Over the next two weeks, ESSENCE will present TWENTY—three digital exhibits I curated celebrating excellence in the worlds of acting, art, and fashion. These galleries tell the stories of people of color who have stepped out on faith and paved the way for the next generations of artists and creators. I believe it is only by acknowledging our triumphs that we see what is possible and dream of what is next. Success acts as an inspiration that propels us forward.
In my bestselling book, Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, I propose that Black models are the precursors to societal change. Each time a model of color breaks through, she redefines the standards of beauty. Everyone knows Iman, Naomi, and Tyra, but what about activist Bethann Hardison, trailblazer Helen Williams, and forever muse Karen Alexander? Or the new “It Girls” Adut Akech, Imaan Hammam, and Dilone who are setting international runways and the pages of top fashion magazines on fire with their modern multicultural beauty. I want to introduce you to TWENTY MODELS YOU SHOULD KNOW.
TWENTY LEGENDARY ACTRESSES is a group of women whose work continues to redefine the worlds of cinema, television, and theater. It’s not about who is the best. We’ll leave that to the Academy Awards, the Emmys, and the Tonys. It’s about the lasting impact of these women. This list of icons like Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, and Cicely Tyson, as well as young legends Halle Berry, Viola Davis, and Regina King, are women who made an indelible impact on the world through their talent and by using their voices to enact social change.
And finally, with temperatures dropping, the ongoing need for social distancing, and the holidays fast approaching, I will present the chicest list of books ever! 20 MUST OWN ART BOOKS FROM A – Z lists books that celebrate every area of excellence within the Black diaspora. From visual celebrations of the lives and work of celebrities Pharrell Williams and Rihanna to a celebration of Black style in Brown Bohemians and Dandy Lion. From the work of legendary photographers like Kwame Brathwaite, Gordon Parks, and Kehinde Wiley and beautiful representations of Black people in art and fashion in Supreme Models, The New Black Vanguard to Ebony: Covering Black America. These books celebrate the beauty and diversity that is the Black race. They are the gifts that keep on giving!
I couldn’t be more thrilled to contribute these lists of my favorite things to a magazine as historic as ESSENCE. As a child, I read my mother’s ESSENCE magazines from cover to cover, breathing in the beauty and wonder of the Black experience. I found inspiration in the pages of ESSENCE. I hope these galleries do that for a new generation of readers also.
See below for my first curated digital exhibit: