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Mariana Mendes

Mariana Mendes, 24 from Juiz de Fora, Brazil, was born with the large congenital melanocytic nevus, which forms a dark mark stretching across her face. Growing up, Mariana was told that the unusual mark was ‘ugly’ or ‘strange’, but she refused to let it get her down and instead chose to view her birthmark as unique. Today, she shares photos of her birthmark with her 16K Instagram followers. [Photo: Instagram/Mariana Mendes]

Ashley Graham to Winnie Harlow: The models smashing stereotypes

For decades now, we’ve been faced with catwalk shows, in-store branding and fashion campaigns featuring super slim models (and so-called ‘ribcage bragging‘).

Models who, let’s be honest, boast figures that are completely unobtainable to the wide majority of us.

But in the past few years, a new wave of models has emerged. Women that have prominent birthmarks, body hair, genetic disorders, obvious skin conditions and weigh a couple more stone than the traditional size 6 to 8 model.

We have women such as Ashley Graham, Winnie Harlow, Harnaam Kaur and Rain Dove to thank for this. Graham has worked hard to kick the term ‘plus-size’ to the curb, instead aiming to normalise her size 14 frame. She’s almost there. The 29-year-old, from Nebraska, has walked for high-end fashion designs like Michael Kors and Christian Siriano and modelled for the likes of V magazine and Vogue.

Harlow’s stormed down Julien Macdonald’s London Fashion Week catwalk and starred in a Marc Jacobs campaign.

Kaur has claimed a Guinness World Record for her beard and fights on a daily basis to promote body positivity. And Dove, a model, is breaking boundaries with her desire to be known as ‘genderless’.

Scarlett Costello’s another influencer, working to help people get over their fear of women with body hair by growing a unibrow and Tess Holliday is a size 22 mum who’s not afraid to strip down to her underwear to prove that it’s not just slim women who can model.

These women are definitely making waves in the fashion and beauty industries – not to mention changing the perceptions of men and women worldwide. And they deserve to be celebrated for their efforts at smashing stereotypes.

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