Marie Claire UK - 10.2019

(Axel Boer) #1


‘I have black and brown, Latin and Asian women approach
me all over the world and say, “When I saw you on the cover of
Elle, I knew I was beautiful, too,”’ says American model Veronica
Webb, who appeared on the Elle cover in 1986 and is just one of the
groundbreaking figures to feature in Supreme Models: Iconic Black
Women Who Revolutionized Fashion. She points out the significance
of black women breaking into an industry dominated by white
beauty ideals. It was important, she says, ‘not only to inspire and
transform attitudes of personal beauty but also to educate the world
about the beauty of our own hair, our lives, our hips and all the
glorious shades of black women’s skin, from alabaster to onyx.’
Webb, the first African-American to have a major beauty
contract, followed in the footsteps of other trailblazers of colour
shown in the book, including models Bethann Hardison and
Karen Alexander. Yet before these household names, there was
Ophelia DeVore, who in 1938 at the age of 16 joined the Vogue
School of Modeling in New York. At the time, black students were
not accepted (the school thought she was Caucasian), and when
she graduated, she began modelling for the recently launched
Ebony magazine, before opening her own agency, pushing for
change and paving the way for greater diversity.
DeVore went on to help the careers of two other black women –
Helen Williams, one of the first dark-skinned models, and Dorothea
Towles, who walked Dior’s catwalks in 1949. These women worked
in hostile conditions during the Jim Crow era, where discrimination
and prejudice were a daily occurrence.
In turn, they paved the way for future iconic black models.
Donyale Luna became the first black woman to appear on the cover
of British Vo g u e in 1966; fast-forward to the 80s and Grace Jones
arrived, as did Iman. A historic moment came in 1989 when
Hardison and Iman launched the Black Girls Coalition to celebrate
how far black models had come. Then Naomi Campbell, a young
woman from south London, was catapulted on to the world stage.
She went on to become one of the most successful models of all time
and has spoken out openly about the blatant racism that still persists
in the industry. However, young black women continue to persevere,
pushing boundaries in the industry. Halima Aden was the first
woman to model wearing a hijab, while Winnie Harlow’s skin
condition is not only accepted, but celebrated.
Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion
by Marcellas Reynolds (£40, Abrams Books) is out 8 October



A pioneering and boundary-pushing new
book, Supreme Models, celebrates the

history of black women in fashion



Free download pdf