Australian fashionistas embrace the new Aboriginal face of 'Vogue'
Monday 10 May 2010
Samantha Harris's mother was one of the "Stolen Generations", removed from her parents simply because she was black. Now, Ms Harris seems destined to become the first Aboriginal supermodel, after treading the catwalk for 18 designers at Australian Fashion Week and featuring on the cover of next month's Australian Vogue.
The 19-year-old is only the second Aboriginal model to be a Vogue covergirl, following in the footsteps of Elaine George in 1993. But she is considered the first with international appeal. She appeared at London Fashion Week in February, and has also modelled in New York, New Zealand and Tahiti. Later this year she plans to move to New York to pursue her career. That the fashion world is smitten with her was clear in Sydney last week, with Australia's leading designers engaging the smoulderingly beautiful teenager, with her almond eyes and bee-stung lips, to open their shows. Vogue Australia threw a party to unveil its June cover, featuring Ms Harris – whose father is of German descent – in a yellow Pucci gown.
The glitz and glamour are far removed from the Queensland housing estate where she grew up, and the childhood beauty pageants where she wore outfits that her mother, Myrna Sussyer, found in charity shops. Ms Sussyer used to tell her: "You'll look beautiful anyway... You've got to be beautiful on the inside before it becomes visual."
Apparently unfazed by the buzz surrounding her at Australian Fashion Week, where she was declared the top model, Ms Harris told local media she hoped to reach the pinnacle of the fashion world. "I spent my childhood wondering why you had to have blonde hair and blue eyes to do well in modelling competitions, so I'm proud that a girl with my looks might make it," she said.
She added: "My Aboriginal heritage is very important to me. I'd like to be a role model for other indigenous girls."
First spotted in a shopping centre on Queensland's Gold Coast, Ms Harris reached the finals of a competition run by a teenage magazine, Girlfriend, in 2004. She was taken on by an agency, Chic Models, which carefully rationed her appearances while she finished at school.
In March she appeared in Vogue Australia, modelling the Italian brand Miu Miu. Putting her on the cover, according to the editor, Kirstie Clements, was not a political statement, but based on the "the simple fact that she is really beautiful". Ms Clements agreed that the fashion industry had been slow to embrace Aboriginal models.
The French photographer Patrick Demarchelier flew Ms Harris to New York last year for a half-day shoot for the US fashion bible Glamour magazine. The Italian fashion houses Prada and Balenciaga are reportedly courting her. Her mother said: "I never dreamed Australia would embrace an Aboriginal model."
Naomi Sims The first black supermodel, Sims appeared on the cover of Ladies' Home Journal in 1968, paving the way for such names as Beverley Johnson, the first black cover girl for Vogue, and Naomi Campbell.
Crystal Renn Fluctuating between dress sizes 14 and 16, Renn's appearances on Mark Fast's catwalk at London Fashion Week this year raised eyebrows in the weight-obsessed industry. The best-paid plus-size supermodel.
Alek Wek Born to the Sudanese Dinka tribe, Wek and her family fled for Britain during the civil war in 1993. Discovered by Models One whilst shopping, Wek has spoken out against racism in the industry, as when she was photographed as "coffee" in a giant espresso cup.
Kate Moss Moss's unusually petite stature (5ft 7in) caused controversy when she rose to fame in the early 1990s. Now dubbed the world's most famous model, Vogue also credit her with pioneering the "waif" look.
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