India Makailah Graham, the winner of this year’s Wmag and IMG Models' talent search, had plenty going for her: soft features, doelike brown eyes, a platinum pixie cut, and a tomboyish style. But there was also perhaps a bit of divine intervention at play in her selection. What wasn’t immediately apparent to W’s Creative and Fashion Director, Edward Enninful, W’s then–Bookings Director, Erin Simon, the photographer Craig McDean, and the scouting team from IMG when they singled her out from the pack, was that her initials are, in fact, I.M.G.—same as the agency that has now signed her and is working to change her life.
This story was not just the W debut for the 19-year-old Michigan native but also her first photo shoot ever. “I was told to stop tweezing my eyebrows and watch my shampoo use,” Graham said with a laugh of the tips she received on set. (In the past, her curly hair has been mint green, black, maroon, white, and pink.) “I was also told to be the character I’m shooting for and not myself. That advice will go a long way.” And while Enninful’s very specific references—Ray Petri, Buffalo style, and the heyday of the British magazine The Face—may have been lost on Graham, the vibe was definitely not. “As a kid, I was very tomboyish, which is why this shoot was so cool for me to start with,” she said. “It reminded me of myself when I was younger. I was always wearing my brother’s clothes or walking around in basketball shorts. It really hit home.”
Watch India Makailah Graham discover she's the winner of the #WmagModelSearch: