Let’s face it, this image-conscious world can be very difficult to navigate when you have a noticeable physical flaw. And navigating the looks-obsessed fashion industry, which often shies away from diversity and unique traits, can be even harder. But these 20 ladies’ supposed imperfections didn’t stop them all from grabbing top modeling gigs – and they all did it in incredible style.
20. Rebekah Marine
Rebekah Marine was born without a right forearm, and so breaking into the fashion industry proved something of a challenge. In fact, some modeling agencies wouldn’t even consider her portfolio because of her disability. Now, however, Marine has found fame as “the bionic model” and even strutted down the runway at 2015’s New York Fashion Week with her i-limb Quantum prosthetic arm. “Being a model with a disability has been extremely difficult over the past couple years,” she told Mashable in 2015. “But I’ve come to realise it’s all about finding your niche.”
19. Brunette Moffy
Brunette Moffy, in addition to having a name fit for a Bond Girl, has strabismus – a condition that makes her cross-eyed. But far from holding her back, Moffy’s distinctive peekers have actually helped her modeling career because people love her unusual look! What’s more, the beauty has even scored a huge contract with Storm Management; surely stardom beckons?
Iman might look like a completely flawless model to us, but the stunning Somali hasn’t always been so confident about her own appearance. In fact, Iman was bullied at school for her long neck, and even though it’s her trademark now, she is still self-conscious about it. “When I came to America in 1975 the first thing that was celebrated about me was my neck,” she told ContactMusic, “It is my trademark, though I have to say it’s very uncomfortable at times and I still don’t like to draw attention to it.”
17. Laura O’Grady
International model Laura O’Grady has a thoroughly distinctive image, and it’s all thanks to her ears. But the Irish beauty wasn’t always a fan of her features. Indeed, she told RTÉ that she used to feel “awkward and goofy with big ears” until she became a model. Thankfully, though, she now wisely believes that “there is no need to cover your flaws when you can accept them as what makes you unique.” Hear, hear.
16. Diandra Forrest
African American model Diandra Forrest was born with albinism, a condition characterized by a lack of pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair. And because of her extra-pale looks, Forrest sadly had a tough childhood, even having to be taken out of school to avoid bullying. That all changed, however, when she was spotted by a photographer at a mall. And Forrest may well have had the last laugh now, since she’s become the first albino woman to land herself on the books of a major modeling agency.
15. Lily McMenamy
The first thing you’d notice about Lily McMenamy is that she has particularly large lips, ears and teeth. And yet despite her unusual appearance, McMenamy was determined to follow in the fashion footsteps of her mom Kristen, who was a successful androgynous model during the ’90s. Just like her mother, then, she’s since proved that women with unique looks can thrive in the fashion industry; the younger McMenamy can even count Karl Lagerfeld among her many admirers.
14. Kelly Mittendorf
“I don’t look like typical models,” Kelly Mittendorf told Vogue in 2014. And she’s right: the striking American has a wide face, small eyes and gapped teeth. And yet, all those features combine to give her a truly fascinating look that has made her in demand with big names like Prada, NARS Cosmetics and Kate Spade.
13. Adwoa Aboah
It’s not often you see a freckly model on the runway, let alone one with a face full of them. But Adwoa Aboah is an exception, and an inspiring one at that. In a video for StyleLikeU, however, Aboah revealed that she used to hate her looks as a child and suffered from depression. She added that she also constantly compared herself to the rest of her peers, all of whom were “blonde, white, blue-eyed, [and] sexy.” But the beautiful Brit has done pretty well for herself as she is, given that she can now list gigs for the likes of Robert Cavalli, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Fendi on her resume.
12. Jillian Mercado
Jillian Mercado has spastic muscular dystrophy, and so when she was younger she never believed a modeling career was ever on the cards. “I didn’t think it was a possibility,” she told The Washington Post in 2016. “Not because I didn’t think I was worthy of it, but because I didn’t see anyone else like me out there. It was just not a thing.” But Mercado went on to achieve her dreams, breaking new ground in the fashion industry, scoring a contract with IMG Models and even modeling for Beyoncé.
11. Aimee Mullins
Former Paralympian Aimee Mullins became an inspiration for the disabled community when the trailblazing double amputee walked the catwalk for Alexander McQueen in 1998. And the multi-talented American, who lost both of her lower legs when she was just one year old, has proved that her disability can actually be a bonus when it comes to high fashion. How? Well, the model can actually adjust her height on the runway by switching her prosthetic legs – how’s that for versatile?
10. Jamie Brewer
In February 2016 Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down’s Syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week, and she blew everyone away. The beauty’s turn in the spotlight didn’t earn there, however, because now she also acts in the TV show American Horror Story and has become a bit of a small-screen star, too. Bravo!
9. Melanie Gaydos
Melanie Gaydos has ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic condition that means she has abnormally small pores and not much hair. The disorder has also left the model partially blind and with a cleft palate and no teeth, but despite it all Gaydos still manages to look phenomenally badass. And so it’s hardly surprising that she’s currently causing a storm in the fashion world, not to mention having been hand-picked to star in a German music video.
8. Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks used to hate her large forehead, and she was always teased about it at school. In fact, the kids used to call her “fivehead.” Now, however, Banks embraces the childhood taunt, and is even set to launch a comedy TV series of the same title. Certainly, it hasn’t held her back career-wise, since she’s still one of the most in-demand models in the world and a huge TV star…
7. Kristy Hinze
Big noses are often considered ugly for some reason, but Kristy Hinze more than makes her work. The pretty Aussie – who was once even labeled “The Hinze Nose” – became the youngest model ever to grace the pages of Vogue Australia and has since struck a pose for both Sports Illustrated and the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Safe to say, then, that she’s doing just fine for herself, big nose or no…
6. Tess Holliday
Tess Holliday set out to prove that big could be beautiful, and she absolutely succeeded. In 2015, for example, the Mississippi mom, who is a size 22, became the largest plus-size model to be signed to a mainstream modeling agency. Oh, and then there’s the legion of fans who cite her as an inspiration to boot, and her 1.3 million followers on Instagram… yep, we could go on for a while.
5. Masha Tyelna
Gorgeous Ukrainian model Masha Tyelna was discovered when she was on a day out with her family in Kiev, and it was no doubt one feature in particular that caught the model scout’s attention: Tyelna’s incredibly large eyes. Since being signed, then, the unusual model has continued to turn heads in the fashion world with these almost otherworldly peepers.
4. Shannon Murray
Shannon Murray was left paralyzed at the age of 14 after a diving trip went horribly wrong. But the young beauty came out stronger than ever from the tragedy, and she’s known today as Britain’s first disabled model. In 2010, moreover, Murray became the first woman in a wheelchair to appear in a U.K. chain store fashion campaign – hopefully the first of many to come.
3. Winnie Harlow
Canadian model Winnie Harlow was four when she diagnosed with vitiligo – a condition that caused portions of her skin to lose pigment. And while Harlow’s classmates once made fun of her, she’s the one having all the fun now. After gaining a huge following on Instagram, in fact, the distinctive beauty was chosen to appear on America’s Next Top Model – and she’s now very much in demand.
2. Viktoria Modesta
Model and singer Viktoria Modesta has been causing a sensation with her bionic legs. Indeed, the Latvian stunner owns an aptly highly fashionable array of prosthetics – some are illuminated by tiny lights, some rock spikes and one set is even decorated with Swarovski crystals. How chic?
1. Cindy Crawford
Sure, Cindy Crawford’s big mole isn’t considered a flaw now, but it was in her early days. In fact, a young Crawford even considered having it removed at one point. And it’s a good thing she didn’t, because that mole later became the supermodel’s trademark; indeed, now it’s probably the most famous mole in the whole world.