Black History NOW Celebrates the paths paved by those who broke the mold in areas of film, sports, science, art and business. The heroes of today stand on the shoulders of giants, looking ahead and creating even more opportunities for African-Americans to thrive in spaces that were historically denied to our people.
Today, we celebrate The Fearless of Fashion: These icons of the runway made history – in living color.
Take a look at a few of our heroes in the gallery below.
Black Faces in White Spaces: The Fearless Of Fashion was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
1. Tyra BanksSource:General
You might remember that Tyra Banks was the first Black model to land a solo Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue cover in 1997. But did you know that in that same year, she also was the first African-American woman to cover the Victoria’s Secret Catalogue and GQ magazine? In 2019, she returned as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover star showing off a fuller figure and looking fabulous.
Since her modeling days, Tyra has become known for producing and hosting ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ which has several successful spin-offs worldwide. This former Victoria’s Secret Angel now hosts Dancing With the Stars.
2. Naomi CampbellSource:Getty
The British supermodel began her career in 1986 and still models nearly thirty years later. Discovered at 15-years-old, she soon signed with Elite Model Management. Naomi Campbell made history as the first black woman to appear on the cover of French Vogue as well as Time Magazine.
In the late 80s, Naomi became known as part of the ‘Trinity’ along with fellow supermodels Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista.
In 2013, Naomi launched the modeling competition reality television show, ‘The Face,’ in the US and Australia. And in 2015, Naomi starred in the hit hip-hop musical drama ‘Empire’ on Fox. Naomi Campbell appeared in so many top major campaigns, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and many more.
Iman made her impact on modeling by being successful on the runway and print during the 70s–a time when models were usually only successful in one. Photographer Peter Beard discovered her while in Nairobi—and was immediately moved by her long neck, high forehead, and elegant features. Iman has worked with legendary photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Helmut Newton during her modeling career.
4. Alek WekSource:Getty
Alek Wek is a South Sudanese model most well-known for defying beauty standards in the fashion industry. Beginning her modeling career at 18, Alek stood out for being dark-skinned, having African features, and a shaved hairstyle. Many look up to Wek for showing a different kind of beauty that does not conform to Caucasian standards as a black woman.
In 1997, Wek appeared on the November cover of ELLE, making her the first African model to appear on the publication. Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has called Wek one of her inspirations growing up. Notable brands the model has walked for on international runways include Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Valentino.
5. Grace JonesSource:Getty
Grace Beverly Jones is an acclaimed model, singer, songwriter, and actress. Born in British Jamaica in 1948 and renowned for her exotic, androgynous beauty and her unique, eccentric style, Grace Jones is one of the most recognizable black models to date. Starting her modeling career in New York City, she quickly gained traction and moved to Paris to work with brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo. She also appeared on covers of Elle and Vogue around that time.
Beginning her music career in 1977, Grace Jones released 11 critically acclaimed studio albums, with genres ranging from post-punk to reggae. Her style and music influenced many contemporary stars, such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Solange.