Just” Black American Models"

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I would love it if their was a mag­a­zine for fash­ion with just black mod­els. Does that exist?


They all look amaz­ing and its awe­some to see women of col­or in the fash­ion indus­try break­ing the mold and shat­ter­ing glass ceil­ings!


I did not know them but they look great :-)


They are all so pret­ty I’m so jeal­ous but I’m so hap­py for them. I’ve always want­ed to be a mod­el but my par­ents won’t let me. Riley Montana’s beau­ty struck me.