By Jenni Sellan

Tired of “apologising for her blackness”, on the 7th July 2015, Nykhor Paul (South Sudanese model) spoke out on instagram about the reality of racial inequality at New York Fashion Week.

Ignited by a make up artist’s inability to colour match her skin tone; 21, 900 likes, 5397 comments, and literally thousands of shares later, (5400 from alone) a models passion for the message of equality and the fight against racial discrimination become a global shout.
There is no question that Paul turns heads with her physical presence and beauty; more importantly she has shown us that the voice that sits behind her incredible ‘face’ has a message fuelled with purpose and power.

nykhor paulBoldly demonstrating and sharing important messages about healthy body image and challenging discriminating messages stemming from the fashion and media industries, Cameron Russel’s TED Talk went viral and remains today one of the most watched Ted Talks with over 7.5 million views.

As a model Russel describes herself as having been fortunate enough to win the genetic lottery and like Nykhor Paul, is using her model status to raise her voice through social media platforms (including the launch of online magazine interrupta fashion mag for the unseen).
A regular voice on twitter, Russel promotes positive messages of self-image, raises awareness around issues of discrimination and represents marginalised communities.

Determined to live with purpose and connect with the world using her voice, Model and Humanitarian (and DJ!) Mari Malek uses social media platforms to promote her organisation, “Stand for Education” and to raise awareness of the issues affecting the children and women of her war-torn country, Sudan; Her instagram profile reads, “live to inspire”. Her powerful messages shared on Tumblr,

You-tube and twitter, Malek’s voice is unique and she refuses to allow people to ‘dumb her down’ because of her modelling; her influence and impact are without doubt increasing awareness and inspiring change as she uses her profile within the social media landscape to promote awareness about her home country.

Globally, fashion is a 1.5 trillion dollar industry; there is no denying its power and as the old saying goes, ‘money talks’.
Add social media to the mix and this is a stage like no other in the world and the presence of social media networks within the industry has only strengthened fashion’s position and influence.

As identified by, “we’ve been witnessing the rise of models with personalities and passions”.

This is where fashion models become role models.

The rise and rise of social media and on line communities has created connection points for all and with the simple click of a button, opinions, thoughts and stories can be shared across a worldwide audience; just this week I was engaging with Publisher Jackie Frank as she answered questions from myself and others during a live Periscope feed and later that evening I was participating in an entirely different conversation with industry thought leaders on the other side of the world during an online blab chat.

Once upon a short time ago, these forms of direct interaction and discussion would have been largely out of reach, yet here I was engaging in both casual banter and meaningful discussion with prominent industry personalities and influential thought leaders whom I had never before met.

A powerful platform available for comment without limitations, there is a growing trend among models to use social media as a tool for extending their reach and influence, creating an open forum for discussion on social issues and raising awareness on topics from global injustice and discrimination, to the killing of protected animals to the next IT bag; the commentary relevant, sometimes thought provoking and other times a little bit of fun and frivolity.

As with all things ‘model’ related, there will be the haters and the sceptics who use their voice to criticise on the same platforms that some models choose to use for good, yet in their judgement and buy in of the hugely mistaken concept that beauty has no intelligent voice, they are in their own way spreading the word even further and elevating the voice of fashion as an influencer and catalyst for positive change.

Haters or as I like to call them, the small minded are no match for the collective voice of fashion; high profile models have high levels of community engagement on line and the messages they send not ignored, so lets encourage and promote the good ones!

Traditional forms of media have done very little to promote models with a well rounded perspective and there is an opinion, both spoken and not, that models are all beauty and no brains; enter social media and a new channel has been created for communication and commentary, along with the opportunity to challenge the notion that models are just a pretty face. We are experiencing a time where models have the opportunity to change and elevate outside perception and the power is finally in their hands.

So what of the argument that while a positive message can be portrayed, a model’s intentions at the end of the day are simply to raise individual profiles, make more money and increase brand awareness? Are profiles elevated through these forums? Obviously. Does an increased presence on social media result in a higher income? It’s likely. Are designers and brands promoted? Yes. And, if amongst all this, important discussions begin, ideas and stories are shared, new insights gained, and followers prompted to do more, then all power to them.

Beauty does not equal the absence of thought, intelligence, opinion or the desire to make a positive impact on the world; the fashion industry, hell yes, even sometimes the ‘beautiful’ people may want to be world changers and if social media is the gateway, then lets go.

No this is not a statement of sympathy for the “poor models” this is just common-sense judgement.
Social media has given the western world an equal playing field when it comes to expression and models are not exempt from the privilege. Who knows, maybe their voice will ignite a passion in a 16 year Old’s mind to change the world!

Social Media is a stage like no other, a platform from which to speak, engage, effect social change, spark public opinion and debate and there is no limit to how many people can fit into this stadium. It’s the perfect model.

#models #speak #listen #shout # bustthebeautymyth

nykhor paul