It’s official: top models have taken over W Magazine’s 50th Anniversary Issue. In celebration, the magazine unveiled 17 captivating stars ranging from the world’s most famous names to women who are well on their way to total fashion domination. Among them are four leading African models — Iman, Adut Akech, Anok Yai & Alek Wek.
The all-star lineup also includes Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Iman, Kendall Jenner, Precious Lee, Cindy Crawford, Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Christy Turlington Burns, Shalom Harlow, He Cong, Loli Bahia, Sora Choi and Binx Walton.
There were several photographers involved in shooting the covers. For the issue, models wore an array of stunning looks and discussed the industry’s past, present, and future.
See excerpts from the interview below.
Iman on her favourite runway memories
If it weren’t for Thierry Mugler, the trajectory of my fashion moment wouldn’t exist. Many of the designers at that time were particularly safe in how they wanted to showcase me. Yves Saint Laurent is also one of my favourites. But Thierry Mugler was like an MGM director. His shows were cinematic. He let me be whatever character I wanted to play on stage. I was always the girl who, in a world full of trends, always looked classic. But Mugler flipped the narrative and let me be a wild, African glamour girl, and then editors and other designers were able to see me in that light.
When I arrived in the United States, there was the idea that there could be only one Black model at a time, so it created hostility and competition among us. But my friends and I changed that. In Somalia, where I’m from, I never called myself a Black woman, because there was no reason to. The whole country is Black. I had an identity based on my worth. I started becoming friends with Black models on purpose. They were the ones who were going to tell me who was the best photographer for us, who was the best hairdresser for our hair, and the best makeup artist for our skin. So we became a tribe, and we still are that tribe.
Adut Akech on what appealed to her about being a model
I wanted to be a model because I was inspired by models like Naomi Campbell from a young age. One thing that came as a shock was how hard this job is. I never thought it was going to be the easiest, but you truly don’t know until you’re doing it.
Anok Yai on the modelling industry shift over the past few years
Since the Covid pandemic, models have had more creative control. I’ve had the opportunity to creative-direct some shoots, and at this stage of my career, I can be more than a model—I can be an artist. At the end of the day, a runway show is a collaborative effort. As a model, you can sometimes feel like just a hanger. But when I’m on the runway, it feels like a performance. I’m at a point now where if you don’t give me artistic freedom, I’m just going to take it.
Alek Wek on how her approach to modelling has changed as she has gotten older
I make my own choices now. I don’t have to be in a place where people disrespect me. And for the first time, I’m honouring not just my work, but me as a human being and as a woman.
Set Design: @mhs_artists
Set Design: @mhs_artists
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