Archive for the ‘supermodels’ 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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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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Twiggy (1949- ) was a British supermodel famous in the 1960s. Back then she seemed shockingly thin and boy-like, even to white people, but now most high fashion models are like that. Current ideas of thin as beautiful start with her.

Marshall McLuhan said, “Twiggy is an X-ray, not a picture.”

Diana Vreeland, the head of Vogue magazine in the 1960s said she was perfect: “the straightest legs, knees like little peaches, tiny narrow supple feet, rounded arms, and beautiful wrists and throat. She was both modern and romantic.”

When asked about her figure Twiggy said, “It’s not really what you call a figure, is it?

But what mattered most was not what McLuhan, Twiggy or even Vreeland thought, but what the fashion designers thought. They loved her figure, or the lack of it: she made their clothes look so wonderful.

Her height was 1.69 metres (5 foot 6.5 inches), her weight, 41 kg (90 pounds) and her measurements, 81-58-81 cm (32AA-23-32). She barely had any breasts. She was anorexic-thin without being anorexic: she ate like a horse.

Growing up, Twiggy hated her figure: “You were supposed to look like Brenda Lee, very curvy and round, pointed breasts and pointed-toe shoes,” she said. She only started to like her figure once it made her rich and famous.

She was so thin that the other children called her “Twigs”. No matter how much she ate she did not gain much weight. Her mother took her to the doctor to see what was wrong. Nothing was wrong: it was just the way she was.

Born Lesley Hornby, she grew up in north London. By age 15 she had dropped out of school and worked for a hairdresser. Against her mother’s wishes she took up with a man ten years older than her, Nigel Davies.

But Davies was no ordinary man: against all common sense of the time, he thought she could become a model. He had her hair cut short and put her picture in shop windows. Her look caught on. By 1966 the Daily Express called her “The Face of 66”. In 1967 she came to America and was famous overnight.

She spoke English not in the RP of the Queen and the rich, but in the Cockney of the ordinary people of London. She wore the new mod fashions of Mary Quant, who wanted to bring high fashion to the masses.

In 1970 Twiggy left modelling to sing and act. Most of her stuff is forgettable, but she was good in “My One and Only” with Tommy Tune on Broadway in the 1980s and in the film “The Boy Friend” (1971). One of her songs reached number 1 in Japan and another reached number 35 in Britain in 1977.

In the 2000s she was a judge on Tyra Banks’s television show “America’s Next Top Model”. She also modelled for Marks & Spencer, the British department store.

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