Archive for the ‘fashion models’ Category

a_cosmetics102Naomi Sims (1948-2009) was a black American supermodel from the 1960s, one of the first. Before there was Naomi Campbell, there was Naomi Sims. In November 1968 she became the first black woman on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal, the first to appear on a mainstream women’s magazine in America. She later went into business selling her own line of wigs and make-up designed for black women and wrote books about beauty and modelling. She died yesterday of cancer at age 61.

She was born in Mississippi but her family later moved up north to Pittsburgh, where she lived in a largely poor white neighbourhood. By 13 she was already 5 foot 10 (1.78 m) . She was picked on and became a loner. Growing up in an age before Twiggy and “Black is beautiful”, she was too tall, too thin and too dark to be considered beautiful. But her upbringing and her Catholic faith taught her to always walk with pride and dignity.

In 1966 she went to New York to live with her sister and study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her scholarship money was not enough, so she turned to modelling to put herself through school.

The model agencies all said no because she was black. So she called fashion photographers herself. One of them, Gosta Peterson, agreed to meet her.  His wife, it turned out, was the head of the fashion pages of the New York Times. In August 1967 she appeared in the Times.

After that success she went back to the model agencies but they still said no! So she talked one of them into letting her use their name and sent her layout in the Times to 100 advertising agencies. To the model agency’s utter amazement the calls started coming in! By November 1968 she was on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal.


life1969Her dark skin worked to her advantage: This was just when “Black is beautiful” was becoming a catchphrase and black tokenism was cutting edge stuff.

Within two years she was in all the fashion magazines. She made anything she wore look great and had her own way of walking down the runway that was beautiful to watch. She modelled for Halston, AT&T, Virginia Slims, Life magazine and others.

In 1972 Hollywood wanted her to star in “Cleopatra Jones”, a blaxpoitation film. When she read the script she said no: she was shocked at how racist it was.

In 1973 she made the cover of Cosmopolitan and then quit modelling.

Four years before she had said, “There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model.” So she went into business making wigs. She found out how to make hair that looked like straightened black women’s hair and then designed wigs in all the latest styles. In the 1980s she branched out into perfume, skin-care and make-up. By the 2000s, however, large white companies started to push her out.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s she wrote five books. One of them,”All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman” (1976),  is still in print.

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Yasmin Warsame (1976- ), also known as ياسمين ابشير ارسام, is one of the most successful Canadian fashion models of all time. She was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, the same place that Iman is from, but later she fled to Canada. She has grace, class and one of those beautiful, perfect faces. She now lives in New York where she works for IMG, modelling for top designers in both New York and Paris.

Michael Kors calls her the new Iman. Fashion magazine in 2004 named her “The Most Alluring Canadian”.

About black beauty she says:

I believe that “Black beauty” is underrated and isn’t appreciated, so that’s what I want to represent in this modelling industry. I want to inspire young girls and women all around the world to follow their dreams, especially women of colour.

I just love her.

yasmin_warsame1She is tall and thin: she stands 1.78 metres tall (5 foot 10) and her measurements are 81-61-89 cm (32-24-35 inches). She has a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.69, giving her more of an hourglass figure than most fashion models.

She has one of those faces that can look either unmistakably African or like a brown-coloured white woman, depending on how she is made up – which probably matters in something as white as the fashion industry. She is known for her high cheekbones.

Her family left Somalia for Toronto, Canada. There she studied psychology at university and got into modelling. Unlike most models she did not start modelling till her 20s and did not become well-known till after she had already had a child.

yasmin06When she was four months away from giving birth to her son, she was booked to model for the Sears catalogue. Sears said she was too “couture”. So in the summer of 2002 she moved to Paris, the centre of all things couture. There she had only one thing on her mind: “Walking down the runway… and not falling.”

Paris proved to be her big break: there Steven Meisel took pictures of her for a feature in Italian Vogue. From that she went on to model for top designers.

She has also appeared in ads for Revlon, Chanel, Banana Republic (as a token), Neiman Marcus and others.

She has appeared on the magazine covers of Surface, Trace, Canadian Flare, French Revue de Modes, Italian Amica, British, American and Spanish Elle and Italian and American Vogue. Among others. She was in the all-black issue of Italian Vogue in July 2008.

In 2007 she was a judge on “Canada’s Next Top Model”.

One her best moments modelling:

It was when I sent my mum (in Somalia) a large amount of money. I spoke to her and she was almost in tears. That was the moment that made modelling so worth it.

Among her friends are the models Iman, Belinda Baidoo, Oluchi Onweagba and Ubah Hassan.

She says:

I hope my face is not my only fortune…I believe I had a life before modelling and will always have a life after modelling.

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beverly07Beverly Peele (1975- ), an American supermodel, was one of the top fashion and print models of the early 1990s.

She started modelling on the runways of Paris at age 12. In 1989, by age 14, she had made her first million and became the first black woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. In 1993, at age 18, People magazine named her one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. She appeared on hundreds of magazine covers. All the top fashion designers wanted her.

But then suddenly it all came to end.

Where Naomi and Tyra had wanted to be models since they were little girls, she did not. She said she wanted to be a plumber. So she was not willing to play the game. And when she got pregnant at 18 she had the baby against all advice: they said it would mess up her looks, that she would never work again. Even her mother would not to speak to her (at first). She did not care. The baby was more important.

After she had the baby she came back to modelling, but she failed to make a comeback. In 1997 she went into acting, but with small success.

She is one of the most beautiful black supermodels of all time, but because she rose and fell before the rise of the Web, there are not many pictures of her on the Internet, and what you see are not even her best.

She grew up in suburban Los Angeles but went to the school where her mother worked in South Central.

At 11 her mother made her take an etiquette course to learn “how not to be klutzy”. She learned to walk with grace. That and her long legs helped her to win modelling contests and before she knew it she was on the runways in Paris.

At her height she spent money so freely people called her C-Note. She had a three-floor apartment in New York. Because money came so easily to her so young, she had no idea of money management. She also started doing drugs. She was far from home and growing up too fast. After she had the baby, it was all over.

Ten years later, in 2005, she found a lost credit card in a supermarket and used it to buy a washer, dryer, refrigerator and other stuff for her house. It went to court and in 2006 the judge sentenced her to three years’ probation, 300 hours of community service and, of course, she had to pay back everything – and something else to American Express for their troubles.

In 2006 she went on the “Tyra Banks Show” to warn women of the dark side of modelling.

Peele first ran into Tyra Banks years before in Venice. Tyra at the time was 17 and broke in a foreign country. Peele helped her out.

Peele is six feet tall (1.83 metres). In 1989 her measurements were 33.5-22-33 (85-56-84 cm). That gives her a waist-to-hip (WHR) ratio of 0.67, which is on the low side for a fashion model.


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Jourdan Dunn (August 3rd 1990- ) is a British model from London. Now 17, some say she is set to become the next Naomi Campbell, the next big black supermodel. She will be on the cover of the July 2008 issues of both American Vogue and Italian Vogue. The Italian one will be the first all-black Vogue ever.

In 2008 she became the first black woman in 11 years to model for Prada. The last one before her was Naomi Campbell in 1997.

She has helped to turn modelling away from the issue of weight towards that of race. As someone said, she has made black the new black

Dunn is in great demand: she has been on dozens of catwalks in London, Paris, Milan and New York in the past year. She started modelling only in February 2007.

She was discovered in 2006 by the Storm model agency, the same one that found Kate Moss. They discovered Dunn in a Primark in Kings Mall in London trying on sunglasses with her friend.

She is from the Greenford part of West London, where she lived with her mother and two younger brothers. Her heroes growing up were Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. People thought she was simple-minded when she told them she wanted to be a model.

Now in 2008 she lives in New York and is with the Women Management agency.

Even though the fashion industry is Hitler white, casting directors and clothes designers have been falling over each other to have her model for them. It seems they like her presence and grace, the way her long neck, eyes and high cheekbones give her an otherworldly look.

She has noticed the lack of women of colour in the fashion industry:

London’s not a white city, so why should all our castings be white? I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there’s just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don’t get picked. I hope it’s because the designer just didn’t think they were good enough as a model, but I don’t know.

She wants to do something about it when she gets older:

I’m really ambitious. When I go back into education, I’m going to do business studies. Naomi’s idea is good; I’d do an agency for black girls and Asian and Spanish, because there aren’t enough of them on the runway either.

She is 5 foot 10 (1.78 metres). Her measurements are 33-24-35 inches (83-60-89 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.67. She says her best feature is her legs.

She says, “I am one of those lucky people who can eat anything and don’t put on weight.”

She seems like a sweet, down-to-earth girl who has not let her sudden success go to her head. At least not yet.

She is friends with Emanuela de Paula of Brazil and Honorine Uwera of Rwanda.

On television she likes to watch “The Eastenders”.

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Tyra Banks (1973- ) was one of the top black supermodels of the 1990s. She was the first black woman ever to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, GQ and Victoria’s Secret – all in 1997. In 2003 she moved into television. By 2008 she had two shows: “America’s Next Top Model” (2003- ) and “The Tyra Banks Show” (2005- ), a talk show.

“America’s Next Top Model” is a fashion modelling contest. It is like “American Idol” but instead of singing, they model. Tyra not only created the show, she is one of the judges. She takes a personal interest in each of the young women in the show , trying to guide them in the right direction in the fashion industry. Some of the models to come out of the show are Toccara Jones, YaYa Da Costa and Eva Pigford.

“The Tyra Banks Show” is a talk show. It is like Oprah’s talk show but it is aimed at younger women. Again, Tyra wants to guide young women in the right direction. She seems down to earth, like Oprah did in her early days. On the other hand, sometimes she tells guests what they should believe.

Television is not something she suddenly thought of because she was getting too old to model. When she applied to universities (she never went), she was thinking of getting into television then.

She also wanted to be a singer, but gave it up in 2004 after six years of hard work: her song “Shake Ya Body” did badly.

She grew up in Inglewood, California in Los Angeles county. Her mother was a photographer and her father worked in computers. They broke up when she was six. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school. She became very tall and thin. In the last year of high school she joined the Elite modelling agency.

Instead of going to university she went to Europe to become a model. Her mother went with her.

While she did have the height and weight (or lack of it) to be a model, her breasts were large and her face did not seem to be model material. Being black in such a white industry did not help either. But in whatever she does she gives it her all, works hard, aims to be perfect and has a never-say-die spirit.

In the end Paris loved her.

Her secret: “Believe it or not, I just really know how to pose well. It took me five years to learn what my best angles are.”

Naomi Campbell, the other famous black supermodel of the time, tried to get Tyra kicked out of fashion shows (fashion shows do not like to have “too many” black models). They were at odds and did not make up till 2005 when Naomi came on her talk show.

Tyra Banks has dated John Singleton and the singer Seal.

Playboy has asked her several times to appear in their magazine. Unlike Naomi, she always says no.

She says everything you see is completely natural except for her hair.


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Liris Crosse (1978- ), “shaped like the number 8”, is an American fashion model and video vixen. She was one of the first (and so far few) thick black women to become a fashion model. Before Toccara there was Liris.

She calls herself the Black Barbie: she looks like how a black Barbie doll should look: one with the shape of a black woman.

She is beautiful: I could look at her forever. She has cat-like eyes, high cheekbones, thick lips, an hourglass figure and a big, beautiful behind. Her eyes make her look a bit strange – but beautiful too.

But as beautiful as she is, it was hard for her to become a fashion model. Being black did not help, but worse than that she was seen as fat. The modelling agencies told her to come back when she lost some weight. She did, but it did not help.

In time she did get signed with a modelling agency, Wilhelmina. But she was considered a plus-sized model, meaning fat. This limited the work she could get.

The black models that came before her, like Naomi Campbell, Iman and Tyra Banks, were all tall and thin. But no matter how much weight Crosse lost she would never be thin like them: the shape of her body was all wrong.

But while the white people who ran the fashion industry saw her as fat, ordinary black people did not. She was fine the way she was – more than fine, in fact. Not because blacks like fat women or something, but because their idea of female beauty stands on this side of the stick-thin anorexia that white people like.

This gave Crosse an opening, but she would have to become her own agent since no modelling agency saw it. She talked directly to directors, magazine editors and others. They were not sold right away: even black magazine editors followed white ideas of beauty.

Her hero was Jennifer Lopez. She had a womanly shape too but she never let that stop her. Crosse took her example to heart. By never giving up no matter how many times she was told no, she broke through at last. “If you can think it, you can do it,” she says.

At first she appeared in magazines aimed mainly at black readers, like Essence, XXL and Honey. Later she was in mainstream ones, like Glamour and Seventeen. In time she modelled for Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart.

She achieved her long-time dream of appearing in Vogue in January 2008.

In addition to print modelling, she has also been in music videos and film. She is the woman in the gold dress in Jay-Z’s “Do It Again” (1999). You saw her with Tyrese in the film “Baby Boy” (2001).

She also hosts parties, sells swimsuit calendars, DVDs and T-shirts. She is even a character in a video game.

She knows Tyrese outside of work – they go to the same church. She is also friends with Toccara Jones.


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