One of fashion’s most covetable stars, and also as one of its most vocal critics, Jourdan Dunn, has become the first black British model ever to enter the Forbes models rich list.
The 24-year-old from Greenford, west London, ranked alongside Gisele Bündchen and Mirander Kerr as one of the highest earning models in the world last year.
Contracts with Maybelline and Burberry helped Dunn earn $4m (£2.4m) in the period between June 2013-14, making her one of only three British women, alongside Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss, to appear on the list.
Dunn has achieved what Naomi Campbell, Britain’s first black supermodel, could not, in part because Forbes invented the models rich list in 2006 after the peak of Campbell’s success.
“Had we been cataloguing model earnings in the mid 1990s, when Campbell was at her peak, she likely would have made the cut,” says Natalie Robehmed, wealth reporter for Forbes. “But strictly speaking, there has never been a British person of colour on the list.”
Dunn’s earnings were dwarfed by the list’s number one earner Gisele Bündchen, who banked $42 (approximately £25m), but her success is notable because she is one of only two black women, alongside American Joan Smalls, to make the cut.
That in itself is an issue Dunn has openly condemned throughout her nine-year career. Spotted by Storm Models outside Primark in Hammersmith age 15, Dunn’s career hit the ground running when she appeared in 75 London fashion week shows in one season in 2007. That same year she told reporters: “London’s not a white city, so why should our catwalks be so white?”
In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, she addressed fashion industry’s myopic attitude to race once again: “The people who control the industry … say if you have a black face on a magazine cover it won’t sell, but there’s no real evidence for that.”
The Forbes list is also notable because it “exposes the myth that models need to be very young, because half of the world’s highest earners are 30 or over,” says Robehmed.
In a lineup of 21 women, who hold a combined wealth of $142m (£85m), Mirander Kerr, 31, Kate Moss, 40, Adriana Lima, 33 and Gisele Bündchen, 34, are among the five top-earning models in the world. “In a winner takes all economy they have manoeuvred themselves into ridiculously lucractive contracts,” says Robehmed. “At an age when models tradtionally would lose their earning power, these women are superstars.”
Cara Delevingne, possibly the most ubiquitous face in British fashion, also appears on the Forbes list for the first time. Like Dunn, the 22-year-old model has harnessed the power of social media to reach a huge audience.
“It’s impossible to emphasise how much of a brand name these women are,” says Robehmed “Designers are willing to pay dime for someone who everyone recognises, and who will likely tweet a picture of herself backstage shooting a campaign.
“You now have bookers asking ‘how many followers does she have on Instagram?’ Because they know that these younger models are experts in getting a brand’s message out to a younger audience in a way that is seen as organic.”
Dunn and Delevingne’s success, says Robehmed, “is the first time their earnings have caught up with their public stature”.