Let’s face it, models of color on magazine covers is not something that we see enough of. In spite of the diversity that exists all around us, fashion still has a very homogenous physical ideal. The lack of African-American, Latino, Asian faces on covers and in campaigns is disconcerting to say the least, but every so often a major magazine turns the focus towards an ideal that is more inclusive. The latest issue of Vogue Australia looks to the new faces of global beauty, with the unstoppable Joan Smalls on the cover and rising star Shanina Shaik in the editorial pages.
With her Estee Lauder contract and continued editorial domination, Joan is the perfect representative for fashion’s push towards diversity. Her stellar cover shot by Kai Z Feng is a testament to her posing prowess and she’s also conscious of her role as the leader of a new group of multi-ethnic models who are rising to the top of the heap. Smalls told WWD back in Feb, “It’s nice to show the world that we don’t only have to be one thing or categorized in one box. It’s important to show the world—and fashion—that diversity is beautiful.”
While certain male model boyfriends might be claiming credit for Shanina’s rise to the top, her elegant Vogue shoot by Nicole Bentley shows she doesn’t need any help, she’s a natural in front of the camera. The South Asian beauty hails from Melbourne, but is a mix of Lithuanian, Pakistani and Saudi heritage. Considering that it is even rarer to see South Asian faces in major magazines, Shaik’s success is landmark. When asked by Aussie journalists how she felt about the lack of representation on the runways Shaik had this to say. “It does actually bother me quite a bit. I think there’s so many beautiful mixed and South East Asian girls and sometimes i don’t think we really get the chance to show our potential. People will cast for one certain look. Hopefully that changes.”