The runways are teeming with more models of color than ever before, and their presence has transformed the modeling industry in ways that continue to be discussed and dissected. There are several models from the Caribbean that have transitioned into major forces in the world of fashion and take pride in their roots and respective countries. The following names are just a few of the booked and busy Caribbean models who now stand at the top of their field and forge a new blueprint in a new era.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Jeneil Williams first achieved success as a track and field athlete growing up, but it wasn’t until she ventured into modeling that her life dramatically changed. In 2005, Williams received her big break by winning the Caribbean Model Search and signing with New York Model agency. Her first international campaign that catapulted the model into fame was in 2006 when David Simms photographed Williams for a United Colors of Benetton campaign. She has since modeled for famous designers such as Burberry, Prada, Paul Smith, Nicole Miller, Marc Jacobs, and Marc Jacobs.
In September 2022, she did a trailer for Supreme Models that showcased Black women who revolutionized the modeling industry and a Revlon makeup commercial in 2022. When not featured in the ad campaigns of some of the world’s biggest fashion brands, the gorgeous model doubles as a swimwear designer. Williams made her debut on the CFW runway in 2019 with her Rouge Collection swimwear.
Jenna Monét was born and raised on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, an island known for its white sandy beaches, sugar plantations, and coral reefs popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. Monét won the 2019 V.I. Model of the Year Competition, which presented her with the opportunity to travel to New York City for go-sees as part of the prize. During this time, Monét received a contract offer with State Management Models NYC as a beauty and fashion model. Since then, she has worked with Tom Ford Beauty, Target, Shisheido, Reebok, Carlton Jones NYC, MAC, and Maybelline.
The Caribbean model’s latest is Footlocker’s holiday campaign in November 2022. Monét appears on the Footlocker website featured in the Christmas collection. Besides modeling, Monét recently launched a beauty line titled Jenna-Monét Beauty.
Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Winnie Harlow grew up bullied because of her vitiligo, a skin condition that causes white patches. An accidental encounter with a journalist named Shannon Boodram started her on the path to stardom when Boodram did a YouTube video about Harlow and her skin condition, which went viral. Boodram encouraged the young Harlow, who was sixteen at the time, to take up modeling. Harlow found herself amid a media frenzy and features published in Access Hollywood and The Daily Mail. Her first big break came in 2014 when Harlow participated in Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Model.
In one of her most recent appearances, Harlow attended the REVOLVE Winterland event in the heart of Los Angeles in 2022. There, she rocked the event in a brown knitted mini skirt, crop top, and fur coat and completed the outfit with a pair of brown knee-high boots and a matching handbag. Besides modeling, Harlow is a budding entrepreneur and launched a beauty line called Cay Skin.
Hailing from Puerto Rico, Joan Smalls is now among the world’s highest-paid Afro-Latina models but grew up modestly tending animals on her family’s farm. The 34-year-old model got her first big break in 2010 when she got a booking to appear in the Spring/Summer Givenchy Couture catwalk show. Smalls became the ‘Model of the Year’ in the 2012 Style Awards and was the first Latina to feature as the face of Estée Lauder.
Small’s most recent red carpet-event was the American Music Awards in November. She stunned in a gold LaQuan Smith gown and wore her hair in layers that stopped at her cheekbones. The rest of the hair at the back was long and straight.
Smalls has ventured into several business partnerships, such as being the creative director of True Religion’s denim collection. She also directed the ‘Smart & Sexy’ swimwear line in collaboration with Ariela and Associates. As part of her Estée Lauder partnership, Smalls showcased her creative side when she assisted in the creation of twelve matte lipsticks.
Sessilee Lopez is an American-born model from Pennsylvania and is of Dominican, African-American, Cuban and Portuguese descent. Her career started in 2004 as a teenager when she signed with IMG models. Her big break was in 2005 when she signed a contract with C.K. One fragrance by Calvin Klein. By the fall of 2005, she was already walking in international shows like Emporio Armani, ZAC Posen, and Karl Lagerfeld. Lopez is one of four women to grace the cover of Vogue in its ‘All Black’ issues.
Her latest campaigns were in October and September, where she participated in the Sergio Hudson Fall/Winter show and a trailer with the Super Models in a trailer highlighting black women who have revolutionized the fashion industry, respectively. When not ruling the runway, the 33-year-old model is the fashion consultant and art director of the Kristian Loren fashion brand, owned by her sister.