Renauld White, the renowned model who spent much of his career advocating for more diversity in the fashion industry, has died at age 80. White, who became the second Black model to grace the cover of GQ in 1979, died while he was in hospice care at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, WWD reported. The cause of death is not known.

Throughout his career, White modeled for some of the most popular brands, including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. He also represented Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Versace, Armani and Cerutti. In 2023, White came out of retirement and appeared in an ad for  Dolce & Gabbana.

He also spent two years in the 1980s playing Willie Reynolds on the CBS soap opera, Guiding Light. 

White’s longtime friend and designer Jeffrey Banks said the iconic model was a “ groundbreaker.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jeffrey Banks (@jeffreybanksdesign)

“There were very few Black models at the time,” Banks told WWD. “He really broke barriers. When they had a party for him in Newark for his 50-year anniversary in the fashion industry, he was very proud of the progress and how he opened the doors for other people.”

White started his modeling career in the 1960s after attending Rutgers University for a short time and continued his career for much longer than people expected, Banks added.

In a 2011 interview, White talked about how he was putting pressure on agents to bring more diversity to the industry.

“I wanted to bring about change. I really confronted the establishment about why there were not more Black male images,” White said, per WWD. “At first, I thought I was going to get thrown in jail and beaten up because of my approach. But then they realized that they were wrong and that they were behind society and behind the times, and that they had to listen to me.”

White also talked about his effort to inspire more young people.

“Modeling is only a bridge. What are you going to do after modeling is over?” White said. “I had a 30-plus-year career. They don’t make those anymore. I encourage them to do amazing things. Take the money, go to school, open up a business, be an entrepreneur and be self-reliant.”