Never before has the modeling industry looked so diverse, and yet racial disparities remain one of the most hotly debated issues facing the fashion world. Despite this controversy, the modeling industry has made significant progress over the years. This past decade the fashion world saw an influx of South American models (otherwise known as the Brazilian model invasion) which ushered in household named models like Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima. But before Gisele and Adriana, there was Iman, Beverly Johnson, and of course, Tyra Banks.

It was these legendary black models and many others who helped break down racial barriers, particularly during the 1960s and 70s, consequently opening doors for women of all colors enabling them to succeed within the cut-throat world of modeling. TheGrio takes a look back at these leading pioneers, as well as a few newcomers trailing in the footsteps of their predecessors. Although these women may stem from different walks of life and different eras, what they have in common is a not only a will to succeed, but a desire to help the less fortunate and a passion for fashion.