Lupita Nyong’o’s catapult into stardom in both Hollywood and the fashion industry has certainly indicated a change in the mainstream definition of beauty. In April 2014, the Huffington Post reported that Lupita signed a contract as brand ambassador for the internationally famous skin care and cosmetics brand Lancome. Before Lupita’s big debut as a fashion industry favorite, African models have been enduring stereotypes and shattering Eurocentric beauty standards for decades.
Mykel Smith, fashion creative director and founder of Mykel C. Smith Creative, believes the choice to use African models boils down to the preferences of designers, casting directors and photographers. However, many Black fashion veterans have been quite proactive about promoting Black beauty authentically and without apology. Smith states, “I was casting diversity 10 years ago.” He continues,” I love that diversity is back on the runways due to Bethann [Hardison] and Naomi [Campbell] speaking out. The impact sends a powerful message.”
Lupita’s success has undoubtedly been a victory in the battle to erase the concept of standardized beauty entirely. Her predecessors should also serve as a reminder of how far African beauty recognition has come and how much further there is to go.
Name: Ataui Deng
Her Impact: At the age of 16, Ataui Deng debuted on the runways for the spring Jeremy Laing, Kai Kuhne, L’Wren Scott, Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen New York shows in 2008. To date, the stunning superstar has graced runways all over the world. She’s also appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue and Lurve magazines.