Born Arlenis Sosa Peña in Montecristi, Dominican Republic, Arlenis was discovered by designer Luis Menieur while walking down the street with her parents. Menieur recommended that 5 foot 11 inches (1.8 meters) young Arlenis become a model. After finishing high school, she took his advice and moved to New York to venture into the fashion world.
Her first week in New York she met Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue. Wintour helped launched her career: she arranged for Arlenis to attend the famous Met Costume Institute Gala with designer Oscar de la Renta’s son. In March of 2008 Arlenis walked into Marilyn Modeling Ageny, home of models Naomi Campbell and Adriana Lima, and was signed on the spot.
A couple of weeks after her signing, Arlenis booked editorial deals with Vogue and Vogue Italia. She appeared in both Vogue July 2008 issues, including the first all-black issue of Italian Vogue. In the ground-breaking Italian edition, Arlenis shot with legendary models Tyra Banks, Iman, and Liya Kebede. The issue became Vogue Italia’s best-selling issue in history, running out of print twice.
Speaking of her experience as a young black model, Arlenis comments, “Models need to stick together, especially black models, whom people are always accusing of being too competitive… The important thing is that black models are doing it big now.” Arlenis is an example of this — she is the godmother to black British model Jourdan Dunn’s son and very close friend of fellow Dominican model Sessilee Lopez.
She debuted on the runway in Banana Republic’s fall/winter 2008 show. Since then she has worked the runway for designers Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors, among others. She also walked in Victoria Secret’s annual fashion show in November of 2008.
Arlenis was featured as a top ten up-and-coming model by Models.com in September of 2008. That same month she became the coveted face of Lancôme, first appearing in advertisements for the cosmetics line in spring 2010.
She is known as sweet, down-to-earth, and wise. She uses her quickly-found fortune for good causes: “I always wanted to have money—not just to have it but to help others”. In 2010 she did so, launching The Arlenis Sosa Foundation, which helps children suffering from diabetes in the Dominican Republic.
- Top Black Models of the Decade (2000-2010) — number 6