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Breaking molds and staying woke: Six people proving there’s more to modeling

The modeling industry continues to be the driving force of fashion and overall culture in our world. Woke models who break the mold show us we can be the change we want to see in the world.

These are some of the professionals in the modeling industry championing activism and inspiring us to love ourselves and give back.

Winnie Harlow


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Double R.. “Rest & Relaxation” right? 😂💙

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Winnie Harlow is a successful Canadian fashion model. She’s known for raising awareness of the skin condition vitiligo.

Winnie first came into the spotlight when she was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model in 2014. Since then she’s been a spokesperson for vitiligo and shares her experience living with the condition.

Chella Man


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The statement piece here are truly my fuzzy socks, mis-matched, of course.

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Chella Man is a 19-year-old deaf trans Model signed to IMG Models.

He documented his transition on testosterone on YouTube and identifies as a genderqueer and queer artist.

Along with modeling Chella Man is also studying engineering at the New School in NYC. As an activist and artist, he also creates videos that teach ASL.

Halima Aden


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So cool 😍🤩♥️ queen @halima 👑

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Halima Aden is an American fashion model who has recently received popularity for being the first woman to wear a hijab in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

Halima was also the first woman to rock a hijab in the Miss USA Minnesota pageant and was signed soon after by IMG Models. She made her career debut in Feb. 2017 at New York Fashion Week for Yeezy Season 5.

She became a UNICEF ambassador in July 2018 and advocates for children across the globe.

Geena Rocero


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ur drag moms @aleksamanila bangles, a fan and playing w 📷 @rdemano, our peg was @davidyurman Ads. I think we pulled it off.

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As a professional model for the fashion and beauty industry, Geena Rocero uses her platform to empower diversity.

As a trans woman herself, Geena Rocero frequently talks about her experience and came out publicly at a TED Talk in 2014.

The Filipina co-founded the organization Gender Proud to advocate for people around the world who wish to rectify their identification to reflect their gender identity. The organization also addresses discrimination and violence against transgender people.

Nyle DiMarco


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CAN I GET A YEEHAW! – 📸: @taylormillerphoto for @_manabouttownuk Styled by: @dogreene

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Nyle DiMarco is an American model, actor, and deaf activist.

In 2015, he was the first deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model. Nyle has used his platform to spread awareness and advocate for deaf persons around the world.

The Nyle Dimarco foundation seeks to be a resource for the improvement of life for every deaf person in the world. His YouTube channel also features ASL lessons.

Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham is a feminist activist, who seeks to empower women of all shapes and sizes. She was the first plus-size model to appear in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition.

Graham often speaks out about the discrimination in the industry and promotes conversations surrounding standards of beauty. Her swimwear line seeks to help women see the beauty in their bodies’ despite social pressures.

America’s Next Top Model is switching it up with its most diverse cast ever

TV shoes, movies and magazines all sell women using airbrushed, unrealistic techniques. The result? When women are constantly bombarded by unrealistic images of how they “should” look, many develop self-esteem issues.

More dangerously, others may go on to develop life-threatening eating disorders. Fortunately, there is some good news on the horizon.

America’s Next Top Model, premiering its next season on VH1 January 9th, includes at least two curvier models in addition to its already ethnically diverse cast. And so far, the fans are absolutely loving it!

The Link Between Models and Eating Disorders

A disparity between the average height and weight of female modes versus those of the general female population has long existed, and it continues to widen.

In 1997, the average model weighed only 8% less than the average woman in the general population. In 2017, the gap has widened to the point where models weigh 23% less than the average female population.

Currently 87% of models weigh between 100 – 150 lbs and stand anywhere from 5’6” and up. Contrast this with the average woman in America today, who stands approximately 5’4” and weighs 166.2 lbs. In this season of ANTM, plus-sized supermodel Ashley Graham will be returning as one of the judges.

Ashley Graham Curves GIF by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit - Find & Share on GIPHY

Even a cursory glance at these statistics shows that when the average woman seeks to look like the models in their favorite TV shows and magazines, she is going to be madly disappointed.

It’s not only the consumers of popular media who develop eating disorders, although it is important to note that immersion in this societal ideal starts early: 70% of teen girls say they are heavily influenced by the models they see on TV and magazines.

But, while some models may be genetically thin, other models fall prey to societal stereotypes as well. Both models and everyday teens alike are known to visit pro-Ana websites, sites dedicated to promoting anorexic behaviors.

Hope is on the Horizon

America’s Next Top Model bears a lot of responsibility. In order to make all women feel beautiful, they include women of many shapes, nationalities and now, sizes. America’s Next Top Model is leading the reality model shows in this regard.

Upcoming seasonal episodes will feature Krystayana Koroskova, a body-positive activist and Ivana West, a powerful plus sized model.

✅I have cellulite – 🚫NOT I feel FAT ✅I have wrinkles – 🚫NOT I feel old ✅I have rolls – 🚫NOT I feel ugly ✅I have $20.00 to my name -🚫 NOT I feel poor ✅I didn’t succeed at this task – 🚫NOT I feel like a total loser. fat, old, ugly, poor, unsuccessful ARE NOT REAL feelings !!!!!!!!!! Please please try and change the INNER DELUSION focused words to REALITY focused WORDS when you speak of yourself. Why being so negative? Just why? Feelings are REAL so examine the real feeling. ✅example: feeling an actual discomfort around your waistline DUE to super tight jeans u got last summer, they no longer fit the same – fact: you gained some weight and have a feeling of DISCOMFORT – pinching squeezing your skin, flash, organs THATS what you feel… NOT FEELING FAT. But that feeling of discomfort. Stop the use of STIGMA LOADED words, they can destroy your self esteem in seconds and take over your day/week/year and anyone who loves you just because you misused the words and confused reality with delusion! Not biggie. But let’s learn to be more loving towards ourselves – we DO deserve our own love ❤️ 💚💛💙💜💗 – Khrystyana – Photo by @melinadeya mua @vlefay style @bethbecker @cinestreampictures production #bodyimage#allbodiesaregoodbodies#loveyourself#bekind#mybodymychoice#curvyfashion#antm#antm24#curved

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It will be interesting to see how they compete in this upcoming season against models with the more stereotypical body shapes.

In addition to shows and agencies, individual models are also taking a stand. Model Tabria Majors recently shared photos of her plus-sized model’s body displaying the same apparel as popular Victoria Secret’s models.

Her mission is to show the world that curvy models can still model lingerie and be just as sexy, and one look at her photoshoot makes her claim impossible to deny.

As one of the most popular shows on TV, America’s Next Top Model can and should do more to encourage healthy displays of all body sizes and shapes.

Once more diverse models are shown on TV and in magazines, we will hopefully begin to see healthier eating habits among teens and adults alike, and a happier population overall. You go, girls!