New age models breaking stereotypes about beautiful people: Ashley Graham, Halima Aden, Winnie Harlow, and more

New age models breaking stereotypes about beautiful people: Ashley Graham, Halima Aden, Winnie Harlow, and more

New rules

Text: Ho Guo Xiong

Image: Instagram | @slickwoods
Image: Instagram | @winnieharlow

If Hollywood is to be believed, models are skinny, ditzy, and have nothing to their name except their toned bodies and their impossible cheekbones. A group of models, however, are busting their butt to buckle these archaic stereotypes about beautiful people. Those who have far more to contribute than just their good looks aren't just selling magazine covers, they're breaking new grounds in diverse representation within and beyond the fashion and beauty industries. Those are the names and faces truly worthy of praise.

Mama Cax

Though she lost her right leg to bone and lung cancer and she experienced an unsuccessful hip replacement at the age of 14, Cacsmy Brutus (better known as Mama Cax) hasn’t allowed her disability to impede her success as a model/lifestyle blogger. Mama Cax carried her own alongside able-bodied models on the runways of Chromat and Savage x Fenty during New York Fashion Week spring/summer 2020 season. Yes, she used to be self-conscious of her prosthetic leg and would take measures to hide it. But now, she doesn’t feel ashamed about her "misfortune" and fights to use her visibility to champion other women with disabilities.


Slick Woods

With a bald head and gap teeth, Slicks Woods seems an unlikely candidate to front a beauty campaign. But it is this signature look of hers which caught the attention of Rihanna, who promptly featured her in Fenty Beauty campaigns and casted her in the Savage x Fenty shows. Fun fact: Woods was due to give birth to her son, Saphir, two days before she walked down the first Savage x Fenty show last year; she went into labour shortly after it concluded. Her inimitable style has also made her force in the fashion world, booking her work with the likes of Yeezy, Marc Jacobs, and Miu Miu.


Winnie Harlow

Winnie Harlow rose to prominence after competing in 'America’s Next Top Model'. Since then, Harlow, who has an autoimmune condition known as vitiligo (it causes depigmentation of portions of the skin) has since charted an explosive growth that includes fronting Desigual projects and modeling at the now-defunct Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. She recently hit another career high after announcements of an impending collaboration with Kim Kardashian’s cosmetics line, KKW Beauty, broke.


Halima Aden

Born in a refugee camp in Kenya and raised in the United States after her family fled civil war in Somalia, Halima Aden defied all odds to be the first-ever hijab-wearing high fashion model with international clout. Aden’s career feature many other pioneering feats, including sporting the hijab and burkini at the Miss USA state pageant, never before seen prior to 2016 (where she was spotted by Carine Roitfield and signed to IMG Models), and again in the 2019 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Standing steadfast by her faith, the Muslim model has made sure that the hijab was written into her modelling contract so she will never be pressured to remove it.


Ashley Graham

The first size 16 model to appear on the cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Ashley Graham has grown exponentially since 2016 with her refreshing discussions on body image and positivity. Take a quick scroll through her Instagram and you’ll find her unabashedly flaunting her curves and stretch marks — such a move was rarely praised before she rose to fame. Beyond the runway, Graham is focused on empowering other women. She's the co-founder of ALDA, a coalition of plus-sized models aimed at breaking down obsolete standards of beauty.


Karlie Kloss

Never mind that Karlie Kloss earned her dollar being one of the biggest models of her time. She earned her stripes championing women’s advancement in computer science. After taking a coding class at the Flatiron School in New York, Kloss established Kode with Klossy in 2015, a free, two-week summer coding camp for girls ages 13 to 18. The initiative aims to help girls build interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), empower them with the useful coding skill, and hopefully, boost representation and gender equality in the male-dominated tech industry.