Gone are the days when beauty was scandalously homogeneous and one-dimensional. More models are now breaking stereotypes and redefining conventional standards of beauty. From different waist sizes and distinctly unique features to rare medical conditions and discerned disabilities, these models are rocking the fashion world, and changing our perception of beauty altogether. This week on the Beauty Takeover, we take a look at the faces of modern beauty.
1. JILIAN MERCADO
Despite being diagnosed with spastic muscular dystrophy as a child, Jilian has never let that disability hold her back. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and is currently a fashion model and activist. Her first campaign was for Diesel Jeans in 2014, which secured her a modelling contract with IMG Models in 2015.
“I got to where I am today by having a lot of patience, working very hard, and wanting a better future for myself.”
2. DIANDRA FORREST
Born with albinism, Diandra was constantly teased as a child. Now she is a force to be reckoned with at fashion shows and has worked for clients like Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier. After learning about the mistreatment of albinos (especially in East Africa where superstitions would lead to abduction and mutilation), she has since become a spokesperson for albinism to fight discrimination against the albino community.
“If you celebrate your uniqueness, then others will too.” (Diandra photographed by Elton Anderson)
3. BRUNETTE MOFFY
Moffy captured the fashion world’s attention after appearing on the cover of Pop magazine in 2013. Although she was born with a condition called strabismus, otherwise known as “crossed eyes”, her captivating gaze and demure features have gotten her signed with Storm Models, home to other supermodels like Cara Delevingne, Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford.
“The lazy eye hasn’t actually had a negative effect on my life. People have larger problems!”
4. MELANIE GAYDOS
All her life, Melanie was treated like she was ill or contagious. She has a severe form of ectodermal dysplasia – a condition that causes her teeth, nails, small bones and pores to form abnormally. She also has alopecia and partial blindness. An art graduate from New York City, Melanie’s career took flight when she responded to an ad on Craigslist from fashion photographers who were looking for unique looking models. She is now considered one of the fresh faces of high fashion. “This whole process has helped me become more confident, stronger and happier in my existence,” she said.
“I never thought I was beautiful. But I never thought I was ugly. For me beauty is more a feeling. A state of being.”
5. VIKTORIA MODESTA
Due to a doctor’s negligence at her birth, Latvian model and bionic pop singer Viktoria, spent most of her childhood flitting in and out of hospitals. It ultimately resulted in complications with her left leg, which led her to voluntarily have it amputated below the knee to improve her long-term health and mobility. She started modelling at 15 and hasn’t stopped since.
“Some of us were born to take risks.”
6. CARMEN DELL’OREFICE
At 85 years old, Carmen is the epitome of timeless elegance and grace, with her silver hair and slim willowy figure. She first appeared on the cover of Vogue at age 15 and is now known within the industry as the world’s oldest working model as of Spring/Summer 2012. Who says you have to be of a certain age to remain in the modelling industry? She sure proved that one can be a model at any age and appear incredibly classy doing so.
“We’re all works of art in progress, I’m still figuring out how to do the job, and who I am.”
7. DENISE BIDOT
At size 14, Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti, Denise is an international plus-size model and has worked on campaigns for Levi’s, Macy’s, Target, Forever 21 and Old Navy. She started off wanting to pursue acting, but several instances of being told to lose weight by casting directors made her decide to pursue makeup instead. One of her freelance makeup jobs led her to meet a photographer who changed her life forever.
“There’s no wrong way to be a woman.”
8. CHANTELLE BROWN-YOUNG
Now known as Winnie Harlow, Chantelle was one of the contestants on the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model, and is diagnosed with a distinctive form of skin condition vitiligo (where patches of skin lose their pigment). She was a victim of bullying all throughout her childhood and was taunted with nicknames like “cow”, “zebra” and other derogatory remarks. This led her to change schools many times, drop out of high school and even contemplate suicide. After making the leap to appear on ANTM, she is now the brand ambassador alongside Adriana Lima for the fashion brand Desigual.
“You are the only one who has to live with you for the rest of your life. So the only choices you should make are ones that make you happy.”
9. ERIKA LINDER
Swedish model Erika’s androgynous and chameleon-like looks allow her to appear in fashion campaigns for both men and women. She was one of the first female models to be cast as a male model about 5 years ago. She has since appeared in campaigns for Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton. However, not wanting to be restricted to just male modelling roles, she has been venturing into acting to pursue her freedom of expression.
“I have too much imagination to just be one gender.”
10. MADELINE STUART
Australian lass Madeline is the world’s first professional model with Down syndrome. She has made two appearances on the New York Fashion Week runway to date. Her dream of becoming a model began when she saw a fashion show with her mother in Brisbane. Her mother helped her achieve a healthy weight via balanced meals and plenty of exercise. After losing 20kg, she attended her first photo shoot, and has since obtained a large online following and landed modelling gigs with fitness brand Manifesta and handbag brand everMaya.
“I hope through modelling I can change societies’ view of people with disabilities. Exposure is creating awareness, acceptance and inclusion.”
Accepting and embracing who you are – that is the future of beauty. And these gorgeous and fearless women are paving the path for that future, which I think is bright and promising indeed.
(All images sourced from Google as well as models’ and photographers’ respective websites.)