Posted: February 16, 2011 by Jay Rasean in Kasual
Dorothea Towles-Church

Today’s feature will honor the African American pioneers of the modelling world. Over the years, the fashion industry has continuously portrayed their strict views of beauty. Blond hair, and blue eyes was the constant visual representation of perfection. Even white women with dark hair were sometimes overlooked on quest for a more bright, wholesome and affable approach to fashion.

Chuch at fashion show back in the U.S

One of first African-American women to break these strict racial barriers was none other than  Dorthea Towles Church. Church–primarily a Christian Dior model, had to relocate her modeling aspirations to Paris. In the 1950’s racial tension was excessive, Europe was somewhere an African American could venture and taste true freedom, especially the freedom of expression. In Paris, there was little concern about race, but more time focused on the fostering of creativity.

Church enjoyed a long career in fashion, managing to showcase her beauty on magazine covers–along with the likes of Sara Lou Harris, who is credited as being the first African-America woman to be featured on a national magazine. The 60’s ushered in a new breed of fashion as well as the introduction of the term “Supermodel”. Supermodel Twiggy was one of the more domineering models of this time and gained world-wide popularity. But in 1965, the face of Donyale Luna–formerly known as Peggy Freeman, began to once again darken the American perception of beauty. Donyale became the first African American model to appear on the cover of a the British edition of Vogue Magazine in 1967.

Naomi Sims

Following Donyale, there were many other prominent women who shouldered the struggle of incorporating women of color into the subconscious of American society. For instance, there was the gorgeous Naomi Sims, who is widely recognized as the first African American Super model. Before Campbell, there was Sims. Sims was a highly visual component and the obvious proof for the 1960’s “Black is Beautiful” movement.

Then there was Pat Cleveland, Mounia, Beverly Johnson and Iman. All of these lovely ladies paved the way for the new generation of African American models and supermodels of today. Beverly Johnson in particular, contributed her own historic advances when she became the first African American  to appear on the cover of  Vogue and the French edition of Elle Magazine.

Beverly Johnson
Pat Cleveland

Much like the young models of today–the Eva Marcille’s and the new generation the America’s Next Top Model contestants all owe thanks to models like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb and much more; the Tyras and Naomis owe tribute to all the aforementioned women in this article, the pioneers. Because of these striking females, women of color world-wide have been able to excel in this particular genre of creativity which traditionally ignored the essential black or brown essence.

As of late, a lot of women currently in the public eye have done things to mask their true essence by reverting back to theory that; plastic surgery, blue eyes and blond wigs are all staples of being beautiful. Time has repeatedly shown that this is not true, and that shining examples of black beauty are all around us, and have been forever. Lets have faith in the African American models of today, in hopes that they strive to retain their essence, and lets toast to the relevance of the African American models of yesterday, because they are all the reason why black history should be celebrated year ’round.(K*W)

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