The New Beauty Class of 2018: 11 Fearless Women Breaking All the Rules

Updated 01/22/18

When you keep a close eye on the beauty industry like we do, it's a breath of fresh air when you catch a glimpse of something that feels fresh and unexpected. A new beauty trend arises every other day—we inevitably pay attention to those. But when a woman steps onto the scene and unapologetically owns her beauty in a way that goes against the grain, it's impossible not to take notice.

For far too long, society's stereotypical standards of beauty infiltrated everything. A cookie-cutter perception of beauty dominated major advertisements, the covers of magazines, down to extremely limiting shade ranges offered by beauty companies. Thankfully, we've made progress, and beauty inclusivity is honored more than ever before.

We can thank the new beauty class of 2018 for playing a powerful role in rewriting the rules and rebelling against normative ideals of beauty. These women, who happen to be actresses, models, and influencers alike, are inspiring us to take a deeper dive into what it means to be beautiful. Instead of accepting the box of beauty that has been built around us, they're doing things on their own terms and not being quiet about it. We appreciate their voices, their presence, and their message.

Here's the new beauty class of 2018.

Yara Shahidi

@yarashahidi for Seventeen

Yara Shahidi is more than an actress known for her starring roles in ABC's Black-ish and the Freeform spinoff Grown-ish. At her core, she's an activist. The 18-year-old showcases daring beauty looks on the regular while utilizing her platform to eloquently voice her passion for feminism, politics, and diversity. Shahidi is the teenager we want everyone who comes after her to mirror.

Slick Woods


Slick Woods is the kind of model who inevitably makes you do a double take. Her gorgeously bold features accompanied by her badass androgynous style are exactly what the fashion industry needed. She's stomped down the runways of designers like Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, and Rihanna, a brilliant example of what will happen if you just "do you."

Paloma Elsesser

Jason Kim for Byrdie

Model Paloma Elsesser's honesty with her struggle of accepting and loving her body is incredibly admirable. She's living proof of what happens when you get back up to try again and work hard. Elsesser has worked with big-name brands like Nike, Glossier, and Pat McGrath and never tried to be anyone else but herself. Her quote in Byrdie's exclusive story says it all: "I am trying to be the girl I didn't have," she says. "That's important to me. I have to be conscious of that. In this weird, dark, small, very intimate way, there's a girl out there who relies on me. And that's super important to me, and I don't want to let her down."


Duckie Thot


You might have seen Duckie Thot first as the runner-up on Australia's Next Top Model back in 2013. Since then, her modeling career has skyrocketed—her striking chocolate skin and legs for days have strutted across several runways like Kanye West's Yeezy and shot by major ad campaigns like Fenty Beauty. Most importantly, she represents diversity in an industry that hasn't always put women who look like her at the forefront. She's openly spoken on Instagram about defying the standards set before her: "I think that within the industry there comes a lot of rules that models feel they need to play by, but I'm not about that. If you like what I'm doing, that is great, but if you don't, that is a personal preference and it's fine also." We like it.

India Salvor Menuez


India Salvor Menuez is a model, actress, artist, and activist—in other words, no one-label woman. She's been working toward a greater good since the age of 15, when she founded the founded the Luck You collective, a group of artists who work together on curated projects. Meneuz hopes for a gender-fluid society and the end of women feeling like they need to wear makeup. "I personally believe in what not wearing [makeup] suggests politically," she told Vogue. "Girls don't need to wear makeup just as much as men don't need to wear makeup. It's an equal playing field."

Salem Mitchell

Kat Borchart for Byrdie

Salem Mitchell is a representation of the new generation of models who are here to stay. Her fresh face of freckles and her gorgeous smile stand alone, but we'd be remiss not to acknowledge her fearless perspective on diversity and female empowerment in the industry.

Ebonee Davis


Model and activist Ebonee Davis is a constant cheerleader for her 141,000 Instagram followers and most known for her essay on racism in the fashion industry. "If it weren't for my mistreatment as a Black model, I would not have the platform to inspire other young women of color," she wrote. She has hosted a TED Talk revealing what it's like to be black in the fashion industry and uses her resources to give back to other women across the globe.

Sarah Feingold


Sarah Feingold is one of those beauty bloggers who are simply in a league of their own. You can call it cool-girl beauty if you want, but her witty, non-basic approach to beauty has gained her a cult following. She's also the creative director of No Basic Girls Allowed magazine, which captures her eclectic lifestyle in the beauty world and has collaborated with brands like Urban Outfitters and Beats by Dre.

Adwoa Aboah

Getty Images

The most beautiful thing about British model and activist Adwoa is her dedication to giving back. She openly discusses her former battle with drug addiction and how she overcame that and took the high-fashion industry by storm. You've probably seen her breathtaking buzz cut on every runway imaginable—but when she's not doing her day job, she's spending time helping young girls with mental health problems.

Mette Towley


This woman is the leader of Pharrell Williams’s The Baes dance group and has had her head shaved by Rihanna—she's essentially the epitome of cool. Mette Towley is a dancer and influencer with a mission to override white supremacy in America and to reclaim black beauty. She is definitely one to watch in 2018.

Diana Veras


Dominican model Diana Veras is a body activist who constantly promotes self-love and acceptance. She uses her social media to, of course, drop fire selfies but also spark uncomfortable conversations surrounding race, identity, and body positivity. The world could use more like them.

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