We are constantly bombarded by images in the media telling us what we should and shouldn’t look like. Thin and classically beautiful women that whose faces penetrate our screens, glossy pages of the magazines and the Internet make us feel inadequate. This is exactly how advertisers want us to feel in order to buy their products so that just maybe we can look more like what we have been brainwashed with. Normally when we think of fashion models, the names that first pop into our heads are Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid who are the ‘it girls’ of today…but who knows what tomorrow will bring? Just like Heidi Klum says, “in fashion you are in one minute and out the next.”
Fashion is changing by expanding its horizons when it comes to diversity. No, we are not just talking about race and ethnicity. We are talking about people out there who not only don’t fit the mold, but they shatter it into a million little pieces. These people are born with rare genetics, unconventional body types, or certain facial features that make heads turn. It is refreshing to see people who are not only imperfect, but their imperfections make them beautiful and make us stare in awe. Behold, here are the most unusual yet gorgeous models the fashion industry has ever seen (at least so far).
18. Shaun Ross – African American Albino
Shaun Ross has taken the fashion industry by storm and has been the first African American albino male model. Born in the Bronx, he was always bullied at school for being an albino. Bullied frequently by his peers, he was called “powder”, “white-out” and “Casper.” In 2008, he was discovered on YouTube at 16 years old and the rest is history. He has been featured in GQ, Italian Vogue, i-D Magazine, Paper Magazine and Another Man. He has also been the face of Alexander McQueen and Givenchy. Lately, he has been crossing over into acting and singing. In 2013, he played a love interest in Lana del Rey’s short film “Tropico”. Lana del Rey discovered him through a mutual friend and became her muse for a modern-day fairytale. Looks like his career shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
17. Diandra Forrest – Also An Albino
As Shaun Ross’s female counterpart, Diandra Forrest is also an African-American albino. Recently, she has become the first albino to be featured in a major beauty campaign, Wet n Wild. Albinism, an inherited genetic condition, affects about one in 18,000 to 20,000 people in the U.S., according to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. Since so many have a hard time finding makeup shades, Diandra Forrest jumped at the opportunity to be a representative of the affordable brand. “Being a part of the Wet n Wild campaign is really a dream come true,” she said. “My mission was always to redefine beauty standards and raise awareness about albinism. So being a face for such a major brand means beauty finally has no limits.” This is a major step towards inclusivity in the beauty industry so props to her.
16. Winnie Harlow – Suffers From Vitiligo
Winnie Harlow is a 23-year old model who gained her stardom by appearing on the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model. At the age of four, she was diagnosed with vitiligo, an incurable skin condition where the pigmentation causes colorless patches all over the individual’s body. She was constantly bullied at school, where her peers called her cruel nicknames like “cow” or “zebra.” It got to the point where the bullying was so bad, that she was forced to drop out and be homeschooled. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, life turned around for her because she has gained success as a model shooting with the most respected photographers in the industry and becoming the face of Spanish fashion label Desigual. By 2016, she gained over one million followers on Instagram and the rest is history.
15. Rick Genest – AKA Zombie Boy
Rick Genest is a self-created bizarre looking dude with tattoos all over his body. He is one of those extreme artists that is is walking work of art rather than just painting it out on a canvas. Better known as Zombie Boy, Rick Genest was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 15 and got his first tattoo by the age of 16. Over 90% of his body is covered in ghoulish art and makes him appear like a walking Halloween character. After dropping out of high school at the age of 17, he joined the Canadian punk scene and started doing freak show acts. His routines generated traffic on social media and caught the attention of Lady Gaga and Jay Z, launching his professional modeling career. He has appeared in music videos and has become a worldwide sensation. He even has his own line of dolls.
14. Melanie Gaydos – Partially Blind Art Graduate
Melanie Gaydos is a partially blind art graduate who found great success as a fashion model in New York City. She was born with ectodermal dysplasia which is a condition that makers her pores, teeth, nails, and small bones form abnormally. Gaydos also suffers from alopecia and is partially blind due to eyelash growth that scratcher her eyes as a child. Her career took off after she responded to an ad on Craigslist looking for “unique people” for fashion photographers to shoot while she was still in art school. Throughout her childhood, she was treated as though her disease was contagious. As a fashion model, she found a new confidence that wasn’t there before. In an interview with the Independent UK, she said: “I stopped wearing wigs when I started modeling. In a way, I was forcing myself to learn more about who I was and to become more comfortable with who I am at my core and natural state of being.”
13. Madeline Stuart – Putting A Face To Down Syndrome
At just 20 years old, Madeline Stuart became a household name in the fashion industry with over 750,000 social media fans following her successful campaign to become the first professional model in the world with Down Syndrome. As with many others with Down Syndrome, Madeline struggled with her weight for a long time. In 2015, she decided to get healthy and lost nearly 40 pounds. Her mom created social media accounts posting before and after pictures encouraging others to pursue the same results. Just overnight, the photo went viral and her numbers grew exponentially into over 100 thousand viewers. Before she knew it, she was being flown all over the world to hit headlines and be featured in publications in Iceland, Germany, the US, Australia, Mexico, Cuba and the UK.
12. Casey Legler – Androgynous Olympian Swimmer
Casey Legler is a French former Olympian swimmer who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Later in life, she became an artist in New York City and was the first woman to be signed on as a male model by Ford. At ‘6″2 with an athletic build, her androgynous looks have landed her gigs advertising men’s clothes because, well she looks more like a dude. She explained to Refinery 29 that “my body is proportioned to a biologically male body, and so I was trained to swim like the boys.” She explains that the reason she left the sport was because she was asked to leave the women’s changing room and change in the handicapped room instead. Later at 35 years old, her photographer friend encouraged her to try male modeling and dressed her in men’s clothes. After a couple of years, she has been known as fashion’s first “female male model.”
11. Andreja Pejic – Australian Trans Woman
At first glance, you might mistake Andreja Pejic for a Heidi Klum look alike. Really, she is the first transgender woman to take the fashion world by storm. Originally born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but raised in Melbourne, her looks are exotic matched with a charming Aussie accent. Her full lips, sharp bone structure and high cheekbones that can cut glass are to die for and so far, this list has proved that the fashion industry loves androgyny. Even before coming out as trans in 2013, she was known as as the first completely androgynous supermodel. In 2014 she underwent gender reassignment surgery because she knew that throughout her life, parts of her body just didn’t match up. The ‘6″1 stunner has become an face and advocate for the LGBT community.
10. Molly Bair – The Human Praying Mantis
In a fashion world full of classic beauties like Kate Upton, Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima, every once in a while there comes a girl whose face is so unusual that is blows the rest of them out of the water. Meet Molly Bair who doesn’t quite fit into that mold of what it means to be a mainstream supermodel. Her looks are so unique that they could almost be considered “alien” or “insectile”. Her furrowed brows, pursed lips, and gawky demeanor is celebrated in the fashion world as being “edgy” over the commercialized looks that we have become accustomed to. She has graced the runways for Chanel, Dior, Moschino, Vera Wang, Public school and Prabal Gurung. She is also the face of Alexander Wang. Not to mention that she has 100,000 Instagram followers. That isn’t too shabby considering the fact that her last name isn’t Hadid or Jenner.
9. Jillian Mercado – Physically Impaired And Beautiful
Jillian Mercado signed on with the prestigious agency IMG models and has become one of the few professional models who has a physical disability in the fashion industry. While she was a senior studying fashion marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she scoured the Internet seeing if there was someone seeking a model who looked the way she did: someone with a disability or someone who used a wheelchair. Mercado was diagnosed with spastic muscular dystrophy as a teenager and has now put a face to those who are wheelchair bound. It all started four years ago when she responded to an open casting call for a Diesel Jeans ad campaign on a whim – and wound up getting hired. Her mission is to push inclusivity in the fashion world and she has made her mark.
8. Daphne Selfe – The Oldest Supermodel
Daphne Selfe has still got it going on at the age of 83 appearing in Vogue and gracing the catwalks in Paris. She wears 83-years-old well with a long mane of silver hair, an etiolated neck, high cheekbones and bright lively eyes that can light up a room. She is the epitome of vintage glamour and has proved that aging does not have to be the end of beauty. Older women can still be powerful and sexy no matter what age they are. She began modeling when she was young and has managed to maintain a lifelong career where others have waned or had to retire. The fashion industry has known to be intent on treating models as being disposable but Daphne Selfe has been strong enough to withstand the test of time.
7. Moffy – Cross Eyes McGee
Moffy was catapulted to fame when she appeared on the cover of cult magazine after she was recommended to the editor by a friend. Her discovery was accidental and her unconventional looks earned her gig to be the face of Storm Models – the same agency in London that discovered Kate Moss. The British brunette beauty suffers from strabismus – or cross eyes in layman’s terms. She is another prime example that distinctive and unique looks are set to take the fashion world by storm. Tyrone LeBon, a photographer who shot her for POP magazine said: “We chose to shoot her because we had recently shot with models and wanted a change. Moffy had never been photographed for a magazine and it’s always exciting to work with someone where there is uncertainty about how it might work out.” So far, it has been working out for this girl.
6. Tess Holliday – More Plus-Sized Than Most Plus-Sized Models
Alright, so you were probably expecting some plus-size model on this list. Well, models like Robin Lawely and Ashley Graham have become so mainstream and plus size models have been around for awhile now. Hearing about a woman becoming famous for being a size 10-14 is hardly even news anymore. However, Tess Holliday has really redefined what it means to be a plus sized model. At a size 26, she proves that big can also be beautiful. She wrote a memoir titled The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl speaking in an unapologetic tone. The supermodel says that she wants to destigmatize the word “fat” as a derogatory word aimed at people who are carrying extra weight.
“It’s how I describe myself. It’s a descriptor; it’s an adjective,” she says. “You know, it’s how I choose to describe my body. I thought why not have fun with it, why not shock people. It’s kind of what I’ve been about. And hopefully make people laugh and help people.”
5. Erika Ervin – Tallest Model in the World
It is no secret that mainstream models are supposed to be tall and skinny. However, there is sometimes such a thing as being “too tall” to be a model. Most female models are between ‘5″8-‘5″11. Erika Ervin, known professionally as Amazon Eve has discredited that rule. At ‘6″8, this amazon woman has made a successful career for herself as a model, fitness trainer and actress. Her most ground-breaking role was her recurring character on American Horror Story: Freak Show. She has even been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest model in the world in 2011. In 2004, she came out as transgender and was shunned from her family. She created her own family within the acting community and putting another face to the transgender community.
4. Alex Minsky – No Leg? No Problem
Out of all of the models who have been dubbed unusual on this list, Alex Minsky is probably the most normal (and normal in an attractive way) out of everyone on this list, except for one thing: he has one leg. He is a retired Marine corporal turned male model and he lost his leg during his first tour of Afghanistan in 2009 when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. His leg subsequently had to be amputated. He won a Purple Heart after spending 47 days in a coma with traumatic brain injury and 17 months in the hospital. During one of his everyday routine workouts at the gym, he was approached by a fashion photographer. After a few professional photoshoots, his modeling career took off from there.
3. Jeremy Meeks – Ex-Con Turned Male Model
Jeremy Meeks became an overnight Internet sensation being dubbed as the “World’s Hottest Ex-Con.” After the Stockton Police Department posted his mugshot on Facebook, he instantly shot to viral fame. This is one of the rare cases where it is proven that crime indeed does pay in his case. He was charged with gun possession and resisting arrest in 2014 and was quickly nicknamed the Blue Eyed Bandit and Jail Bae. Previously, he served a nine-year sentence for grand theft in 2002. Oh yeah, and he’s the father of three. As if this dude’s life couldn’t get more turbulent, things turned around for him for the better. Jeremy went on to work the catwalk at New York Fashion Week and has been working every minute. He now lives in a luxury mansion and drives a fancy sports car.
2. Deshun Wang – 81-Year-Old Male Model
Deshun Wang has reshaped China’s (and America’s) views of the elderly by proving that you can still be lively and in shape even at the ripe old age of 80. Known as “China’s hottest grandpa”, Wang has taken on some gigs as a DJ as well as strutting his shirtless body down the runway. Far from looking anywhere near frail, the silver-haired model and actor wears crisp white shirts and fitted jeans making him seem eternally youthful. In an interview with the NY Times, he reveals his secret to combat aging in the most vigorous way possible: every morning he gets up and runs laps in the pool. Swimming is his secret weapon for staying in shape and looking fit. His walk down the catwalk caused a huge sensation in China and subverting the idea of what it means to be old.
1. Zach Miko – Plus-Sized Male Model
We have heard of many plus-sized women making careers out of embracing their curves and proving that you don’t have to be a size two to be beautiful and blah, blah, blah. Zach Miko is the first ever plus-sized male model to bank on his brawny build and stocky muscles. In fact, he the inspiration behind the prestigious modeling agency, IMG to launch their new division, Brawn – devoted wholly to plus-sized men. Prior to Zach Miko’s presence in the fashion industry, the whole plus-sized trend was entirely focused on female bodies. Even though Zach has become the face for Target, he still manages to stay humble. “I mean, I’m just an everyday guy,” says Miko. “I bartend, I do freelance carpentry, I’m an Eagle Scout, I have bills.”
Source: Huffington Post, CNN, independent.co.uk, People, US Magazine, Vogue, NY Times, CNN, Refinery 29
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