Fashion Revolutionaries: Top Models Past and Present

Black supermodels who've made history on and off the runway.
ESSENCE.COM Sep, 25, 2008

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Donyale Luna broke down barriers to become the first notable Black woman featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965 as a sketch. She later attained mainstream appeal through her unconventional poses.

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No one personifies the phrase “Black is beautiful” quite like Naomi Sims. With her rich, dark skin and elegant demeanor, Sims became the first recognizable Black model to appear on the cover of the New York Times supplement Fashion of the Times in 1967.

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Part disco diva, part Amazon woman, Grace Jones took the fashion world by storm in the 1970’s. With her androgynous looks and provocative style, it’s no wonder she’s a fashion icon.

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Beverly Johnson changed the face of beauty, becoming the first African-American model to grace the cover of American Vogue in 1974. She was later coined “the goddess next door” after her sensuous Cosmopolitan cover in 1976.

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After being discovered in Nairobi, Kenya, Iman’s face soon conquered the fashion world. Now the Somali beauty is making moves in the business world with her self-titled makeup line.

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Roshumba’s long legs became her trademark when she began her career in the late eighties. With style and grace, she strutted the runways for Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

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Veronica Webb was the first African-American to sign an exclusive beauty contract with Revlon in 1992. She later became an actress and journalist. Recently, the multifaceted mother of two could be seen cohosting Bravo’s “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.”

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At 38, Naomi Campbell still dominates the catwalk with her sultry looks and coveted strut. Now that’s staying power.

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From top model to the host of “America’s Next Top Model,” Tyra Banks has become a household name. The talk-show host was the first African-American featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 1996. The following year she graced the cover by herself.

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Ethiopian beauty Liya Kebede has been touted by Vogue as one of the leading faces in the return of the supermodel. In 2003, she became the first spokeswoman of color for Estée Lauder cosmetics.

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When Elle magazine featured Alek Wek on its November 1997 cover, naysayers believed that a dark-skinned African woman would not sell issues. On the contrary, the Sudanese stunner garnered a tremendous reader response. She soon became one of fashion’s brightest stars.

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Once teased about her tall and thin frame, Oluchi Onweagba never imagined that her Nigerian features would bring her international fame. Now Onweagba is making a name for herself as one of the newest Victoria’s Secret angels.


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