There was a huge public relations push leading up to Vogue UK’s vaunted September issue, edited by Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. Perhaps even more historic is Vogue Mexico and Vogue Latin America’s September issue, featuring models Annibelis Baez, Licett Morillo, Manuela Sánchez, and Ambar Cristal Zarzuela — who are all Afro-Dominican. With the models’ perfectly-coiffed natural hairstyles — close-cropped or arranged in voluminous proportions — the cover is making a deliberate decision to celebrate Afro-Latinidad in the biggest issue of the year. “What resulted is a manifestation of feminine power that resonates beyond fashion,” read a caption describing the cover shoot on Instagram.
“When envisioning the cover of Vogue Latin America‘s September issue, it was very important for my team and I to portray the natural beauty of Dominican Republic’s newest faces,” wrote Editor-in-Chief Karla Martinez in a statement to NBC News. The shoot opted to forgo runway glam and dressed the models in neutral tones against a backdrop of pristine nature. “We wanted to show these women as they truly are, capturing their beauty, natural hair and unique qualities,” explained Martinez.
She cited the rising prominence of Dominican models in the industry as one reason that her publication decided to highlight inclusive beauty for this issue; all four of the models have walked in the biggest shows in the industry, with Zarzuela being the first Afro-Dominican woman — in fact, the first Dominicana — to have ever opened a Louis Vuitton show. The first time Morillo left the DR was to walk in Spring/Summer 2019’s Prada show… as the closer. When Sánchez was just 16 years old, she told Harper’s Bazaar that she didn’t have a particular role model in the industry; rather, it seemed that she already understood how she’d have to pave her own way as a model. “I look up to myself and my future career and hope that it will be inspiring to others,” she shared. Sánchez’s advice to new models? “Always be nice and never forget where you come from.”
With such a historic cover, it’s definitely a disappointment to come across a piece in the issue that names 20 of today’s most influential Latinos in the fashion industry: The influential bunch are overwhelmingly light-skinned. It’s unclear if any of them identify as Afro-Latinx, but it’s indisputable that the industry has a lot more work to do if it truly aims to refashion itself as a diverse and inclusive space. The glorious cover is just one small step in the right direction.