She became a catalyst for a diverse beauty ideal.
When we think of 90s fashion supermodels, our thoughts often drift to Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Tyra Banks.
However, many individuals often overlook the influence and sensational work of South Asian supermodel, Yasmeen Ghauri.
Representation in the South Asian modelling scene is only now gaining momentum.
But individuals like Yasmeen Ghauri often go overlooked as pioneers of this representation.
DESIblitz takes a deep dive into the life and success of iconic 90s supermodel Yasmeen Ghauri and looks at how she put South Asian models on the map.
Who is Yasmeen Ghauri?
Yasmeen Ghauri is a former Canadian model who broke barriers for South Asian models in the fashion industry.
She was born on March 23, 1971, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to a German mother and a Pakistani father.
However, her Pakistani heritage became a reason she was bullied during her early school years.
Yasmeen was also raised as a Muslim in her earlier years and modelling was not a profession her parents initially wanted her to pursue.
She also faced intense backlash from individuals in the Muslim community.
Her mother and father eventually decided that she should follow her dreams and supported their daughter.
When she was only 17 years old and working at McDonald’s, Yasmeen was discovered by the Platine Coiffure artistic director, Edward Zaccaria who prompted her career in modelling.
To further pursue her dreams, Yasmeen moved to Milan and Paris before settling in New York in 1990 where her passions would take flight.
Though she was initially deemed as too “ethnic” by Canadian artistic directors, Yasmeen defied the odds and became a modelling sensation across America.
It was then that her modelling career truly took off as she plummeted into the high-end fashion scene.
Yasmeen’s killer runway walks and Pakistani-Germanic facial features made her a success and ushered in a new era of beauty in mainstream and high-end fashion.
Despite the initial rejection she received in Canada, Yasmeen’s modelling career truly took off in New York where she amassed several opportunities.
The early to mid-90s saw Yasmeen on the cover of top fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle in 1991 and the face of Hermes and Lanvin in 1993.
This meant she was photographed by big-name fashion photographers like Italian Vogue’s, Steven Mesial.
Well-known French photographer, Patrick Demarchelier also described Yasmeen as his favourite subject.
Yasmeen truly took charge throughout the 90s, booking several campaigns and working with all top-name brands.
She worked with Versace, Chanel, Valentino Couture, Christian Dior, and Jil Sander, all within the space of a few years.
She even featured in the Gianni Versace Fall 1992 runway, which was a provocative collection surrounding ‘bondage’ themed clothing and sparked intense controversy at the time.
However, her involvement in this controversial runway did not deter her from becoming a sensation as she went on to be even more successful in the industry.
A truly prominent point in Yasmeen’s modelling career was when she was signed as the first South Asian woman to become a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 1992.
This position held prominence not only in the 90s but to this day as it placed South Asian women on the map.
For many young aspiring South Asian models, it gave them their first form of representation in the industry.
Yasmeen accomplished a wealth of success in a relatively short time and despite retiring from the industry, she continues to serve as a modelling legend.
South Asian Representation
Yasmeen’s entrance into the fashion world not only sparked change but broke barriers for South Asian and Muslim representation within this industry.
Her emergence into the fashion scene coincided with a move towards increased diversity within the industry.
Fashion brands were starting to move away from the traditional 80’s beauty ideal that featured pale skin, blue eyes, and predominantly white American models.
Thus, Yasmeen’s entrance into modelling sparked a new era of change as she became a catalyst for a diverse beauty ideal that was more inclusive and representative.
Her trailblazing moves in the fashion and modelling industry challenged industry norms at the time which favoured white, thin, and conventionally beautiful models.
She was one of the first South Asians to dominate the high fashion scene in America and thus paved the way for many others to break into the industry.
Her Pakistani heritage was something that set her aside from other fashion models at the time as her Eastern features broke away from convention.
These features included deep-set eyes, a strong jawline, tanned skin, and a distinct beauty mark above her lip, all of which added to her enticing confidence on the runway.
These were striking features that she then became known for and were proud markers of her heritage that she was unafraid to show.
Her success has and continues to give hope to many individuals who have felt previously excluded from the fashion industry.
She has broken barriers, challenged norms, and paved the way for inclusivity.
Where is She Now?
Despite her unmatched talent in the fashion world, Yasmeen has since decided to move away from the runway and pursue other ventures.
She retired from modelling in the late 1990s to pursue other ventures and focus on family life with her husband and two daughters.
Though there is limited public information on Yasmeen’s life now as she has chosen to live a private life, she has still occasionally made appearances at some fashion and charity events.
The ex-model remains active on social media platforms like Instagram where she shares snippets of her life and plenty of flashback photos from her modelling days.
She even posted a picture on Instagram in June 2022 with fellow ex-90s supermodel Helena Christensen whilst they were catching up over a coffee.
The post also included an excellent flashback clip of the two of them walking Christian Lacroix’s spring/summer 1995 runway.
Despite her retirement from this industry, it is clear to see the lasting impact Yasmeen Ghauri has had.
Her unique look and confident presence on the runway have made her a fashion favourite.
Designers, directors, photographers, and people across the fashion industry look to her for inspiration.
Yasmeen Ghauri’s work in the industry and legacy is a testament to the power of South Asian representation that is needed within these industries.
There is yet to be another South Asian model to reach the heights of success Yasmeen did in such a short space of time.
Her success paints her as more than just a sensation as she ushered in a new beauty ideal and form of representation for aspiring South Asian models across the world.
However, there is still a serious lack of South Asian representation across the fashion and modelling industry as a whole, despite Yasmeen’s pioneering efforts.
Though she has been a blueprint and source of inspiration for diversity in this industry, there are still many diversity barriers in the fashion industry that are yet to be broken.