The New Beautiful: Meet 8 Models Who Aren’t Afraid to Speak Up
What’s feminine now? Lace, tulle, floral, and lingerie-inspired dresses worn by women of all shapes, sizes, ages—and opinions.
In the summer of 2016, a then 22-year-old African American model named Ebonee Davis wrote an open letter to the fashion world asking the industry to help fix the systemic racism plaguing America. Davis had been propelled into action by the fact that, on the very same day she saw herself in a Calvin Klein campaign in all her natural-hair, dark-skinned glory, she also learned that a 37-year-old black man named Alton Sterling had been killed by police in Baton Rouge. She took her industry to task to set the tone for a more open culture and to help expand the notions of beauty and worth in the world. It was powerful stuff, enough to earn her a TED Talk, which she called “Black Girl Magic in the Fashion Industry.” In that speech she spoke of her own struggles making it in the glamorous and rarefied world of fashion. “It was a very vocal year for me,” says Davis, slipping into a floral dress at our fashion shoot.
For years, the modeling world has pretty much been a silent profession—the women were supposed to be seen, not heard. Even at the height of the supermodel era, when the glamazons ruled the runway, dated Hollywood actors, and starred in George Michael videos, they barely spoke—save for Linda Evangelista, who infamously announced her salary requirements to get out of bed.
But with the rise of social media, many younger models have embraced new platforms on which they can speak their minds and support their passions. “They have this direct access to media now,” says Christiana Tran, managing partner of the Lions agency, which represents Davis and the other women on these pages. “They want to stand for something.” Right now there is a cultural awakening—a reckoning, if you will, of the value of women inside and out. For these models, it’s exhilarating to represent women of every ethnicity, shape, size, and age. While Davis may be the most outspoken of this group, each model here is doing her part to make fashion more inclusive. Whether it’s plus-size model Jess Miller, a gay Christian who wants to build bridges between the LGBT community and the faith community, or a veteran like Christina Kruse, who has an impressive art career, these multi-hyphenate women all have clear ambitions beyond just sitting pretty.