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Leading The Way: Black Supermodels, Part 2

Black Supermodels are multi-faceted, and some are

even multi-millionaires. More importantly, they are role models to young minorities

- proving that the impossible is indeed possible.

 

Grace Jones, Veronica Webb, Naomi Sims, Naomi

Campbell and Djimon Hounsou are fine examples of how a small opportunity can

turn into a lifetime of great happenings.  

 

Grace

Jones

 Born in Jamaica in 1948, Grace Mendoza was a

gentle giant. She relocated to New York in 1965, and captivated the fashion

world under the moniker Grace Jones. An entrancing hair cut, particularly dark

skin tone and a grand stature put all eyes on her as she dominated runways. Using

the catwalk to further her singing and acting career, Grace had several successful

singles including “Pull Up To My Bumper,” “I Need A Man” and “My Jamaican Guy.”

 

With her inimitable look, she quickly became “The

Queen of Gay Discos” on the music scene, and was the muse for many artists, including the great Andy Warhol. She went on to be named one of VH-1’s

100 Greatest Women in Rock n’ Roll. In

the mid-‘80s she was honored for her acting skills as a Saturn Award Best

Supporting Actress nominee three times in a row.  A more familiar pop culture role may be when

she played alongside Eddie Murphy in the 1992 hit Boomerang.

 

Veronica

Webb

 

With a sister who’s an oncologist and another who

is a mathematician, many thought Veronica Webb was insane when she dropped out

of school to become a model. But she had great reason for doing what she did.

She didn’t choose to become a model so much for the glitz and glamour, but for

the way the models were animated on the runway.

 

During her tenure on the catwalk, she posed for

exquisite magazines such as ELLE, Vogue and Essence and showed off fashions from Karl Lagerfield and Isaac

Mizrahi. She even played a role in highly successful films such as Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992) and In Too Deep (1999). Aside from her jobs

as fashion model and actress, she went on to become a magazine editor, broadcaster,

spokesmodel and writer.

 

Naomi

Sims

The Naomi was Naomi Sims. Born in the trenches of Oxford, Mississippi in 1949, Naomi

was forever teased for her towering 5’10″ figure and skin tone. But as most models have done, she

turned the taunting into a tenacious career. After graduating high school in Pittsburg, PA, she studied merchandising at the Fashion Institute of

Technology in New York, and later psychology at New York University before dropping out to work. Despite the fact that modeling agencies turned her down left and right in the beginning, Ms. Sims was the

first model of color to gain worldwide recognition in the late ’60s. She landed her contract with the newly formed Wilhelmina Modeling Agency after mailing out her own 1967 New York Times cover (which she landed herself via the fashion editor of the paper), and booked enough gigs for Wilhelmina Cooper to take on the young model.

Over the years, Naomi has graced

the covers of numerous magazines including Cosmopolitan, Life, and Essence.  Unlike many models who venture into acting, she

turned down many roles, including the 1972 film Cleopatra Jones due to its’ stereotypical script. She quietly left the modeling

world at the age of 24 and built The Naomi Sims Collection, an empire of budding hair

weaves and cosmetic products. She has authored several books, lending her

expertise on all things beauty related.

 

Naomi

Campbell

 

The all-too familiar Naomi Campbell was introduced

to the world in 1970 in England and to the modeling world around 1985. She was

ultimately the first woman of color to cover Vogue Paris, Vogue UK, Vogue Nippon and Time magazines. She has ruled the runways of all major designers in

the United States and abroad.

 

Known to the Hip-Hop world for her music video

appearances (Jay Z, Prince, Usher and P. Diddy to name a few), Naomi initially became

part of the music industry in 1978 where she had a cameo in Bob Marley’s music

video “Is This Love?” She even released her own album Baby Woman, which was extremely successful in Japan.  She sang on Vanilla Ice’s single “Cool as Ice,”

and even had a song on the 1994 soundtrack for the film Heaven’s Girl.

 

Ms. Campbell is also the creator of several perfumes.

Since 1999, Naomi has released many seductive fragrances including Naomagic,

Mystery and Cat Deluxe at Night. She has also been involved with various charitable

organizations, and has worked with Nelson Mandela in Sub-Saharan Africa. As of

late, she was a part of the giving effort that contributed over one million

dollars to displaced Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana.   

 

Djimon

Hounsou

 

Forced to leave Benin, Africa at age 13 to attend

school in France with his brother, Djimon Hounsou had dreams of being in

theater. With an undying dream, he dropped out of college and left his home in

Lyons for the streets of Paris. A few homeless months turned into several years,

and Djimon believed that everything was working against him. Little did he know

a famed fashion designer was in search of him.

Thierry Muglar saw earlier

photos of Djimon and searched Paris until he found him. Djimon’s life went from

imperfect to impressive, as he became a top model on runways worldwide. In 1989, Madonna saw him modeling in Los Angeles

and enlisted him for her “Express Yourself” video. Since then, Djimon has

appeared in numerous videos and television shows including Alias, Beverly Hills 90210 and

ER. He’s landed commercial campaigns,

and of course he’s become a big screen movie star.

 

His breakout role was in the 1997 blockbuster Amistad, which garnered him a Golden

Globe Award nomination. His movie roles afterward seemed to grow larger and

gain him even more recognition. In 2000 he played a significant role in Gladiator, and four years later he

became the first Black African to be nominated for an Oscar for In America. For his role in the film Blood Diamond, he received three coveted

nominations (including another Oscar nod in the Supporting Actor category) and the

National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actor.

 

While waiting for more entrancing roles to come

about, Djimon has gone back to his roots as a model for Calvin Klein underwear.

A highly sought after model and actor, Djimon is also a humanitarian. Between

posing and acting, he is a Global Ambassador for Oxfam, a group working to

fight poverty, hunger and injustice worldwide.

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1 OF OUR BLACK SUPERMODELS FEATURE

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