Every continent has its own standards of physical beauty but one thing that is pretty much universal is the definition of inward beauty. We can all agree that the true beauty of a woman is reflected in her soul and experienced by others through her care and compassion. It is in her poise and elegance––the air of grace that accompanies her presence. True beauty comes alive in our passions and ultimately how we use them to serve the world.
“If there is character, ugliness becomes beauty; if there is none, beauty becomes ugliness.”
~ Nigerian proverb
As we release our second Most Beautiful African Women List, we cannot help but reflect on what a year this has been. Succinctly, 2020 walked in all wound up for a fight yet it made us all stronger and more resilient. From a global pandemic to worldwide protests against police brutality, to various campaigns against violence and oppression in African countries––from Nigeria to Liberia, 2020 was indeed the year of the great awakening.
As individuals, companies, and nations suffered from all the turmoil, we were left with some essential life lessons on what truly matters: love, family, emergency funds, and health and wellness.
As difficult as the year has been, we saw beauty in humanity as people stayed connected across balconies and many truly became their brother’s keepers. The women on our Rave List not only “kept” their brothers, but they were also their community’s keepers and beyond their communities, they were a source of hope and inspiration to many. As some of the most popular celebrities, businesswomen, and influencers of African origin, the beauty of these women shone through their empathy and selflessness.
When people say you are truly beautiful, it is to say that there is harmony between your inside and outside. As we celebrate the beauty, poise, and altruistic characters of these women, we recognize them as women who are not afraid to look beyond themselves, who abandon self-absorption for a greater cause of giving back to society and helping fight for the disadvantaged and underprivileged. There’s no greater beauty than this.
As usual, the curation of Africa’s most beautiful women was an arduous task but one we do with pride as Style Rave remains committed to shining the light on the good and beauty of Africa.
From business to politics, media to entertainment, these are women who are confronting the status quo and doing their bit to alter the same. They are restructuring what we’ve always known, helping phase out inequalities and trailblazing new channels of wealth creation while creating space at the top and letting down ladders to lift others up. These women are not afraid to be their own kind of beautiful because they are aware that beauty is beyond aesthetics.
Here are our 30 of the most beautiful African women of the year…
#30. Jennifer Obayuwana
This well-seasoned businesswoman is breaking loose from her father’s shadow. Being the executive director at Polo Avenue isn’t favoritism but hard work and Jennifer Obayuwana’s dedication to growth is obvious. She is always deliberate about purpose and has reportedly tripled the finances of her dad’s company––every industrial father’s dream. During the peak of the pandemic, Jennifer spent a lot of her time sharing relief food items and money to children, widows, the elderly, and people suffering from disabilities. A woman morphing into one of the continent’s biggest business tycoons who still lives beyond herself is definitely one to be inspired by.
#29. Quiin Abenakyo
Profession: Model, Beauty Queen
At the onset of the pandemic, Quiin Abenakyo, Miss Uganda 2018/2019, sprung into action, launching a ‘Fight COVID-19 with Genuine Products’ campaign with lawyer, Fred Muwema. The campaign aimed to inform the public to desist from using counterfeit products in fighting coronavirus. Quiin’s Foundation, an NGO that advocates for women’s and girls’ rights and equality, is also going strong. For one of her latest projects, she hosted an event to mark the 2020 UN’s ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’ campaign. She’s one of the most beautiful women in Africa 2020 in her rights. No cap.
#28. Zozibini Tunzi
Profession: Model, Beauty Queen
Nationality: South African
The show-stopping drop-dead gorgeous Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi, is a depiction of class and passion and is absolutely one of the most beautiful women in Africa. She doesn’t hesitate to speak up on the importance of giving girls opportunities and is passionate about advancing gender equality. She continues to challenge the status quo––a true Queen.
#27. Millen Magese
Profession: Model, Philanthropist
Miss Tanzania 2001, Millen Magese is a pictorial representation of “Thank God we don’t look like what we’ve been through…” A few years ago, the former beauty queen bravely opened up to the public about her struggles with endometriosis from an early age and in the process empowered generations of women who have silently suffered from the same disorder. This birthed the Millen Magese Foundation, a medium through which she educates women and girls about reproductive health and promotes gender equality.
#26. Isha Sesay
Nationality: Sierra Leonean
We might know Isha Sesay for her sleek presenting skills, as a news correspondent who has worked with top News channels. But behind all this professionalism is a passion to dig out the truth and solely stand by it, a trait that’s thinning out with every passing second. After 13 years with CNN, Isha called it quit to move on to other personal projects.
In 2014, she launched W.E. Can Lead (Women Everywhere Can Lead) to support African girls in receiving educational support to become future leaders. In August 2018, the program which focused on mostly working with Nigerian girls became open to girls from every corner of Africa.
The author of Beneath the Tamarind Tree,––which tells a real-life story about the terrorist group, Boko Haram, which kidnapped hundreds of helpless rural girls (Chibok girls)––Isha Sesay is one journalist committed to moving Africa forward. It is almost impossible to read this book and not feel empathy, anger, and hope all at once.
This year she used her social media platform to cover the pandemic and the Nigerian #EndSars campaign among other trending issues.
#25. Anitah Fabiola
Profession: TV Host, Humanitarian
If you’re looking for a little sunshine to brighten your day then Anitah Fabiola is your plug and it’s not just her glowing skin but her bubbly and positive personality. Her humanitarian causes redefine success as she shows that lifting others is a more fulfilling route on life’s path. As the founder of Fab Girls Foundation, she aims to expand awareness on menstrual and reproductive health issues, as well as sexual assault.
#24. Thando Thabethe
Profession: Actress, DJ, TV Host
Nationality: South African
Former Generations: The Legacy star, Thando Thabethe’s media career can be best described as a 360 ride. As a radio girl, TV presenter, and actress, she’s pretty much spread her wings across three of the major sectors of media and entertainment. You could call her lucky or blessed but she’s got even more passion to serve.
In 2014, she founded the Thando Thabethe Women’s Netball Challenge and she’s been raising money for charities and non-profit organizations that focus on the empowerment of women. Earlier this year, she joined forces with other South African radio presenters to feed as many people as possible during the lockdown.
#23. Halima Aden
It came as a surprise last month when Halima Aden announced in a series of Instagram stories that she had quit runway modeling due to pressure to compromise her religious beliefs. She’s since indicated that she would do modeling work as long as she could set the conditions. That doesn’t mean she’s going to be suddenly idle. As a UNICEF ambassador, she uses her voice to engage young people across the U.S. to support UNICEF’s mission to put children first. She’s also been actively involved in various fundraising activities such as #RunwayForRelief.
Modeling aside, Halima recently announced that she will participate in the next Miss Universe, becoming the first contestant to represent Somalia in the international beauty pageant’s history. A champion of female empowerment and inclusivity, Halima is used to trailblazing. In 2016, she received national attention after competing in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, becoming the first contestant in the pageant to wear a burkini and a hijab.
#22. Chimamanda Adichie
Chimamanda Adichie needs no introduction but you can think of her as that proudly African feminist queen who’s proven that hard work pays off, eventually. She inspires us through the excellence she commits to her craft and her passion for women’s rights. Just last month, Half of a Yellow Sun was voted the “winner of winners” of the literary award in a public vote––a win for African literature as a whole.
Her confidence is top-notch as she keeps shattering glass ceilings and advocating for a greater tomorrow for young people and Africa as a whole. Don’t know about you but we’re stepping into 2021 with Chimamanda’s confidence level.
#21. Megalyn Echikunwoke
The Hollywood actress, whose father was Nigerian and mother of Irish-Scottish descent, has starred in numerous movies. At the age of four, she lost her dad due to the gunshot wounds he suffered during the Nigerian civil war, which led to hepatitis B and later liver cancer. This experience birthed a passion inside of Megalyn as she remains thankful for her privileged life and refuses to sit on the sideline. She donates to organizations that fight hunger and injustice while using her voice to create awareness of the crisis in society.
In particular, she works with a Nigerian charity, GEANCO to serve their mission, and this year, she helped raise money to support the COVID-19 relief effort in Nigeria.
#20. Lerato Kganyago
Profession: TV Presenter, DJ, Entrepreneur
Nationality: South African
Lerato Kganyago is indeed an interesting personality but we’re most inspired by her charitable works. She owns a beauty company called Flutter by LKG and through the brand carries out outreaches to the women in South Africa. This year, the brand gave out sanitary pads to young women in the rural areas across all nine provinces of South Africa.
With uncertainties in the economy, this act of kindness is certainly in solidarity with the pockets of the young women who benefitted and another reminder to us all to always remember the less privileged in our immediate and extended communities.
#19. Jaha Marie Dukureh
Profession: Activist, Brand Ambassador
Jaha Marie Dukureh, the new face of L’Oréal Paris 2020 is extremely passionate about saving girls from female genital mutilation and forced child marriage. As a survivor of female circumcision and child marriage, Jaha is very vocal about these issues. Her voice wasn’t left unheard as the result of her outcry led to the abolition of the practice in The Gambia during President Yahya Jammeh’s time. This isn’t the case presently but courageous Jaha continues to fight for this commendable cause.
#18. Rachel Kolisi
Nationality: South African
Married to Siya Kolisi, captain of the South African national rugby team, Rachel Kolisi is nothing short of a role model. The way she’s passionate about uplifting the less privileged by providing essentials, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown is something we all can aspire to. As co-founder of the Kolisi Foundation, Rachel is committed to helping change the narratives of inequality for people living in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. As co-founder of Rise Women, she helps women reach their fitness goals, encourages and supports mothers on their parenting journey, and promotes self-love.
#17. Joselyn Dumas
Profession: Actress, TV Host
One would think that with the amount of beauty oozing out of Joselyn Dumas, she’d be stuck in front of the mirror in self-admiration––but she has consistently shown that there’s more to her than hips, a small waistline, and a beautiful face. The top actress stays on top of her career and still has her hands in social work while empowering individuals in the society, especially the widows and children.
She established The Joselyn Dumas Foundation to help address the needs of vulnerable children from all backgrounds and regions of Ghana. Her foundation currently focuses on Autism.
#16. Brigitte Alfred Lyimo
Sometimes the notion is that beauty queens just carry out projects during their reign as a sense of duty but abandon them once their tenure ends. Brigitte Alfred, former Miss Tanzania 2012, has proven otherwise. She started off her foundation, Brigitte Alfred Foundation to create awareness for albinism and its effects on those affected and following her reign, has remained passionate about the cause––serving as a voice for individuals with albinism. Among other efforts, she campaigns for a safer society with equal opportunities for people living with albinism.
#15. Genevieve Nnaji
Profession: Actress, Producer, Director
Genevieve Nnaji has been long admired and respected not only for her outward beauty but for her large heart. She is a women’s activist who advocates for Nigerian girls to be able to have a say in who they choose to marry as well as being against early marriages for the girl child and abuse of women in society.
There’s no time when Genevieve’s voice against injustice in Nigerian isn’t heard and this year’s anti-police brutality movement again brought out the otherwise private actress. She went as far as writing an open letter to the president in solidarity with the #EndSARS movement. Talented, beautiful, and an activist when needed––that’s Genevieve Nnaji to the world.
#14. Waris Dirie
Profession: Model, Author, Actress, Human Rights Activist
Waris Dirie, loosely known as the Bond girl, has continuously used her autobiography, Desert Flower––which became a musical and a foundation to create awareness about female genital mutilation. The top model and activist is also committed to helping other victims of FGM. This passion was born out of a personal experience and she aims to make the practice a thing of the past in order to save millions of girls from the unnecessary ordeal.
#13. Noëlla Coursaris Musunka
Profession: Philanthropist, Model
Noëlla Coursaris Musunka is one of the leading advocates for girls’ education in the world. Rising from a difficult childhood to achieve her dreams, Noëlla has truly modeled that with hard work and consistency, you can be anything you set your mind to be. In 2007, Noëlla founded Malaika, a grassroots nonprofit that educates and empowers Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs.
From an impressive modeling career to becoming a game-changing education advocate, Noella’s runway leads girls to the classroom and that’s just inspiring.
#12. Jokate Mwegelo
Profession: Politician, Media Personality, Entrepreneur
Media personality turned politician Jokate Mwegelo continues to work tirelessly to implement change in her community and beyond, especially in the health sector. She has set up quite a number of much-needed health centers in her district. Yet the health sector is not the only area to have benefitted as she has also made major improvements to the educational sector. Working with various stakeholders through the campaign dubbed ‘Eliminate Zeros in Kisarawe’, she spearheaded the building of Jokate Mwegelo Girls Secondary School – the first girls boarding school in her district.
As one of Tanzania’s youngest and prolific political leaders, she remains a motivation to many and a true inspiration to young women who dream of becoming leaders.
#11. Omoni Oboli
Profession: Actress, Scriptwriter, Director, Producer
Have you not wondered how Omoni Oboli stays youthful year after year? Well, we have. If she were a vampire we’d gladly surrender our wrists to be bitten just to enjoy a bit of her evergreen beauty. Beauty aside, we’ve got to give it up for Mrs. Oboli. After all, successfully managing the homefront, entertainment business and the Omoni Oboli Foundation is superwoman behavior.
Omoni’s foundation helps in supporting less privileged women and children in Nigeria. Among other initiatives, the foundation has fed street children in Lagos and over 200 children at Delta Steel Complex.
#10. Imaan Hammam
Amsterdam-born supermodel Imaan Hammam doesn’t like being referred to as Middle Eastern. She prefers to be called an Afro Arab because that’s exactly who her parents are, although they originated from two different North African countries. In her words:
“I’m half Moroccan, half Egyptian, and I was born in Amsterdam. I’m Muslim, and I’m superproud of my heritage and of my roots. I want to be a role model for young girls who are struggling with racism or struggling with their looks or with their skin color. I had Naomi Campbell, who I looked up to as a black powerful woman. But there aren’t many Arabic models, and being an African-Arabic model, I’m trying to open doors for more Arabic girls.”
Indeed, as one of the very few Arabic top models, Imaan is the kind of role model young women can aspire to be like. Her passion for helping open doors for other young Arabic girls makes her an ideal global ambassador for She’s the First, an initiative that’s heavy on changing the traditional expectations of females and allowing them to create a future not influenced by stereotypes. Her advocacy goes beyond being a role model to putting her money where her heart is. Little wonder why she was included on Harper’s Bazaar UK’s Women of the Year 2020 list.
#9. Linda Osifo
Profession: Actress, TV Host
Linda Osifo is such a sight to behold and her eloquence and confidence are worthy of emulation. Know what else is worthy of emulation about Linda Osifo? Compassion––which led to the birth of The LAO Foundation, created by the top actress to help alleviate poverty. Since 2018 when it was founded, Linda has made efforts to live up to the foundation’s mission through several charitable initiatives. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she took to the community to distribute basic food supplies to those in need.
#8. Gelila Bekele
Profession: Model, Social Activist, Documentary Filmmaker
Filmmaker Gelila Bekele is such a beaut and one with a pure heart that radiates and touches everyone around her. Needless to say, this year has been unpredictable with a series of unforeseen inconveniences but Gelila didn’t let 2020 deter her drive and love for children. As a filmmaker, she aims to tie each of her works to a cause as she always seeks to use any opportunity and platform to champion quality education for children and create a safe space for learning.
She established the Girls Gotta Run Foundation in 2006 as a non-governmental franchise to lend a helping hand to the education of the underprivileged girl child in Ethiopia. The organization focuses on female runners who use their athletic abilities to help their communities.
#7. Jacqueline Mengi
Profession: Furniture Designer, Philanthropist
From entertainment to interior design, to her philanthropic work, everything Jacqueline Mengi does comes out with excellence––yet it is the philanthropy for us. The way she exerts her resources to help the less privileged is simply heartwarming. This year, among other acts of service, she didn’t relent in donating libraries to less informed children. She is currently focused on creating awareness and helping people with disabilities strive better in society.
In line with her humanitarian works, she recently launched Beauty Legacy Tanzania, a foundation that aims to bring together Tanzanian beauty queens to inspire girls and women, as they raise funds to support health and education initiatives.
#6. DJ Switch
Profession: Disc Jockey, Songwriter
If courage were a person, it would be Obianuju Catherine Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch. Decades after decades Nigeria has suffered bad governance and systemic corruption. In October 2020 as the #EndSars protests across Nigeria came to a climax and the government enacted a curfew, DJ Switch, who has always been known to speak out against injustice didn’t relent but bravely remained on ground with other protesters during the October 20th protest.
As the Nigerian army and police force arrived at the Lekki toll gate, she pulled out her phone and went live on IG to show the world the gory details of what is now known as the Lekki massacre. This has since become huge evidence against the armed forces who opened fire on peaceful protesters clamoring for an end to police brutality in Nigeria. This act has since then caused an uproar on the global scene even as many hail DJ Switch for her bravery and leadership. There’s no beauty more heroic than this.
#5. Liya Kebede
Profession: Designer, Model, Actress, Ambassador
Liya Kebede has glided through the fashion world for decades yet has always been known to have her hands full of impactful projects. Make no mistake, staying afloat in an industry that’s designed to age a woman out before she’s ready to take a bow is far from an easy ride. But Liya Kebede has got the kind of tenacity seen in supermodels like Naomi Campbell and she carries this tenacity into her humanitarian projects.
In 2005 she was appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. Through the Liya Kebede Foundation, she has helped significantly reduce mother and child mortality in Ethiopia. The supermodel is so passionate about this cause that she writes about maternal and child health for The Huffington Post. She is also part of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation; an organization of African leaders.
#4. Beverly Naya
Profession: Actress, Producer
“Brown skin girl, her skin just like pearl…” Beverly Naya is not one of the most beautiful women in Africa 2020 because of her glowing ebony skin, unique facial features, and elegant natural hair but because she also has compassion and wit. She proved this earlier this year with her documentary titled ‘Skin’. Skin explores black beauty and aims to sensitize society on colourism and the dangers bleaching poses to those who indulge. She took the documentary a step further by introducing “Skin Youth Tour” which had her touring around universities with the aim of enlightening the youths on the dangers of bleaching and encouraging them to be comfortable in their skin.
Beverly is not only beautiful but she is actively helping others see the beauty in themselves.
#3. Nomzamo Mbatha
Profession: Actress, Producer, Human Rights Activist
Nationality: South African
Nomzamo Mbatha continues to grow in leaps and bound, not only because of her talent but for her humanitarian causes. The pandemic didn’t hold her back as she strived to help alleviate the struggles of refugees in Africa.
As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she played a strong role in supporting UNHCR’s LuQuLuQu COVID-19 emergency response campaigns which included fundraising and public engagement and awareness initiatives in an effort to help protect forcibly displaced families against the spread of coronavirus in refugee camps.
If you’re looking for a reason to start doing what you should irrespective of supposed limitations, then look into the life of Nomzamo Mbatha.
#2. Tiwa Savage
Profession: Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Activist
Tiwa Savage’s name is music to our ears. Arguably one of the continent’s finest artistes, Tiwa has maintained her relevance on the entertainment scene after decades. She not only sings catchy tunes, club bangers, and girl anthems but lends her voice every now and then to causes affecting countries across Africa.
From tackling rape culture to being at the forefront of the fight against systemic corruption in Nigeria, Tiwa Savage definitely understands the responsibility that comes with being a celebrity powerhouse. She’s shown her commitment to the fight against sex trafficking and rape with the #WeAreTired movement. In October, as the #EndSars protests swept across Nigeria, Tiwa Savage joined other celebrities in Lagos––Nigeria’s commercial capital––to lead protests against police brutality in the country.
#1. Jackie Appiah
After nearly two decades, the name Jackie Appiah has become a household name, especially for movie lovers across Africa and beyond. But the screen goddess isn’t just as beautiful as she is talented, her heart is indeed made of gold as she is always ready to give back to society. On her birthday every year, Jackie celebrates by touching lives around her, and this year was no different as she turned 37 on December 5.
During the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, the beautiful mother of one took to the streets to spread awareness, giving out sanitizers, face masks, food items, and more before Ghana’s lockdown.
This year, she took her birthday philanthropy celebration a notch higher as she commissioned a project at Korle Bu Teaching hospital named ‘Jackie’s Corner’––a day treatment room for children living with sickle cell. The project came to life as the Jackie Appiah Foundation refurbished one of the hospital’s pediatric wards into a haven for sick kids. A little kindness can save lives and that’s what Jackie Appiah has taught us.
We celebrate Jackie Appiah as Style Rave African Woman of 2020.
VIDEO: Jackie Appiah commissions Jackie’s Corner
These women have proven that beauty isn’t skin deep as it goes way inwards, far into the heart, and exudes an aura of courage, selflessness, and love undiluted.
Dare to be as fearless as the women whose stories you have applauded. Humanity awaits you!
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