How Dominican Models Are Taking Over White-Dominated Runways

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 14, 2020

In advance of the New York Times Style Magazine T’s upcoming 2020 culture issue “We Are Family,” out on April 19, the magazine published a preview featuring videos and essays about creative people who have “built communities that have shaped the larger cultural landscape,” according to the website. One such group highlighted as “The Beauties” are Dominican models.

“When we arrived [in this industry,] we were people of a different color, a different race, and we didn’t fit into the mold of a White woman with light eyes and straight hair,” Hiandra Martinez said in a video in Spanish. “So we broke that type of standard, which is something that makes you feel positive and whole.” 

Martinez is in good company, as writer Concepción De León notes data which shows that last fall, women of color who walked in big city international runway shows, i.e., London, Milan and Paris, were up 17 percent from 2014, and that New York hosted nearly 46 percent of models of color. To understand how beauty is being redefined, T produced a video discussion with the top 10 Dominican models, fashion’s new generation: Annibelis Baez, Lissandra Blanco, Ambar Cristal, Luisana González, Martinez, Martha Massiel, Lineisy Montero Feliz, Licett Morillo, Melanie Perez and Anyelina Rosa.

Sandro Guzmán, founder of Ossygeno Models, in Santo Domingo, who has spent 25 years scouting Dominican models, credited model Montero for paving the runway for others. He described giving her a make-over that included a haircut to reveal her natural Afro. 

“She would have never imagined that her natural Afro, along with her beauty, would be what put her on the map of the fashion industry on a global level,” Guzmán said in Spanish. “The things that Lineisy achieved for the Dominican Republic and for all of Latin America were unprecedented. During her first season, she walked 67 fashion shows…. This type of track record had never been achieved by a Black woman, much less a Latin woman, much less an ethnic Latin woman, and Lineisy achieved it.”

In addition to Montero, the models explained that like veterans who came before them—Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Alek Wek to name a few—they, too, had to keep opening doors. “Thanks to those models of color and the designers who supported them in the beginning, now we’re able to be here,” Cristal said in Spanish. “To be a part of that group of Dominican models, to me, it’s important, because through modeling we inspire other girls in our country to dream.”

To read the preview story and to watch the complete video, visit The Times here.