Caribbean, Central American, and South American models have spearheaded the industry since the 50s but have often slipped through the minds of many, with little to no representation of the range of diversity that comes from the region. Continuing our Models Through The Decades Series, we are highlighting Latinx model trailblazers who’ve showcased noteworthy milestones throughout the eras and may or may not be on your radar. Whether you’re on Fashion Spot pouring over model history or interested in learning something new, this continuous list highlights how these pillars of model history started in the industry, climbed to notoriety, and some of their major claims to fame.
Brazillian-born Michelle Alves studied civil engineering before she ventured into the modeling world, at 18 she headed to Sao Paulo to sign with a modeling agency. Soon after, Alves came to Paris and walked for the likes of Armani, Galliano, Dior, and was featured on a Vogue Italia cover shot by Steven Meisel. The Brazillian model eventually appeared on multiple Elle and Vogue covers.
Yamila Diaz Rahi
The Argentine model of Spanish and Lebanese descent was discovered as a student studying Economics and went on to working the Milan market. Diaz Rahi was the first Latin spokesmodel in CoverGirl history and was featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 11 times. The SI regular also appeared in the 2003 Pirelli Calendar. A lover of the arts, the Brooklyn-based model now has a ceramics business.
Born in Argentina, Ines Rivero started modeling at the age of 14 and got her big break when she entered the “Elite Look Of The Year” contest at 17. Eventually, Rivero signed with Elite Paris which accelerated her modeling career and led her to walk for Chanel, Chloe, Givenchy, and many other luxury brands. Rivero, made history as the first Latin-American angel for Victoria’s Secret, with campaigns for Cover Girl and an acting stint, appearing in The Devil Wears Prada.
The original ‘Gisele’ was born in Brazil and played muse to Chanel under Karl Lagerfeld’s era and was photographed by Peter Lindbergh and Richard Avedon for the Pirelli Calendar in 1997. Zelauy appeared in campaigns for Chanel, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Escada and was a regular on the pages of Vogue Italia, Vogue Paris, British Vogue, and Vogue Germany where she got a cover.
Born in New York City, Talisa Soto was the youngest of four children whose parents moved from Puerto Rico. Soto’s family eventually moved to Massachusetts, where at the age of 15 she got signed to Click Management. Soon after being signed, Talisa got her big break once she shot for British Vogue and became the first Latina woman to grace the cover of American Vogue. Wasn’t too long before Soto delved into the acting industry, she appeared in the “Each Time You Break My Heart” by Madonna music video and was cast as a Bond Girl in “License to Kill”.
Laura Álvarez was the first Venezuelan model to find international success. Discovered in the early 1970s in Caracas by American advertising executive Norman Griner, Álvarez decided to try her luck in New York rather than pursuing the title of Miss Venezuela. The first Latin American model to appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan US, Álvarez also covered multiple issues of both Vogue Italia and Harper’s Bazaar Italia. A frequent collaborator with photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri, in 1975 she managed to convince Venezuela’s tourism board to fund an epic Barbieri-lensed editorial for Italian Vogue.
Nicaraguan-born, Barbara Carrera moved to New York City with her family and got signed to Ford Agency around the age of 17. Carrera received her first golden globe nomination for her role in “The Master Gunfighter” which accelerated her acting career and was also a Bond girl in “Never Say Never Again”. The rising star also had her own solo Vogue Italia cover and was featured on multiple Vogue editorials.