Leading The Way: Black Supermodels

[Photo: Supermodel Alek Wek]


History month isn’t just about Ms. Rosa Parks or Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. Many other

Black people have made tremendous strides in business and entertainment.


as Barack Obama may pay particular homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and

Lebron James may have extreme admiration for Earl Lloyd, the first African-American

basketball player, those in the modeling industry have special people to whom

they specifically give thanks.


women such as Donyale Luna, Beverly Johnson, Iman Abdulmajid and even Tyra

Banks are all recognized pioneers in the modeling world. They were the first

African-American women to be on the cover of global magazines, and the only

women so far to turn simple walks down a runway into budding empires.


still, influential Black supermodels are not limited to Americans or even to women, as we

discuss in this special fashion feature.

Donyale Luna


her untimely passing in 1979, Detroit native Peggy Anne Freeman, known professionally as

Donyale Luna, was a graceful giant. Sleek and stylish at 6’2", Donyale brought

her elegance to the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965. She was the first colored

woman to cover British Vogue in 1966, and she even appeared nude in Playboy Magazine in 1975.


many say her demise was due to her own vices, Ms. Luna was a fine actress with roles in several films. She appeared in a few movies produced by eclectic Pop artist Andy Warhol, including Screen

Test: Donyale Luna and Camp. She also played the title character in the obscure Italian film Salome.

Beverly Johnson

New York's Beverly Johnson was the first African-American women to

cover American Vogue in 1974. Since then, she has turned her hikes on the

runway into a hair weave empire. The Beverly Johnson Collection features the

most top quality wigs and extensions in hair weave production to date. The duties of author, actress, model, entrepreneur and role model make up Beverly’s extensive

but exciting resume.

Alek Wek


a supermodel has turned life from turmoil to triumph for Sudan’s Alek Wek. The

seventh of nine children, Alek was discovered after she and her family fled from

their chaotic village. Since being exposed to the world of modeling, Alek has

been the feature face for Clinique makeup, Victoria’s Secret lingerie and

designer lines Calvin Klein and Donna Karen.


from that, she has been called upon to star in films and music videos. As of

late, Alek has designed a line of Wek 1933 handbags, has become a fine author

and an avid member on the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council.



instant success after appearing in the 1976 issue of Vogue, Iman has used her

catwalk presence for humanity. The daughter of a Somali Ambassador, Iman spent much of her childhood in Egypt, and later moved to Kenya. She is the Global Ambassador for the Keep A Child Alive campaign. That and her

latest movement, I AM AFRICAN, strive to put an end to AIDS in her native

Africa.Her successful Iman Cosmetics features a line of skincare designed with all women of color in mind.

Tyra Banks


all-too familiar Tyra Banks has become a model turned productionista since retiring

from the catwalk. Tyra was the first model to grace the covers of GQ, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Victoria’s Secret Catalog. From her runway days till now, Tyra helped create America’s Next Top Model,

a reality show designed to create opportunities for all women desiring to

follow in her footsteps.

TheTyra Banks Show, her daytime talk show

has already won a few Daytime Emmy Awards since its 2005 debut. An ex-model,

talk show host, producer, actress and one-time singer, Tyra is a true

go-getter. She puts in order what she wants and in due time, and she gets it.

Tyson Beckford


indulged in a life of drugs, sex and violence, Tyson Beckford thought he would

live and die in the streets of New York. But after an impromptu meeting, Tyson

was convinced to sign with a modeling agency and soon became one of the most

sought after male models.

The prominent face of Ralph Lauren, Tyson turned

his chance meeting in a New York park into an extensive modeling and acting

career. He

has been named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People magazine, and even nabbed the “Man of the Year” honor from VH-1. He now co-hosts the Bravo TV show

Make Me A Supermodel as well. Being such a successful male in the modeling

industry Tyson has begun to inspire young, African-American males to join him

in his successes. Tyson proves that being beautiful isn’t just a woman’s work.


actresses, authors, designers, entrepreneurs, producers, and television hosts

are what models have the power to become. Although Donyale, Beverly, Alek,

Iman, Tyra and Tyson only make up a fraction of successful models, their gift

for graciousness and eye for entrepreneurship has hailed them as leading

individuals in all races African.