Inclusion has never been the modeling industry’s strong suite. Save for a few big names who have broken the mold over the years—Donyale Luna, Grace Jones, Beverly Johnson, Mia Tyler, and Alek Wek, to name a few—the status quo has been tall, thin, and overwhelmingly white.
Recently, critics have taken the industry to task, calling for runways and editorial spreads to reflect more women who defy longtime industry standards: more models of color, more models who are closer to a size 16 than a size 2, more models who were born with disabilities, and more models who identify as transgender.
While fashion has yet to become a cultural beacon of diversity, progress is being made, in part with the rising popularity of the 12 style stars ahead. From a striking brand ambassador with vitiligo to a size 14 beauty, these models are changing fashion, and it’s certainly for the better.
The world first met Harlow when she was a contestant on the 21st cycle of "America's Next Top Model," and we've since gotten to know her better as the brand ambassador for Desigual. Diagnosed with vitiligo at age four, the Canadian-born Harlow now splits her time between modeling for labels such as Diesel and Ashish, and public speaking.
Crowned Miss Wisconsin Teen in 2004, Dalbasio's ascent to the upper-echelons of modeling wasn't without its challenges. At a size eight, she's neither the traditional industry standard nor plus size, which made some agencies apprehensive about signing her. They eventually came calling, though, and she's now represented by Ford and Next with campaigns for Calvin Klein and editorials in Vogue India to her credit.
instagram / @myladalbesio
Born and raised in New York City, Forrest spent much of her childhood on the receiving end of cruel stares and comments directed towards her albinism. Today, the attention she's garnering is much more positive, and rightly so. She was the first albino model signed to a major agency—Elite Models NY—and has since appeared in shows and presentations for Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gautier, and Erikson Beamon. If you haven't caught her on the runway, perhaps you've seen her in the pages of Essence or Glamour, or recognize her from cameos in two Beyoncé videos.
Constable was discovered how a lot of It girls are these days: on Instagram. Following her breakout Tom Ford spread in CR Fashion Book, she's gone on to model for ASOS, Brooklyn Fox Lingerie, and more.
instagram / @mollyconstable
Burberry. Gucci. Versace. Saint Laurent. These are just a few of the runways Bell has graced, and she's hit them all with a very nontraditional buzz cut. Originally cut for a McQueen campaign, the style has become Bell's signature, differentiating her from other models and making her very in-demand.
Between a Vogue Italia cover and a stroll down the runway for Sophie Theallet, Huffine is among the industry's most visible plus-size models. An avid runner who completed the 2016 New York City Half Marathon, she's also redefining what an athlete looks like, and recently covered Women's Runner magazine.
Born in Ontario, the First Nation model signed with Wilhelmina back in 2014 and has been featured in Vogue India and a Marc Bouwer campaign. Outside of modeling, she's committed to the economic development of her Native Whitesands community.
instagram / @ellynjade
Short, natural hair has always been a rarity on the runway, but its prevalence is steadily increasing, thanks in part to Montero. Arguably the busiest model in Paris, Milan, London, and New York over the past few seasons, she's walked in Dior, Prada, and Jason Wu, and snagged a Teen Vogue cover. Not bad for a 20-year-old.
The face of plus lines for Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe, and Forever 21, Ness grew up in Wisconsin and is currently based in L.A. Her Instagram account, which has nearly 32K followers, is the ultimate ode to style and body positivity.
instagram / @sydney.ness
A New York City native, Mercado was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child and has used a wheelchair for most of her life. Represented by IMG, she's raising the profile of models with disabilities, having landed campaigns for Diesel and Nordstrom, as well as a feature in CR Fashion Book.
A trans woman who formerly worked as an androgynous male model, Pejic has quite the impressive fashion resume. She's walked for DKNY, Jean Paul Gautier, and Jeremy Scott, and is currently the face of Reformation's Holiday 2016 campaign.
Miami-born Bidot was the first plus model to walk for straight-size brands when she hit the runway for Chromat and Serena Williams' HSN label in September 2014. She counts Macy's, Old Navy, and Lane Bryant among her clients, and balances her modeling career with raising her daughter as a single mother.
instagram / @denisebidot