Paying homage to the world’s unsung beauty icons

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Viola Levy
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We pay homage to our favourite beauty icons whose personalities are as unique as their looks

What’s so wonderful about the world of beauty is that it comes in many guises. There’s no objective definition of what ‘beautiful’ is and nor should there be (that would be pretty boring in every sense…). We might swoon over the likes of Gigi Hadid, Meghan Markle, Beyoncé and Kendall Jenner, but there’s something to be said for the women who are redefining what it means to be beautiful, and whether it’s their features, the way their face conveys their personality or how they do their make-up, it’s refreshing to see them making waves in the industry. Here are a few of our unsung beauty heroes…

Caitlin Moran

With her “go bold or go home” eyeliner, colour block eyeshadow and a Cruella de Vil steak in her hair, formidable journalist and author Caitlin is one lady you won’t forget in a hurry. She recently commented in Stylist’s 2018 Beauty Issue “Whenever I did a shoot, I’d be given a straight-forward, glamorous look, which would make me feel a bit sad. It didn’t communicate anything and seemed a bit bland… That’s not who I am.”

Diandra Forrest

The American model and actress overcame school bullying to forge a successful career as a model and her ever-changing looks have countless fans flocking to her Instagram feed. She recently commented to US Glamour, “My albinism is a part of me—and it’s beautiful—but it’s not all of me. It makes me who I am, but it doesn’t make me as a whole.”

Tess Holliday 

Blogger and author Tess has been on our beauty radar for a while and for good reason. (We’ve seen this lady in person and her skin really is that spectacular.) Her My Little Pony-hued make-up and Rita Heyworth hair never fail to brighten our day, while her body art is basically all the tat goals.

Winnie Harlow 

Having been bullied at school, almost to the point of suicide, Winnie went on to compete in America’s Next Top Model and has since graced numerous magazine covers as well as cropping up in Beyoncé’s Lemonade video. She recently called out a British newspaper for referring to her as a “vitiligo sufferer” writing on her Instagram account: “I’m not a ‘Vitiligo Sufferer’. I’m not a ‘Vitiligo model’. I am Winnie. I am a model. And I happen to have Vitiligo.” Enough said.

Patti Smith 

Renowned for her androgynous look, the trailblazing punk priestess shot to fame with cover of her 1975 album Horses. With her signature roughly chopped bob, masculine attire and a steely gaze, her image disrupted conventional notions of womanhood in the 70s. And it still strikes a chord today as a refreshing antidote to the predominant ‘Instagram’ makeup look. 

Slick Woods 

With her gappy grin, shaven head and mesmerising tattoos, Slick is best known for modelling for Moschino, Yeezy and Rihanna’s Fenty Puma and Fenty Beauty lines. With a formidable social media following, the colour chameleon is famous for having a personality that’s as bold as her unique beauty look. She recently remarked to The Guardian, ““I model to have a platform. I use my platform for whatever the fuck I want. So, basically, I’m whoever. I’m everyone. I’m nobody.”

Emilia Clarke 

Emilia was all of us when she broke professional protocol and unapologetically fangirled over Matt LeBlanc on the Graham Norton show. (She even got him to ask her “how you doin’?” Legend.) The British actress has one of the most versatile looks we’ve ever seen – she can go from being striking blonde bombshell Daenerys in Game of Thrones to a pretty girl-next-door Lou in the 2016 film Me Before You with a simple switch of hair colour.

Harnaam Kaur

As a body positivity advocate, anti-bullying activist, TED Talk speaker, model and world record holder, Harnaam never fails to inspire us. Diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Harnaam spent years trying to remove her subsequent excess body hair before deciding, aged 16, to embrace it. She has since walked London Fashion Week, and has also created a report on social media and body image for the British Council Youth Select Committee. And can we just take a moment to appreciate this girl’s serious eyeliner game? Read her full interview with Stylist here

Saoirse Ronan 

Saoirse possesses the type of intelligent, nuanced beauty that’s worlds away from Hollywood’s tanned, Bambi-lashed, ‘L.A. girl’ aesthetic. It was the Irish actress’s natural Celtic pallor and mesmerising green eyes (obviously combined with formidable acting talent) which made her so engaging and relatable in Ladybird, for which she bagged herself an Oscar nomination.

Sally Hawkins 

With her everyday, unassuming demeanour, British-born Sally was nonetheless mesmerising as mute heroine Elisa in Oscar-winning film in 2017’s The Shape of Water. To perform the role, she had to rely on facial expressions in lieu of any lines which saw her short-listed for an Academy Award. But we still mainly love her for playing the irrepressibly cheery Poppy in Mike Leigh’s 2008 film Happy Go Lucky.