It was a great night to be black and beautiful at the 2019 British Fashion Awards, where black women took center stage and made unprecedented wins during the 31st annual ceremony held Monday night at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
No, there wasn’t another surprise appearance by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex this year, but the host of the night was no less stunning. The always stylish, all-around funny girl Tracee Ellis Ross was the evening’s host, telling British Vogue ahead of the ceremony: “Hosting is like having the best seat at the party...I get to be at the center of this room filled with some of my favorite designers, and first and foremost, I get to wear great clothes.”
While Ross didn’t reprise the all-black designer statement she made during her hosting gig at the 2018 American Music Awards, she flexed her fashion muscles in five outfits during British Fashion Awards. Owning her status as a style icon, she told British Vogue, “I just wear what makes my heart sing. Clothing for me started out as armor, and now it’s truly a form of creative expression.”
Well-established fashion icon Naomi Campbell was officially given the title (again—this time in her home country) on Monday night, as she was honored with the Fashion Icon Award, becoming the first woman of color to do so in BFA history.
“I learned today that I’m the first woman of color to receive this award,” said Campbell while accepting the long-overdue honor (h/t British Vogue). “That leaves me to say who I consider my style icons: Grace Jones, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Donyale Luna, Bethann Hardison, Naomi Sims, Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Diahann Carroll, Janet Jackson, and Tina Turner,” she continued. “I could go on and on, but I want to thank you for paving the way for me and inspiring a generation.”
While still very much at the top of her legendary game, Campbell also celebrated the ascension of one of her successors, 19-year-old Sudanese refugee-turned-supermodel Adut Akech, who stunned in emerald green Valentino as she accepted the Model of the Year Award. The category was remarkably dominated by black beauty this year, as Akech’s fellow nominees were models Winnie Harlow, Adesuwa Aighewi, 2017 winner Adwoa Aboah, and 2018 winner and second-gen supermodel Kaia Gerber (daughter of Cindy Crawford)
“It is important for all of us to remember that someone like me winning this award is a rarity,” Akech told the BFA audience. “This is for the young women and men who found representation and validation in my work. I want them to never be afraid of dreaming big like I once did. To them, I say this: Whatever it is you want to do, whether it’s modeling or acting or medicine, you should never doubt yourself. Don’t let the world convince you that it is not possible.”
And then, there was
musician makeup mogul fashion pioneer Rihanna, who showed up rocking a rare braided ’do with her seafoam green satin and chiffon ensemble by her BFA-nominated Fenty Maison (of course), accompanied by friend and equally fashion-conscious musician A$AP Rocky (also in Fenty).
Proving herself a force to be reckoned with in yet another genre, Rih went home with the Urban Luxe Award for Fenty, presented by none other than Janet Jackson, with help from Tyler, The Creator.
“You’re loved for your style, your vocals and your strength as a woman,” said Jackson while introducing her fellow groundbreaking artist, as the crowd chanted Rihanna’s name (h/t British Vogue). “You’re respected as a successful artist, fashion designer, activist, entrepreneur and for being the first black female [business owner] under LVMH.” Rihanna, in turn, gave credit to stylist and Fenty Maison style director Jahleel Weaver.
But of course, the black magic didn’t end there; from supermodels to singers to Hollywood celebs to superstar editors, the BFA red carpet was filled with some of the best dressed black excellence. As always, you can see all the style for yourself in our slideshow below!