Global Beauty

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.”

Joan Smalls by Kai Z Feng | Fashion Editor – Naomi Smith | Hair – Roberto Di Cuia | Makeup – Jessica Nedza

Shanina Shaik by Nicole Bentley | Fashion Editor – Meg Gray | Hair – Kevin Mancuso | Makeup – Justine Purdue

  1. A well-written op-ed from MDC. I find it refreshing when fashion news writers don’t pussyfoot around the lack of diversity in high fashion/beauty, because at least SOMEONE is pointing out the (white, ahaha) elephant in the room. One hopes that designers and casting directors will take note.

    Meanwhile, I wish Joan Smalls all the best of luck and fortune in her meteoric rise. May she reign at the top with other models of color like Liu Wen.

  2. If I may leave an obligatory braindead model stan comment: I miss Lakshmi Menon. 🙁 She coulda been a contender!

  3. Joan is gorgeous. I love the cover. I just wish there was more of models of color. You see them one season then there gone.

  4. This is what I call “to good to be true.” That cover and the spread are both incredible. Joan has always been stunning, but this Shanina girl is quit new to me. I think they’re both amazing nonetheless.

    On the topic on colored models in the industry, I think fashion is changing, but to a black person myself, it may not be changing fast enough.

    More diversity is coming, and thankfully labels are realizing, that it isn’t a matter of what once was, but it’s a matter of “whatever you define as ‘current’ will be accepted in the eyes of consumers.

    Lots of magazines, including Vogue Italia has been for long pushing colored models, and I commend them for that. I love fashion and I am not racist, so I don’t care if the model on a spread is black or white. However, equality needs to be enforced.

    Great post as always

  5. i almost died when i saw this cover of joan! beathtaking. flawless. the editorial is even better. my gawd! i feel like a super fan right now.

  6. Shanina Shaik is beautiful! When I saw her open for Jason Wu , I was like ” WHOS THAT GIRRRLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL”

    She should also dummp Tyson . Girl needs to listen to some Destinys child ‘independant woman’.Don’t need no man to make business , that was your ass Shanina, strutting down Victorias secret .PFFT

  7. @Sam- Please do everyone a favor & shut up!!! Your close minded views about light skinned girls are so ridiculous. Must you post the same thing in every Joan Smalls article?

    Anyways, she looks amazing!!! Bravo to her, and I hope she becomes the #1 model. Fingers crossed for VP & US Vogue covers!!

  8. oh Joan! my devotion to you is even stronger now. I love Joan and wish her nothing but more and more success.

  9. 1) I think this is the most gorgeous Vogue Australia cover EVER. Even more, Im just ecstatic to see Joan here; just beyond myself. And I am really starting to wonder if she REALLY DOES HAVE upcoming Vogue Paris and US covers comin out soon. Fingers crossed. Anyways, Joan, Kai, Vogue Australia, and Kirstie Clemens I AM SOLD!! J’ADORE!! (In Aussie.)

  10. I love this cover for it’s symbolism of diverse beauty and as a cover on its own; so very chic. Also two beautiful editorials featuring two beautiful and talented models.

  11. Que linda!!! Joan should be on american vogue with Karlie and Arizona. She has to be the number 1 model.

  12. ^ sean, that’s because it’s not a BEAUTY pageant. It’s about more than beauty plus much more.

  13. That’s the problem! ” models of colour ” the only divide should be the genre: fashion, glamour & so on, I guess next I’ll be a ” photographer of colour ” 

    They look beautifully awesome…

  14. It was astounding Joan got Vogue Italia, but now Australia?! It’s only a small sign for even greater things to come for Ms.Smalls.

    BTW: With all this talk about Karlie, Arizona, and Joan deserving a Vogue cover together, it’s bound to happen.

  15. I really hope we are getting closer to a day when a woman or man can be looked at based on his/her talent rather than color! Where we never have to say phrases like “person of color….” Because everyone has equal chances!

  16. umm…WHOA! Absolutely sensational.

    Alas, it would be all the more wonderful if multiple supermodels of color were able to coexist; concurrently occupy a few major covers and walk the runway sans the usual color cluster.

    There is certainly a twisted tendency to dance around 1 or a few models of color per moment. I am however rejoicing over the beloved Liya Kebede in Loreal, browsing Nyasha’s feature on and salivating over Melodie Monrose’ doe-like stance in the new D&G email/web edit etc.

    These wonderful women are undeniable.
    There are indeed signs of change and it’s beautiful and empowering – slowly but surely..

  17. Joan is amazing so gorgeous so happy for her Vogue US Cover soon? yes! I hope!
    Shanina not so much same expression very boring!

  18. Shanina Shaik is stunning - hope to see more of her and hope next time front cover - that girl is stunning ! says:

    Shanina Shaik is a stunning model and would love to see more of her! Let’s hope next time on the front cover

  19. I agree with Anna. Joan is breathtaking. Shanina is obviously very pretty, but she just doesn’t have a strong and commanding presence. Reminds me of Anais Mali. All great models…Joan is just this unbelievable force.

  20. Best modeled edit of the year so far! IMO.
    The cover is from Heaven. Joan is scintillating.. not just because of her physical appearance but because she is so very real and secure in self.

    I greatly appreciate this sort of tasteful capture of Afro-American flair – circa 40’s, 60’s. Yet it’s so fresh and modern… and darling I am simply choking on this ultradivine confidence that Ms. Smalls exudes.. One can plate this and sell it for top dollar.

    The image alone of her in the Prada ensemble is enough to strike a flame.

    Now little fashion girls (and some of the boys ;)) around the world and going to say “I want to look and emote like Joan Smalls”! And that is truly amazing.

  21. Shanina is a stunning exotic looking model – loved her in Victoria’s Secret and love seeing her on the runways and now in high fashion mags.
    I hope the modelling world continues to acknowledge the beauty of this unique looking model and I look forward to seeing far more from her – she is amazing, young with a bright future I’m sure

  22. Shanina Shaik is a natural, stunning with or without makeup on, and an amazing physique not like those bony models out there!!

  23. Joan is the closest thing there is to a supermodel right now.

    I’m not familiar with shinainaa but she looks like the ridiculous girl in the VS show blowing kisses like it was a beauty pageant.

  24. Ok she totally is the girl from the VS show. That was hilarious. she scores a point for dating Tyson Beckford.

  25. spectacular. joan’s cover is fierce. i havent seen a vogue cover this stunning in a long time. i decalre joan for american vogue!

  26. Shanina Shaik has built her own path and worked exceptionally hard to get where she is….. the supposed retard trying to claim her fame may need totake a look uin the mirror and accept that he is over the hill and accept that dragging others down only make him appear old and LAME

  27. I have to say that Joan’s game is really on the up and up. Her modelling skills have really improved and for once I like the ed coz she’s working it and not because she’s a model of colour(thats just a bonus). Its her best work to this point, imo. However, I am not amused that the next generation of models of colour is one of ethnically ambiguous origins. I’m not raining on Ms Smalls parade, I just want to see some African models make it too. I hope ck nurtures and boosts Henrieth, although there doesn’t seem much of a chance of that looking at their fw runway. On Shanina, yes, it was a stupid thing for Beckford to say BUT it doesn’t make it any less true. Model successes don’t just happen, especially for models of colour. Someone has to be pulling the right strings and opening the right doors, and that person happened to be Beckford. Also, it was a marvelous PR stunt that catapulted Shaik to the mainstream (i saw it on gawker) Dont underestimate Tyson, he took a bullet to make his lady a star.

  28. black is black. blacks comes in different shades. i dont understand why there’s discussion about her not being black enough. she isn’t being booked out of sympathy. this isn’t about color. she represents beautiful and intelligent young women in general.

  29. Lulu – yoiu give Tyson Beckford far too much credit – The girl got in the show based on her beauty recognized by her natural beauty and runway talent. She was bound to go far with or without Tyson. He merely put her onto an agency in NY who was associated with the show and from there the agent makes the model and promotes. Tyson really doesn’t have much influence in the modelling world anymore or much credibility and that is obvious based on his loose lips and having to take credit cause he ain’t got nothing else going for him. I think he did Shanina an injustice and if I were her I would kick him to curb …’s obvious that girl is going places with or without him and good on her – she’s a young independent woman with a bright future. Vogue Australia thanks for haring great beauty featuring Joan and Shanina – two aspiring models!

  30. Both Joan and Shanina are extremely beautiful models. Shanina is certainly one to keep an eye out for as she continues to rise in the modelling world. I loved her in VS – a huge triumph for someone so young yet well deserved. I think this has to be the best Vogue feature ever celebrating true beauty and two strong women.

  31. Shanina is stunning and would love to see her on the cover of Aussie Vogue. Diversity is beautiful!

  32. @jade????? how can I be giving anybody a facor when your the only one who’s complaining???

    and when did I mention lightskinned blacks???

    and whats wrong with me wanting to see more black models who are more african to be represented???
    maybe you should shut up

  33. Even though Joan Smalls is having a great career I dont see how this is pushing for more diversity…this is just another token “black girl” getting all the covers, ads, and campaigns of the fashion industry…its been like this for decades
    Beverly Johnson
    and now Joan

  34. Joan is the only reason i’m going to buy Vogue Australia. Let’s be real…no one ever cares about Vogue Australia. In fact, no one would be talking about Shanina if Joan wasn’t on the cover and the one generating discussion. Regardless, both women are beautiful.

  35. Sam IMO i think it’s great that Joan represents diversity. I think you do a disservice to her success when you discredit joan and refer to her as the token black girl. We get that you want more african diversity, but this isn’t the thread for that topic. Sorry

  36. @Spanx stating the fact that joan is the token black girl is not “disservice” or “discredit” im pointing out issue that you can’t prove is false…i’ve stated simply facts and if this isn’t the thread than my comment would’ve been deleted

  37. Why does her race have to be the defining issue of this shoot? Can’t you just appreciate her talents as a model, and the quality of the shoot without referencing her race? Aren’t we beyond that, and aren’t you just as guilty of a racial bias as the magazines and editorials you lambast?

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