Top 10 Black Supermodels


Former top model, Naomi Sims, has lost her battle with breast cancer yesterday (August 4, 2009) at the age of 61. Who is Naomi Sims and why is this newsworthy? Miss Naomi was considered by many to be the “first black supermodel” for appearing on the cover of Ladies Home Journal in November 1968. This was remarkable considering women of color were barely featured within pages of mainstream magazines let alone magazine covers. Sims modeled for “IT” designers of her time like, Halston & Giorgio di Sant’Anglelo and appeared on many covers including Cosmopolitan, Life and New York Times. In fact the covers she graced for Life (1969) and New York Times (1967) are on display in the Metropolitan Museum’s “The Model As Muse” exhibit. When she retired from modeling, she started a multi-million wig-making business that focussed on the needs of African-American women. She even parlayed her career into the publishing world as well by authoring several books discussing modeling, health and beauty. Though the fashion industry has come a long way from when Naomi Sims first broke down barriers, they are still far from equal. Even in this day and age, women of color have often been not equally represented from runways to magazine covers and to major cosmetic campaigns. In honor of Naomi Sims, I have counting down my Top 10 Black Supermodels of all time.

Let the countdown begin…


10. Alek Wek
Hailing from Sudan, Alex and her family fled their chaotic village and relocated to the United Kingdom. It was at an outdoor market in London where she was first discovered. She first sparked attention when she appeared in Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” music video. Since then she has been featured on major ads for Clinique, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan to name a few. She also hasn’t forgotten about her music video roots and can be seen in Busta Rhyme’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” video. Since a model’s career is very short, Alek has recently turned to designing handbags, writing books and humanitarian rights- she has worked on the U.S. Committee for Refugees.


9. Roshumba Williams
6-foot-tall Roshumba Williams, a Chicago native, was discovered as a teenager in Paris by Yves Saint Laurent and taken under his wing. The late designer was very supportive of black models like Roshumba and Iman. During the 80s when many black models had long hair, Roshumba stood out with her signature short-cropped hair-do- a style she still sports today. Some of her notable achievements were being the face of Cover Girl, Maybelline campaigns and often featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. Since retiring from modeling, Roshumba has penned, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Model”, been a correspondent for LIfetime and NBC and hosted Oxygen Network’s reality series, Style.


8. Beverly Peele
While Beverly Peele didn’t knock down any ceilings during her eight-year career, she did manage to appear on more than 250 magazine covers throughout her career. During the 80s and 90s when models were more glamorous than Hollywood actresses, she came into prominence by having that girl-next-door quality while being very edgy and high-fashion. For her uncanny ability to appeal both commercially and editorially, she was featured in ads for Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Versace while showing up in music videos for Heavy D & The Boyz and George Michael’s “Too Funky” video. Since retiring from modeling, she’s hit a few rough patches which include being charged for identity theft in 2006. She was convicted and sentenced to three years probation for buying appliances and furniture with a credit card she found. Later that year, she spoke on the Tyra Banks show to warn about the dark side and pitfalls of the modeling world to young and aspiring models.


7. Kimora Lee (Simmons)
Long before marrying/divorcing Russell Simmons and running Baby Phat, Kimora Lee signed an exclusive modeling contract with Chanel becoming Karl Lagerfeld’s muse. Guess what? She was only 13. I know, pretty remarkable. She caught everyone’s attention in the fashion industry when she closed Lagerfeld’s haute couture show in 1994 decked out as a child bride. Not bad, considering her mother initially signed her up for modeling to improve Kimora’s self-esteem. She was often bullied and teased at school for her height and her half-asian heritage. Since hanging her stilettos, she has dabbled in acting (Beauty Shop) and reality TV (ANTM Cycle 1 judge).


6. Liya Kebede
Ethiopian born supermodel, Liya’s big break came when Tom Ford selected her Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2000 show. She then established herself as a permanent runway fixture on the New York, Milan, London and Paris circuit. She became such a popular entity in the fashion world that Paris Vogue placed her on the cover of their May 2002 issue and dedicated the entire issue to her. Of all her achievements, the most notable was when she was the first black model for cosmetic powerhouse, Estee Lauder.


5. Veronica Webb
One of my favorite models of all time, Veronica Webb was discovered on the streets of New York City by a make-up artist. At the time she was just a 20-year-old design student. Shortly thereafter, Veronica began working the catwalk for Azzedine Alaia, Issac Mizrahi, Karl Lagerfeld and Todd Oldham. She later became friends with these designers and even lived with Alaia during her stay in Paris. Not only was she a hit on the runways, she became an in-demand editorial model landing covers on Vogue & Elle magazines. Her most notable achievement was being the first black model sign a major cosmetic contract. This occurred in 1992 with cosmetic giant, Revlon. Since retiring from the runway, she’s become a multi-hypenate (model-actress-writer-journalist-television personality). She’s recently appeared as a guest judge on BravoTV’s The Fashion Show with good friend, Mizrahi. Personally, I think she should join the cast next season as Kelly Rowland’s replacement. Sorry Kelly. You know I love you but a fashion critic, you are not. Why do I love Veronica so much? Not only do I find Veronica drop-dead gorgeous, I find her articulate and bitchy. What can I say, I have a thing for bitches.


4. Tyra Banks
Speaking of bitches. haha. I kid. While I do have a love/hate relationship with Miss Banks, I cannot deny what she’s achieved as a model. She definitely deserves the title of supermodel. Anyone who’s watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model, knows about her career. She started out as a high fashion model and then transitioned to the more lucrative side of commercial modeling. Since her transition, her notoriety exploded and was featured on countless covers. She has the distinction of being the first black model to land the cover spots of GQ, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Victoria Secret’s catalog. Since retiring from professional modeling, she’s become a mini-Oprah. She has a successful talk show, a long-running reality show, a failed singing career and an on/off acting career. Congrats Tyra for embracing how campy you can be and for being the ultimate go-getter.


3. Beverly Johnson
Before gracing more than 500 magazine covers, Beverly Johnson was a champion swimmer. She became the first black model to grace several magazines including French Elle Magazine and German Cosmopolitan Magazine. Of all the “first black achievement” covers she landed, it would be her cover for American Vogue 1974 issue that would cement her place in history. This would pave the way for future black supermodels (Tyra Banks & Naomi Campbell) that would come after her. Like Naomi Sims, Beverly Johnson launched a successful wig line. The now fifty-something ex-supermodel is the co-host for TV Land’s “She’s Got the Look”- a reality modeling competition show for women 40 and beyond.


2. Iman Abdulmajid
This Somali-born beauty first hit the modeling scene in 1975 after being discovered by photographer, Peter Beard. Iman paved the wave for all African-born beauties wanting to break into the high-fashion world. In her career, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of German Vogue and became a muse to Yves Saint Laurent. She remained on top of the modeling world for more than a decade. Today she is better known as David Bowie’s wife, author and cosmetic entrepreneur. She launched a successful make-up line for women of color named IMAN cosmetics. In addition, she has become a high-profile humanitarian by being a Global Ambassador for the Keep A Child Alive campaign and for I AM AFRICAN, strive to put an end to AIDS in her native Africa. This isn’t to say that she’s all serious and doesn’t have a funny bone. You’ll only have to a watch one episode of “Project Runway Canada” to see her at her best. Heidi Klum could use a couple of pointers from Iman.


1. Naomi Campbell
Known for mostly throwing cell phones at her assistants than modeling these days. No one can argue that Naomi is arguably the premier black supermodel of all time. She ruled the catwalk during her hey day at a time when supermodel craze was at it’s peak. During this infamous “Supermodel Era” she was part of the “The Trinity” which included Naomi and her pals, Linda Evangelista & Christy Turlington. They ruled the fashion industry and were paid record-breaking salaries which had never been heard of in the modeling industry. Campbell was also the first black model on the cover of French Vogue. For that reason and for many more which include: that killer body; signature walk; and infamous bitchy attitude, Naomi Campbell tops my list. Love her or hate her, you gotta RE-COG-NIZE. PS. She’s also the highest paid supermodel EVAH.

Hope you liked my list and be sure to leave some feedback. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are and who your favorites are. Below are some of my new favorites who are making their name in the industry today.

Left to right. Selita Ebanks, Sessilee Lopez and Chanel Iman

  • Nic O

    uhm. where’s grace jones?

  • Samantha

    I loved this article. Very inspirational and such beautiful women. Thanks for the collection. 🙂

  • Samantha

    I’m sorry to hear about Naomi Sims. R.I.P. Naomi.

  • Demetrius

    hello, i give you guys credit for doing this article, BUT, i think you got your facts wrong, Iman is the longest running working model in the industry to date! Her net worth FAR exceeds Mrs Campbell, and as for talent and beauty, hands down Iman. You boys picked Mrs Campbell cause of the drama, not the package!~


  • Ana

    lots of lov4 u Naomi!!!!..ur d best i eckon, hands bod2..Iman looks like a twig..don’t ya fink!

  • linda davis

    Black models, particularly African models, are the most provocative, sensual and graceful women on the runway. They make white models disappear in their presence. However, it’s very unfortunate that we rarely get to see them work their magic.

  • lii s

    i kno dres hatred in dah industry….as an expert high fashion model i wud say theres only few black models dat got lucky 2 be on da runway…….even on dah fashion show tyra sees us like..watt da hell u doin here….she thinks dat she shud be da only black top model… mehh on dis year victorias secret fashion show….2 all black models do not loose hope on becumin a top model…coz if i can u gals can..if tyra can dan every blac gals can

  • AK
  • lilkunta

    pls fix this article. Kimora wasnt a child bride in 2004, it was 19994.

    i hope chanel doesnt cave like kimora and tyra did & cut her nose.

  • Natasha L. John

    Where is Niomei Lenoir?

  • SheLa Nefertiti

    Excellent sight…but, I agree wholeheartedly with one of the commenters: how on EARTH…in THIS GALAXY…could you leave out the STUPENDOUS, INCOMPARABLE, BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED (on so many fronts) and ALWAYS FASCINATING – GRACE JONES???? There isn’t anyone modeling today who can hold a candle to how creative, independent and INTERESTING Grace Jones is/was.

    I’m also really surprised not to see YASMINE WARSAME here – she is one of the WORLD’s GREATEST BEAUTIES, plus she is a judge on Canada’s Top Model (which SURELY counts for something extra!)

    I was thrilled to see the GLORIOUS, GORGEOUS and always intriguing Alek Wek…but where was Arjuma?

    [Also: check out the stellar crop of primarily Sudanese-descended models currently residing in Australia!]

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: Make up the rules as you go along.

    SheLa Nefertiti

  • Sandy

    Yes, where is Grace Jones, why wasn’t she featured?

  • poser

    Noemie Lenoir should definitely be on this list. She’s had a great career but has had problems too.

  • poser

    Oluchi Ongweaba also deserves mention

  • nana kofi

    hel no tyra commands the runway like her playground to be honest noo model has the type of energy and presence runway gueen and diva banks has. very unfourtunate she left the industry @ age 32 which i think is the earliest modeling retirig age in history

  • americanapartheid

    Black models to be acceptable generally have to look like white women dipped in chocolate or from countries in East Africa. Classy beautiful black women from the United States are totally ignored and left out of movies, runways, TV, and magazine covers. The racist model industry and Hollywood defines beauty according to white European standards, so much so that even white women feel the pressure to be whiter. Almost all white women and actresses, TV personalities bleach their hair. No matter that it is damaging and drying the heck out of their hair and what studies are being done to see if there are any cancer effects of all this bleaching. The brain-washing and propaganda of TV and movies are wide -reaching and global.
    The media also tries to make us think that white women do not straighten their hair, this is one of the biggest lies ever told. Girls and women used to use the clothing iron, yes the iron for your clothes, especially during the 60s and 70s. Now there is the flat iron which is just a fancy hot comb. The paper would poke fun at black women and their hot comb, but not mention the clothes iron or the euphemistically named flat iron that is in widespread use today.

    Things are going backwards. the progress made in the 70s showcasing black women has turned back. Black women are out of sight. You will see black men with white women on TV shows and movies, but not black women. You never hear the words beautiful, sexy in a respectful way or other positive words about the way black women look when she is featured on TV. Yet every white woman no matter what she looks like is beautiful, pretty, gorgeous, lovely so on and so on. All the love interests involve white women, or white women with black men, and black women if present are for the most part sexually unavailable. the next time you watch a movie or TV you will see the subliminal message or covert mind control. The bitchy black police captain with no personal life, or she is blind, gay, a mammy type, or killed off early in the show. TV/movies are the most racist tool of the modern century.

    As much as things change, they stay the same.

  • nana kofi

    oh please real supermodels dont do runways coz it is believed that they have already worked for the giants inda business dats y dey gain da name supermodels n a true supermodel is the runway goddess wo storms da runway once a year wiv appetite wetting poses leaving her audience wanting for more and dey don get it till another year. it is only beginners wo pose for very long times for more bookings

  • brownkelly

    am interest on you to know more about,plz contact me through mail.

  • Hubert

    Regardless of politics of who is the best black models, i admire and respect each and individual one of them both past and present! They represent us the black race and am so proud to see them on the run ways, magazine covers etc.. Go the black supermodels own the runway and flaunt it!

  • bluemoon

    The Afro American Models are very beautiful….the skins,bones,eyes the body’s….wow my favorites are Iman,NaomiEva Marcille and Liya….but also Amber Rose,she is beautiful to

  • assumpta maria

    thought alek was number 1

  • hirmon

    wow cut @pic liya kebad

  • Junebug123

    There is no such thing as white girl dipped in chocolate dumbass. All features except type 1 hair come from Africa.
    Funny how you never call Angelina jolie a black girl dipped in vanilla