8 Models Who Are Breaking the Aesthetic Standards of Fashion

Inspiring Models

With mostly white models strutting the runways and gracing the front covers of the magazines, there’s no denying that the fashion realm is notorious for being homogeneous. However, if you look at the much bigger picture, you will actually notice that industry’s problem extends beyond race.

Thankfully, over time, lots of models are popping out, shunning the strict standard of beauty the industry has set. Though some of them have strange medical conditions, it is quite obvious that their unique traits not only allow them to help build a much stronger brand but also to share beautiful stories that can inspire the world.

Let’s meet these people who are considered fashion industry’s agents of change and awareness.

1. Chantelle Brown-Young

Chantelle Brown-Young

Also known as Winnie Harlow, Chantelle Brown-Young is a Canadian model with vitiligo, a rare condition that causes depigmentation to certain parts of the skin. She made her first appearance on the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model, where she landed a modeling gig for SHOWstudio and a campaign for Desigual.

She said of Desigual’s fall campaign, “Desigual stands for being unusual and unique and atypical, so they figured I’d be the perfect person. They had a new line that had a lot of dots. And some of my skin patterns are dots.”

Chantelle has since proven that everyone has a room in the industry, regardless of skin color. She is now sharing her story through videos and giving talks to inspire others and let them believe there is beauty in everything.

2. Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham

Born in Nebraska, Ashley Graham has been in the fashion scene for a couple of years already. But it was only in 2014 when she made the biggest leap in her career, signing as a plus-size model for a prominent modeling agency—IMG Models. Since then, she has worked for various clients like Isabel Toledo for Lane Bryant.

Because body diversity has been a hot topic in the past few years, Graham shared her thoughts, “I do not like being referred to as a plus-size model. I am a model, and I don’t need my job title to explain the dimensions of my body.”

Now Graham is making quiet yet powerful industry statements, starring in campaigns alongside supermodels Karlie Kloss and Gisele Bundchen.

3. Shaun Ross

Shaun Ross

Known for his medium build and versatile appearance, Shaun Ross is not your ordinary Saint Laurent or Abercrombie hunk. Before he rose to fame as a model, he was a professional dancer.

His first appearance was on an episode of the Tyra Banks Show, where his life as an albino man was featured. Since then, he has modeled for lots of well-known labels such as Givency and Alexander McQueen. Apart from modeling, he has also done several acting gigs, playing Adam in Lana Del Ray’s Tropico film and dancing in Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” music video.

In 2014, he delivered an inspiring and powerful talk entitled “In My Skin I Win”. In his talk, he said, “When I was approached to do modeling, I never thought that I could have been a model. Because in my eyes, the way society painted me, is that I’m completely wrong, I’m not acceptable, and I’m not beautiful.” But later on, he said he has now gained acceptance.

4. Andreja Pejic

Andreja Pejic

Known for her androgynous looks, Andreja Pejic has strutted various masculine runway shows for Rick Owens, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Thom Brown, and walked for different feminine events for DKNY, Jeremy Scott, and Jean Paul Gaultier Hauté Couture.

Although she’s a transgender, she was able to take the fashion world by storm. In fact, she became the first openly transgender model recognized by Vogue in its May 2015 issue.

To encourage others, she said, “To all trans youth out there, I would like to say respect yourself and be proud of who you are. All human beings deserve equal treatment no matter their gender identity or sexuality.”

5. Erika Linder

Erika Linder

Erika Linder is a Swedish model who made a splash in 2014 by portraying both male and female model roles in an ad for Crocker by JC Jeans Company.

“By starring Erika as the model for both male and female styles, we want this collection to inspire creativity and confidence as we set out to break new boundaries within the fashion industry,” the Swedish label posted on their Web site.

Linder kept up with his success streak, nailing a Harper’s Bazaar China shoot, as well as a Tom Ford beauty campaign.

6. Jillian Mercado

Jillian Mercado

Jillian Mercado is a model with muscular dystrophy, but she wouldn’t let her wheelchair stop her from fulfilling her dreams.

Since she became a part of the spring campaign of Diesel, she has been invited to do catalogues for other labels like Nordstrom, which has a solid record for featuring different models including those with physical disabilities.

Despite her aesthetics, Mercado serves as a reminder for shoppers and retailers that people like her are actually beautiful. “There was a time where I compared myself to people around me. Too soon I realized that I was a living lie. We must stop looking for guidance on how to be beautiful because we can be our own compasses,” said her.

7. Jade Willoughby

Jade Willoughby

After being represented by Wilhelmina Models in 2013, Jade Willoughby became one of the few indigenous models to grace the New York Fashion Week.

“I don’t fall under the category of being booked as a black model or any other ethnic models, so it’s sort of—I’m in a category all my own, and that can be tough at times,” Jade said. “They do use the term ‘ethnically ambiguous’ because I am mixed.”

Despite the diversity in the fashion industry, she still made a name for herself. In fact, her success is a reminder to all aspiring models that they don’t need to fit into a category to end up successful in the business.

8. Alex Minsky

Alex Minsky

While deployed as a Marine in Afghanistan, Alex Minsky unfortunately lost his leg in an explosion. But instead of crying over spilled milk, he always thought positive of the future that lies ahead.

In a sudden turn of events, he was invited to do a campaign for the film series the Hunger Games. Apart from that, he was asked to grace the glossy pages of GQ and was chosen to become the brand ambassador of athletic brand LiveFit.

Alex is not just a model with a body to die for. He is someone whose life story makes you believe in miracles and reminds you that with hard work and dedication, success is always possible.


Even though the fashion industry’s lack of diversity is pretty alarming, there have been instances when it has chosen to embrace what it failed to show, featuring individuals who are going against the representation of the “perfect body type” and showcasing people who are proving that fashion has no rules.

The industry is perhaps taking baby steps toward the celebration of real beauty and ignoring aesthetic standards. Hopefully, with the help of these models, it can soon get rid of the barriers that have been stopping aspiring individuals to break into the modeling realm.

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