These Uniquely Gorgeous Models Are Challenging Beauty Standards Everywhere

Tue Mar 08 2022

The modeling industry has slowly, but surely, begun to catch up with society’s changing views on beauty. Although there’s still a lot of work to be done, significant progress has been made in what’s culturally accepted as “beautiful” and these gorgeous models are making history by being part of that change.

In an industry that was once dominated by people who all looked the same, a new type of beauty has emerged, one in which our unique differences are celebrated rather than shunned. These models are living proof that there’s more than one way to be beautiful and everyone has the right to be represented.

Winnie Harlow Went From Being Called ”Cow” to ”Supermodel”

Chantelle Whitney Brown-Young aka Winnie Harlow has an autoimmune disorder called vitiligo, which causes a loss of pigmentation on certain areas of her skin. While Winnie was made fun of as a child, vitiligo is exactly what makes her stand out in an industry of tall, thin, look-alike women. Her skin condition, paired with her hard work and talent, is precisely what’s made Winnie the supermodel she is today.

Winnie has become a role model for many young people with vitiligo and it’s a job that she takes extremely seriously. “Growing up, I never saw anyone like me on TV, billboards, or on the runways, I felt like I was the only person in the world like me.” That’s when she began to post photos on social media, “The more I did it, the more of a following I gained on social media, I was getting a lot of love and support and people telling me that I inspired them. So I was like, ‘If doing this thing that’s just fun for me is inspiring people, then it’s a win-win.'”

A Hero in More Ways Than One

Alex Minsky didn’t start out as a model, surprisingly, he had a career in the military and fought in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Alex was injured on duty and his leg needed to be amputated. The former soldier spent 47 days in a coma and 17 months in the hospital. Needless to say, when he was finally released, he needed to find a new career path. That’s when he turned to modeling and became a hero in more ways than one.

Alex’s road to success was a difficult one as, after the loss of his leg, he turned to alcohol to cope. Luckily, the model has maintained his sobriety and is serving as an inspiration for others. He’s offered the following advice to his fans, “Keep your head up and life doesn’t end when you lose a limb. Or two, or three or four.” Who knows, you may even become a successful model!

Proof That Beauty Comes in All Sizes

Ashley Graham is the first plus-sized model to ever grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, proving to the world that beauty comes in all sizes. As a size 16 model, Ashley routinely speaks about body positivity and often posts relatable photos of her cellulite or body rolls on social media.

Ashley explained her social media presence by saying, “What motivates me to continue to talk about my body is that I didn’t have someone talking about their body when I was young. This is why I don’t post, like, the ‘perfect’ Instagram photos. I keep it real and raw constantly because I want people to know that there are women with cellulite, with back fat, with stretch marks… There are a lot of curvy women, plus-size women, fat women, whatever you want to call them.”

This Model Represents Trans Women Everywhere

Andreja Pejic is a transgender woman and model, making her the first openly trans model ever to sign a cosmetic contract and appear on the cover of Vogue. Andreja often models male and female clothing on the runway, although her campaigns are primarily feminine. She officially went through sex reassignment surgery in 2013.

Andreja recalled her journey by saying, “After I completed my transition and was living my life completely as a woman, I decided to share my story with the public. I thought, Whatever happens, happens. When Make Up For Ever approached me about a contract, it was very early on in the transgender movement—even before Caitlyn Jenner… It’s major for any model to have a makeup contract. For me, it’s a great career step, but it’s also nice just to show that this is possible. I can do what any other girl can do.”

The Public Has Spoken and They Wanted This Woman to Become a Model

Madeline Stuart desperately wanted to become a model but being a woman with Down syndrome, she knew the fashion industry wouldn’t be quick to recognize her beauty. Not one to give up easily, Madeline’s mother started an online campaign for her daughter and the public made their feelings known. It was clear that the world wanted to see Madeline walk the runway in New York Fashion Week and that’s exactly what she did.

When asked how it feels to be the world’s first professional model with Down syndrome, Madeline responded, “It feels unbelievable, I feel so blessed and fortunate that I have been given this opportunity, I also feel so proud that people have accepted me and supported me so I could achieve such a wonderful career.” Clearly, Madeline has started a movement as Victoria’s Secret recently hired their first model with Down syndrome – Sofia Jirau.

This Model Refuses to Conform to Anyone Else’s Beauty Standards

Most cultures’ beauty standards have condemned women to a lifetime of plucking, waxing, and shaving, due to the insistence that a female shouldn’t have any hair on her body despite the fact that it naturally grows there. Well, Sophia Hadjipanteli refuses to conform to anyone else’s beauty standards as she loves her unibrow and has even given it a supermodel name – Veronica.

The Greek-Cypriot model has founded the #UnibrowMovement in order to promote different types of women and acceptance of other cultures’ beauty standards. Sophie has stated, “The one thing that I get a lot is, ‘You would be so much prettier if you plucked your eyebrows, you could be perfect,’ I always respond and say, ‘What is it? That hair between your brows is the difference between imperfect and perfect?’”

Age Is Truly Just a Number

In an industry that glorifies looking youthful regardless of one’s age, Daphne Selfe has shattered expectations by becoming the oldest working model in history. The 93-year-old began her career in 1949 and doesn’t plan to retire any time soon. Daphne is living proof that age truly is just a number and growing older is a beautiful experience.

Daphne maintains that she never has, and never will, get cosmetic treatments done. The supermodel insists that botox is a “waste of money” and “a smile is as good as a facelift.” When asked about retirement, Daphne answered, “When life is so interesting, why should I give it up until it gives me up?”

Call Him What You Want, He’s Still Made It

Shaun Ross endured a lot of bullying as a child due to being an African American man with albinism. His peers would call him “powder,” “white-out,” and “Casper.” However, Shaun is the one laughing now as he’s become a successful model and is currently a rising star in the music industry as well.

Shaun’s well aware that he’s come a long way from that little boy who was bullied, as he proudly said, “I love how I have constantly shown those who didn’t believe in me that I can conquer anything I put my mind to. I’ve always been obsessed with power, but most importantly power of the mind.”

A Million-Dollar Smile

Lindsey Wixson truly does have a million-dollar smile as the model’s unique teeth have earned her a hugely successful modeling career. While she was initially turned away by many modeling agencies who thought her looks wouldn’t “translate” well, Lindsey finally got an opportunity with Marilyn Agency at just 15-years-old, making her grateful that she never “fixed” her teeth.

Lindsey recalls growing up with her unique beauty, “I was actually always really self-conscious about my gap. In middle school, this group of girls were always trying to beat me up – they called my gap a parking lot. It was a really awkward time.” The supermodel can now smile knowing that those bullies are probably admiring her in magazines right now.

Androgyny Is Beautiful

Erika Linder doesn’t conform to any gender stereotype, as she routinely models both male and female characters and wears masculine and feminine clothing on the runway. In fact, Erika’s first modeling job was to portray a young Leonardo DiCaprio for Candy magazine. She has also posed as both the male and female characters in a recent jeans campaign.

Erika spoke about the fashion industry’s representation of gender-fluid individuals by saying, “I definitely think it’s important. The fashion industry has such a huge impact on our society. Everybody wants to ‘belong’ in whatever way they can and I think challenging the gender norms helps to inspire people.”

Different Abilities = Different Types of Beauty

Jillian Mercado is one of the fashion industry’s few models who is visibly different-abled. Jillian has muscular dystrophy, which has resulted in her permanent use of a wheelchair. However, that hasn’t stopped the model from gracing runways with her presence. Alongside enjoying her own success, Jillian has vowed to ensure that more different-abled beauties are represented in fashion.

Jillian proudly stated, “I did everything that I could as far as strategically learning about the industry behind the scenes and seeing how I can put myself inside of an industry that wasn’t really giving me a place. I’m like, ‘Well if you’re not giving me a seat at the table, I come with my own ‘cause I have a wheelchair so…’” 

This Model Knows How Beautifully Unique She Is

Melanie Gaydos was born with ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic disorder that prevents the growth of teeth, nails, and bones. She also has alopecia (baldness) and is partially blind. The rare beauty has completely conquered the fashion world as the industry realized the uniqueness Melanie has to offer.

Melanie has wisely said, “I was never, ever bothered by the way that I look. It has nothing to do with me.” She also mentioned the fashion industry’s progress, “Every year it seems to broaden and become a little more open-minded, I truly do think that fashion is reimagining its ideals, but it’s only because people such as myself are actually making it happen.”

The Queen Has Claimed Her Crown

While the modeling industry has done better lately in terms of being more inclusive to different races, there’s still the issue of only hiring light-skinned black models. Luckily, Nyakim Gatwech is shattering expectations by being one of the darkest-skinned models in the industry, and one of the most beautiful. Nicknamed the “Queen of the Dark”, Nyakim is ready to claim her designer crown.

Sadly, Nyakim was often told to bleach her skin, something which her sister ended up doing. Speaking from experience, Nyakim’s sister told the model, “You would not just be bleaching your skin, you would be bleaching your mind. I did it and I regret it.” Thankfully, Nyakim remained her beautiful self.

This Model Obtained His Uniqueness Later in Life

While many people are born beautifully unique, there are also those who choose to alter their appearances later in life. That was the case with Rick Genest, aka Zombie Boy. Rick suffered from a brain tumor at a young age which, understandably, took a large emotional toll on him. As he healed and grew older, Rick decided to tattoo his face and body as part of his emotional process. With well over 100 tattoos, Rick won the Guinness World Record for the most tattooed individual.

Rick’s skeletal appearance has earned him a successful modeling career which included being featured prominently in Lady Gaga’s work. Rick explained his acquired look by saying, “Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated, or misunderstood.” Tragically, the model passed away in 2018 but his art still lives on.

This Model Has Been Marked by Beauty

While the modeling industry doesn’t usually take kindly to any sort of mark on the face, Tsunaina’s beauty marks have actually helped her in the industry as she’s not only gorgeous but unique as well. Furthermore, Tsunaina is only 5’5, making her one of the shortest working models. Clearly, she’s prepared to break every barrier!

Although she’s recently turned to music, Tsunaina’s modeling has inspired others to embrace their various facial marks. Tsunaina has taken to social media to express, “It is surreal, strangers sending me messages of love and inspiration and filling me with warmth I never knew.”

The Perfect Skin Is the Skin You’re In

While the beauty and fashion industries tend to glorify taught skin, Sara Geurts knows that the skin she’s in is perfect just the way it is. Sara has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that causes the skin to sag regardless of one’s age. The 29-year-old model hasn’t let her uniqueness stop her from conquering the modeling world, though.

After getting her start in modeling with the LoveYourLines campaign, Sara decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry full-time. “I would tell anyone living with Ehlers-Danlos to follow your dreams, even when you do feel helpless. You are beautiful and you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

This Model Has Decided to Stop Fighting Her Body

Harnaam Kaur has spent years fighting her body’s natural beauty but now vows to embrace it. The model has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is an excess amount of male hormones in females, that results in women producing large amounts of body and facial hair. Harnaam has aptly named her beard Sundri, which means “beauty.”

Harnaam explained, “I decided to keep my beard and step forward against society’s expectations of what a woman should look like. Today I am not suicidal and I do not self-harm. Today I am happy living as a young beautiful bearded woman. I have realized that this body is mine, I own it, I do not have any other body to live in so I may as well love it unconditionally.”

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Moffy Gathorne Hardy is well-represented in the modeling industry to the point in which she’s even signed to the same management as Kate Moss. Moffy’s prestigious representation shows an important shift in the fashion world as the model has strabismus (crossed eyes), a trait that before Moffy came along, was not shown in the fashion industry.

While Moffy is proud of her positive effect on society, she does hope to be seen as a “typical” model one day, “The messages I receive from people saying that I’ve helped them in some way give me an enormous sense of warmth and belonging, and above all give an extra sense of purpose to what I do. And I don’t mind talking about it, but I have begun to wonder what people without a lazy eye get asked in interviews…”

This Model’s Time Was Cut Short but Her Impact Will Live Forever

Cacsmy Brutus, also known as Mama Cax, tragically passed away in 2019 but her positive effect on society will live forever. When she was just 14-years-old, Mama Cax was diagnosed with cancer and given three weeks to live. However, the universe had something else in mind as Mama Cax continued her beautiful life. Unfortunately, she had to have her leg amputated in the process.

Mama Cax spoke about her modeling and activism, saying, “I realized there were so many people going through the same thing, and they needed to know that they weren’t weird or that it was okay to accept their body as it is, I think that in itself gave me confidence.”

Beautifully Bespeckled

Ralph Souffrant’s freckles may be unusual for the modeling world but the reality is that no two people’s skin is exactly the same. The model’s refreshingly real look has scored him impressive contracts including working with Kanye West. While he feels that he’s an “underdog,” Ralph also describes himself as “driven” and “unique,” creating the perfect recipe for a successful modeling career.

“Now I am grateful for my freckles. However, as a child I hated them. I was teased, stared at by strangers, and extremely self-conscious. Now, people embrace it and I love my uniqueness. Thanks to my freckles I can provide for my family and get my family out of poverty.”

Double the Beauty

Identical twins, TK Wonder and Cipriana Quann are changing the fashion industry’s standards of beautiful hair. While the fashion world would like us to think that hair shouldn’t be “too big” or even a smidge out of place, these models know that natural beauty is always the most gorgeous.

TK has pointed out, “For us, natural hair is just a state of being. It’s not supposed to be anything that’s different. It doesn’t mean anything different than a Caucasian woman who has natural hair. I also think in the mainstream media, that side of beauty hasn’t been seen, so people are like ‘Oh, this is trending.’ But it’s not a trend. You’re just now being exposed to it.”

This Model Has Learned That They’re Beautiful as Any Gender

Rain Dove was born a woman but had always been mistaken for a male, due to their beautifully strong facial features. Their modeling career began when a friend dared them to audition for a Calvin Klein campaign, posing as a man. Rain accepted the challenge and walked onto the set in nothing but Calvin Klein underwear. The designer swiftly gave Rain a men’s shirt to cover their chest with and said, “Swear to God, you will not tell anyone you’re a woman!”

Today, Rain models men’s and women’s clothing and also works as an activist. Despite their incredible contribution to the industry’s progress, Rain knows the work isn’t yet finished, “Sometimes when castings look at me, I feel like they see some kind of token for their show. But you know what? I’ll take it. It’s my goal to make sure that it’s wildly successful that they have me in their show. That way, it can open up doors for other models in the future.”

Proof That Beauty Is Timeless

Wang Deshun was already known in his home country of China as an actor but he became known all around the world when he began modeling at 80-years-old. Dubbed “China’s Hottest Grandpa,” Wang shattered the stigma against aging and proved that his good looks are truly timeless.

Wang has shared his path to the fountain of youth, “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, Do you dare try something you’ve never done before? It’s about your state of mind. It’s not about age, nature determines age, but you determine your state of mind.”

This Model Has Broken More Than Just One Barrier

The fashion industry has many flaws when choosing models but two of its most persistent drawbacks are the unwillingness to hire models of size and racial diversity. While there have been changes in each of these areas, combining these two types of beauty remains to be a problem. Enter: Precious Lee, one of the most successful African American, plus-sized, models of all time.

At size 14/16, Precious has become the first black curvy model to ever appear in American Vogue. This gorgeous model is not only breaking barriers but she’s making room for others to do the same. “I’m a model with a mission. I’ll always have things that I’m doing to elevate the collective and to make more space for others like me.”