Last week, model Anok Yai made history at Prada‘s Fall 2018 show during Milan Fashion Week.
The 19-year-old became the second black model to ever open a Prada show. The first was Naomi Campbell back in 1997. Yes, it’s been over two decades since a woman of color opened a Prada runway.
Anok took to Instagram to thank Miuccia Prada, along with her team, for the opportunity, writing, “Can’t believe I’m the first black woman to open for Prada since queen @iamnaomicampbell, forever grateful.”
The model’s monumental runway walk is especially incredible as she was just discovered last fall while attending Howard University’s homecoming. Weeks later, she signed with Next Models. And just one month ago, she made her runway debut at Prada’s Menswear Fall 2018 show.
Of course, the fact that Prada hasn’t cast a woman of color to open its show in over two decades is problematic in itself. In the past, the brand has come under scrutiny for its lack of diversity both on the runway and in its campaigns. Hopefully, Anok opening the Fall 2018 show is an indication the Italian fashion house is headed in the right direction when it comes to diversity.
Extremely slowly, but surely, more and more brands are recognizing the importance of casting diverse runways. This season’s Fall 2018 shows at New York Fashion Week marked the most racially diverse of all time—with women of color accounting for 37.3% of all castings. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done.
Shimmering lingerie and dazzling faux-wings marked the official broadcast of the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Tuesday night – and while some of the show’s famous stars returned to the catwalk, several women of color made their debut. Supermodels Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Doutzen Kroes were only a few of the veterans who strutted down the aisle again. But it seems as though this year’s show included more diversity than ever before.
Joining Joan Smalls and Jasmine Tookes on the runway (who also participated in last year’s presentation) were at least four other women of different ethnicities who were dressed in some of the lingerie brand’s finest pieces. There is Malika Firth, a Kenyan-born biracial 19-year-old who was cast as the first black model to be the face of Prada’s since 1994 – a large feat, especially considering that supermodel Naomi Campbell was the last black woman at the helm of the designer brand.
Cindy Bruna, who is from the South of France but was born to a Congolese mother and an Italian father, joined the beauties on the runway. Then there was Maria Borges, a 5’11 Angolan model who won the 2011 Ford Supermodel Angola title. Brazilian model Lais Roberio and Ming Xi, one of the most-sought after Asian models, also joined the sizzling-hot lineup.
Prada, a label known for rarely casting models of color, has selected a black model for a new print campaign. For first time in 19 years, a woman of African decent will be a major face of the luxury fashion brand in a Fall/Winter 2013 advertisement.
Malaika Firth, a bi-racial black woman who is half Kenyan and British, was born in the Kenyan city of Mombasa and raised in the United Kingdom. The 19-year-old, who also boasts Ugandan, Swiss, and Seychellois ancestry, appears in the latest Prada seasonal ad series with 44-year-old supermodel Christy Turlington among other faces.
Fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell was the last black woman to be featured in a Prada ad campaign in 1994.
Firth told The Telegraph that she is“extremely proud and happy” to be following in the footsteps of the pioneering black supermodel. Naomi Campbell was one of the first black models to receive international recognition.
Liya Kebede’s Liya Kebede Foundation engages in a range of charitable projects that help improve maternal healthcare in her native Ethiopia. (Photo: Getty Images)
Fashion Week isn’t only about glitzy runway shows and star-studded front rows; nor is the industry solely about dreamy designer pieces most of us can’t afford and rich, skinny models. Some of those beautiful mannequins and marquee names are as much about substance as style.
As New York Fashion Week entered its fifth day on Monday, supermodel Liya Kebede explained to theGrio how she used her fame gained walking runways to raising awareness about maternal health. At an intimate gathering in the rooftop bar at Manhattan’s SoHo House, hosted by La Phête, a new online destination focused on spotlighting fashion’s philanthropic stars, Kebede shared her journey.