South Sudanese women are ruling the fashion and beauty industries right now, from the runways in Paris to billboards in Times Square and even the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Flashback a few decades, and the women of South Sudan rarely saw themselves in ads for makeup or designer clothes. But models like Alek Wek and her niece Ajak Deng, refugees who escaped the country's long and brutal civil war, opened the door for women like Duckie Thot, a South Sudanese-Australian model who was recently named an ambassador for L'Oréal Paris, and Nyma Tang, an influencer with almost one million subscribers.
Now, they're using their platforms to advocate for others, and bring much needed representation to an industry that has long excluded them. "I’m glad we’re at a point where I can see other women that look like me — that aren’t only me — modeling," Thot tells Refinery29. "The fashion and beauty industry has such an influence on everything happening today. To feel like you can see yourself, it’s the most important thing."
Beauty brands aren't just hiring these models to show off their existing makeup; they're also taking the time to formulate new pigmented products and rich base shades that work for them. And that's clear from the range of beauty products the women ahead are loving for fall. There are lipstick and eyeshadow shades that blaze against dark skin, a sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast, and, of course, foundations that blend seamlessly into brown skin.
Ahead, four South Sudanese models and influencers tell us more about their approach to beauty and the makeup products they're buying right now.