ESSENCE magazine’s very first cover model and trailblazer, Barbara Cheeseborough, died of colon cancer on Thursday, October 24th in Pomona, California. She was 67.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, Cheeseborough, who was born Barbara Bowman in South Philadelphia in 1946, began her modeling career after graduating from high school.
In 1966, she married fashion photographer William Edward Cheeseborough. And at her husband’s suggestion, they moved to New York to further her career. “Well, I tried New York and it wasn’t easy,” Cheeseborough reportedly said in an interview. “No one wanted a new girl, but I kept trying and began to get booked more and more.”
Cheeseborough’s claim to fame wasn’t only her glamorous ESSENCE cover in May of 1970, she also graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Italia and maintained a busy career working for Vogue, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and designer labels Givenchy, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein and Mark Vaughn.
Cheeseborough’s sister-in-law, Carrie Heard, says she never forgot about her Philly roots, despite living in Paris for quite some time. “She was really a beautiful person, kind, very giving,” Heard explained in Philadelphia Daily News. “Everybody loved her. My brother inspired her. He thought she could be successful and she began to believe it herself.”
After their run in Paris and a modeling career that lasted into her 40s, Cheeseborough and her husband returned stateside to live in Pomona.
In the next phase of her life, Cheeseborough became active in the Screen Actor’s Guild among other things.
She is survived by her husband, daughter, Sia Suon Cheeseborough Bey, three brothers and two sisters. A funeral was held on November 8th.