Mars vs. Venus: The Black Male Supermodel

Fashion has existed since the days of the first fashionistas, Adam & Eve. What was once considered just figs & leaves became the blueprint of style. Over the centuries fashion has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that has grown tremendously during the 20th century. Women began using fashion as a self-expression of their artistic individuality, oppression and freedom. Fashion designers like Frenchman Charles Frederick Worth saw value in the beauty of women and their silhouettes. His wife and Parisian shopgirl, Marie Vernet Worth, is considered one of the first fashion models in the world.

During the 1900’s designers like Oscar De La Renta, Valentino Garavani and Pierre Balmain continued to build upon the legacy of Charles Worth’s design asthetic. Attractive young men and women became the muses for blossoming fashion houses. Women have always been the focal point and center of fashion. Even though men have always been the driving force of the industry; they never were the main focus of designers’. Men’s fashion represents just a fraction of the industry but has played a sizable part in the fashion world.

Some of the first male supermodels include Tyson Beckford, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Marcus Schenkenberg. Tyson Beckford became the most recognizable face of the Tommy Hilfiger campaign. The [fashion] industry has been highly criticized for the lack of visible “ethnic” models on the runway and in print. Over the years, there have been tremendous strides in the prevalence of models of color, but improvement is still needed. Fashion designers and fashion magazines have hired black models like Chanel Iman, Salieu Jalloh, Sessilee Lopez and Dominique Hollington just to name a few. The Internet has created an outlet for blacks models to express their creativity, style and beauty through social networks like ModelMayhem, Facebook and Myspace. Even though most aspiring black models will never get the chance to showcase their talent in a national ad campaign or high fashion runway show, they can only hope to inch closer to their dream.

Some of the most amazing young black men in the running to become the next male supermodel would include: David Agbodji (the face of Calvin Klein), Salieu Jalloh (the face of Sean John), Dominique Hollington (a runway favorite), Ibrahim Baaith (the best kept secret), Shawn Sutton (the exotic one) and Wendell Lissimore (the self-proclaimed “IT” boy). They are making a name for themselves in the industry. High Fashion houses like Givenchy, Versace, Louis Vuitton, DSquared and Lanvin have casted these young men for runway shows and campaign ads. With Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week just coming to a close, I am certain these “supermodels in training” were busy on go sees and photo shoots as they prepared to take the runway for some of the most noted labels in the industry.

The [fashion] industry is making remarkable strides in the fight against discrimination, but to some not at a fast enough pace. Sean “Diddy” Combs’ clothing line “Sean John” was the first ever to cast all models of color for it’s runway show during fashion week. Sean Combs and Kimora Lee Simmons, former model and CEO of Baby Phat, set out to change the perception of the shallow fashion industry. Over the next 10 years I expect to see a more diverse portfolio of models on the runway. RedModelsNYC based out of New York City are one of the most diverse agencies I’ve seen. They have a vast line-up of black and latino male models that they represent. We have not had a black male supermodel since Tyson Beckford in the 90’s. There is a very bleak existence for the male supermodel… Will they even continue to exist? With talented young men like Salieu Jalloh, Shawn Sutton, Ibrahim Baaith and Dominque Hollington – I have no doubt that one of them will be The Next Black Male Supermodel.

Devonte V. White,

BE-Style Contributor & Owner of

5 Replies to “Mars vs. Venus: The Black Male Supermodel”

  1. Wow i had no idea that fashion went that far back. Good job Devonte V. White great article too.
    I like how you made the article so informational that even people like me how doesn’t understand fashion can really get the Jiss of what there saying.

  2. I’m truly amazed at the depth of this article. It points out the obvious isms in the fashion industry that so many individuals plays a blind eye to and fail to discuss. Kudos to the writer on a excellent piece, it was very informative.

  3. This is a very good article, however the lack of mention of Corey Baptiste as the possible successor to Tyson Beckford has been overlooked. He is off to a fast start and the legs of marathon runner.

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