This August month, we join all South Africans in commemorating Women’s Month as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings on the 9th of August 956, in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

We also celebrate dark-skinned women models who have taken the industry by storm and made history. Veteran models who have beat the odds to succeed and become a worldwide inspiration to young girls, proving that ‘diversity’ is beauty. Their resilience and perseverance have paved the way for models who came after them. Dark-skinned models are stomping down runways, appearing in major campaigns and going viral for just being as fierce as they want to be.

For the longest time, the runway had been dominated by white female models and very few dark-skinned black models. In fact, the only dark-skinned black female model we ever saw on the runway was probably only Alek Wek. In a television documentary, Lupita Nyong’o, a Mexican-Kenyan actress and model, revealed that she used to pray for lighter skin. For most of her childhood, she saw her dark complexion as “an obstacle to overcome.” Lupita was talking about a facet of racism called colourism. It’s the idea that, for people of colour, lighter skin is more desirable. In the same way that white women will have an easier time than women of colour, light-skinned women of colour will have an easier time than dark-skinned women of colour.

So even though racial and ethnic diversity in fashion is still issues of concern, the industry has improved quite significantly. There is more diversity on the runway, and we have seen dark-skinned female black models rising to the top, breaking barriers around the world and earning loads of money.

However, the main purpose of this feature is to shine the spotlight on an absolutely beautiful and zealous African woman – Gift Munira Mudi. She is a beautiful, dark-skinned Johannesburg based model who hails from Auchi in Edo State – Nigeria. Munira began modeling in Nigeria in 2012 but left the country in 2016 to seek better modeling opportunities in South Africa.

“Opportunities in Nigerian aren’t as huge as other African countries like South Africa and Kenya. I wanted more, so I left my country to pursue more modeling opportunities,” she says. Her efforts were not in vain. Eight years later, she is a successful all-round model signed with Ice Models in Johannesburg and aspiring to be a top high fashion model.

The older generation of dark-skinned models has paved the way for younger models such as Munira, who has never been criticised for her complexion. “I’ve never been criticised for my look ever! Instead, I get pleasant compliments. I feel like my look was one of the features that made it easy for me to get into the industry. I’ve been told so many times that I look so much like Naomi Campbell and Lupita Nyong’o, and I love them both. Naomi is my role model. She gives me so much hope and inspiration and my biggest dream is to meet her someday,” she says.

When Munira left Nigeria, the modeling industry there was not lucrative. However, this has since changed. The Nigerian fashion industry has grown and created opportunities for models.  The advent of platforms including Lagos Fashion Week, Arise Magazine Fashion Week, GTB Fashion Weekend amongst others, have created a growing interest in the industry for models. Modeling agencies such as Few Models have also contributed significantly to advancing the careers of many models in Nigeria. All of these pushed the modeling industry to the fore-front in Lagos and Abuja. Today, many Nigerian models are increasingly being placed into modeling agencies across the globe, in locations as close as Cape Town and others, as far as New York.

Munira also aspires to work in countries popularly known as ‘home of models’ such New York and Milan. Munira has modeled for many popular brands including BVLGARI, a luxury Italian jewellery brand, famous for its glamorous gemstone jewellery, luxury watches, perfumes, and leather goods.

“I want more for myself. I don’t want to be just a model, but a brand. I believe that I can achieve anything and everything I put my mind into. Years down the line, I’d like to be a brand ambassador for top lifestyle brands and to be a role model for upcoming models.