The LIT History Series is for the Legends, Innovators, and Trailblazers that have shaped our culture. I love history, and in turn, I love Black history. So much of our culture has been defined by those who've come before us, so I write this to capture and chronicle our narratives.
Donyale Luna is definitely a trailblazer, but her story is also a tragic one. While we recognize the iconic Beverly Johnson as the first black supermodel to grace the cover of a major fashion magazine with her 1974 Vogue cover, eight years earlier Donyale Luna dawned the cover of British Vogue. This made her the first black supermodel to appear on the cover of a major fashion magazine, and the first to appear on the cover of Vogue.
Donyale was born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Michigan. She was discovered by legendary photographer David McCabe while she was still in high school, and just two years later, she moved to New York and then to London.
In January 1965, a sketch of her appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, and one year after that she appeared on the cover of British Vogue.
Luna became one of the first black models to attain superstar status in Europe, and she was photographed by the legendary photographer David Bailey, famed for his images of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. She went on to appear in numerous fashion shoots and movies, and she also became friends with the likes of Miles Davis, Mia Farrow, and Andy Warhol.
“Why don’t we know her name? Because we don’t have people writing her story,” Beverly Johnson said in an interview with USA Today. “I feel it’s really important to tell our stories; warts and all. The good and the bad. It inspires me to know that I’m not the only one with challenges and I made it through.”
“She was one of those legends in our industry; one of the shoulders I stood on,” Johnson added.
Unfortunately, Luna's fashion career was short-lived. She rose to the top very quickly, and her fast life led her to the fast and destructive world of LSD and heroin. At the young age of 33, Luna died of an overdose while living in Italy.
Despite Luna's groundbreaking firsts, she's not widely recognized for her role in the fashion industry. Both her life and her career were cut short, but she made the way for more women of color to break into the fashion industry, even if the industry still has a long way to go.
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Tyra Banks is going from slaying the runway to slaying the classroom.
The supermodel is teaming up with Stanford University professor Allison Kluger to co-lecture a spring course for M.B.A. students called, “Project You: Building & Extending Your Personal Brand”.
The two-credit course offered to 25 graduate students will demonstrate how to create brand identity and strategy, maximize media exposure media and evolve a long-term image for sustainability.
Here is an excerpt from the course description.
Within a highly interactive learning environment, image transformations, live broadcasting of presentations at a television station, live streaming of portions of the class on Facebook Live, and YouTube recordings of presentations will all be part of the assignments and requirements. The class culminates with the students sharing their honed personal brand to the public via three viable platforms (Facebook Live, local television, YouTube) to jump-start their personal brand extension.
An assignment is already due before the first class. Students are required to film a 1:30 video stating "Who you are, what your personal brand is, and what you want it to be".
Banks, who holds an MBA certificate from Harvard, is no stranger to mastering the many keys of personal branding. She leveraged her supermodel status to create America’s Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show. Her brand continued to evolve beyond reality TV. She owns TYRA Beauty, a self-funded startup cosmetics brand. Her MBA Certificate was earned in an effort to help build and monetize startup. From launching an international career and building wealth as an entrepreneur all without ever leaving one version of herself behind, Banks might just be the perfect model for this course.
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Is this what it feels like to feel absolutely beautiful? I look at my reflection in the mirror, studying every nook and cranny of my face, blushing slightly while everyone and everything in the room completely disappears. I see the mixture of love, sacrifices and ancestry it took to make me, Me. In that moment, I didn't want to be anybody in the world but me. I felt nothing but self-love and gratitude.
In my lifetime, I am going to break barriers. To change the stereotypes people think of when they see me — stereotypes of what a "perfect," "beautiful" or "powerful" woman looks like. I want other people with disabilities to see me and know that it is okay, to feel that it is okay, to believe that it is okay. To have a disability and just live.
Society is hard on women. We are encouraged to be glamorous but down to earth, to always prioritize male feelings over our own. We are taught that if we dance, we must dance to appease men, and if we wear flattering clothes, it’s because we want attention. I dress how I do because I want my style to reflect my emotions and my personality. It's not for other people. I own my body. It is mine.
This is for my roots. For Brooklyn. For the Bay Area. For my family. For Afro-Latinas everywhere. The fire that burns inside of me burns inside all of us and can never be put out. We have survived and will continue to survive. We will build and continue to love and appreciate each other. We are glorious.
“I love myself” is the Quietest. Simplest. Most powerful. Revolution. Ever.
This is for the people who send my body messages of prayer And think I openly receive it — I do not. “Believe in God and He will heal you!” they say. As if I wasn’t created with Grace for a purpose. They believe I would not choose this body, if given another chance.
Oh, but how wrong they are: I worship my body and accept my disability. Neither are a burden to me. Glory to the twisted, the unbroken, the not mangled. Glory to those of us who know what it’s like to live with a disability and be thankful.
I want to bring all of me to the forefront. I want to talk about being black, being Latina and being disabled. I want to talk about poverty and history and forgiveness. I want to talk about intersectionality, magic and injustice. May we continue to create a world where all of us can and will survive.
This is in homage to Donyale Luna. Donyale Luna was a fierce woman who became the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue. She was rebellious, defiant and distinctly beautiful. We share the same almond shaped eyes and long, spidery fingers. We are daring. She inspired this photo-project and I feel an immense amount of connection to this beauty who unapologetically created her dreams. Donyale Luna, thank you for being from “the moon.”
"Break the rules
And never regret
Anything that makes you smile"
Society says that people with disabilities are weak. That we want to be pitied or we’d rather be dead. We are “inspirations” when seen out in the world. Because society tells us that we are not beautiful, “normal” that we need to be fixed or cured. Because we aren’t white and abled-bodied with perfect bodies we aren’t deserving. Deserving of love, sex, respect and everyday lives. But, does it look like I give a care about what society says?
Director: Hazel Streete, Her Resilience
Photographers: Nicholas Lea Bruno, Nathan M. Benzschawel
Model: Gigi Giscome'
Location: Ashkenaz, Berkeley CA
Video: Qian Zhou, Daisy, Bo Yan, Vesna Zhou
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Many think that being a supermodel looks like the most glamorous and easy job in the history of entertainment professions. Just show up, look good, and pose in whichever way that exudes the aura of the collection you are modeling. Seems simple, right? Behind the camera, emotions run deeper than the pain from the stilettos on your feet or plucking false eyelashes off your eyelids. Without a doubt, we all know that with much success comes many hurdles, and being a model in the fashion industry isn’t any different from a lawyer trying to climb to the top of their firm. From wage differences to weight restrictions, models face many hardships while trying to cascade their way to editorial fame. And specifically black, Hispanic and Asian models can add racial discrimination to their long list of difficulties to face while they try to break fashion ground.
Being very vocal about the discrimination toward black models and other models of colour in the industry, Naomi Campbell has vowed to never be silent in her experiences, and notices of the lack of representation. Having always voiced her opinion and concerns publicly about the lack of different races on and off the runway, the 46-year-old makes it clear to everyone in and out of the industry of the multi-million dollar business’s lack of racial inclusion.
British model Jourdan Dunn has also taken a stand against discrimination in the fashion industry in many press conferences and to media outlets, and even shared one of her first-hand experiences in 2013 on the popular British talk show The Jonathan Ross Show. Dunn was told before a fashion show that a makeup artist refused to do her makeup because she has dark skin.
As if experiencing discrimination in the fashion industry isn’t enough, black models are also being faced with brutal attacks from police. With the recent murders of Alston Sterling and Philando Castile, the world was at a standstill when the videos of both men being murdered at the hands of police were released.
Celebrities quickly took to their social media accounts to share their outrage on the matter, but Sudanese-born, Australian-raised international model Ajak Deng shared a personal story of her own police attack.
On the day following the Alton Sterling shooting, Deng emotionally shared her experience with police brutality while coming home from a job in New York in a four-part Instagram video series. With rage and pain in her voice, Deng recalled the horrific ordeal as she pushes through the past experience to share the events of that evening with followers.
“Two years ago I was almost killed by two white officers in front of my building trying to get out of a taxi from Manhattan to Brooklyn after work. I called my agency, no one was there to answer. I called my agent, she answered, and guess what she said? ‘White people love black people. It is all in your head, relax, breathe, let it go, we love you.” As she holds up her elbows and points to her knees to revel the dark marks that are still evident from the attack, Deng continues, “Honey I’ve been through this, and that’s why it is so painful for me to deal with it! And I hate it so much and it’s so frustrating! But you know what, no one is there to protect me.”
No support from the agency that monetizes off her beauty, and no support from her parents who have never been to America and don’t understand the racism that runs deep within the country, Deng, who has voiced her opinion about racism in the fashion industry earlier this year and has threatened to quit the industry, is left to fend for herself as she navigates her way through her agency and the injustices of the country. She expressed that she's forever grateful to her neighbor, who filmed the attack, and she's glad that she's alive and has the chance to share her story with others and has a platform to make a difference.
Later in her videos, Deng makes avid points about racist white people making money off others for profit, while not caring about the person they're making money off of. Especially in the entertainment and fashion world, there are many black people and other people of color who are not from America and experience police brutality and racism. It's heartbreaking knowing that Deng, a model who has graced many fashion magazines, campaigns and runway shows, was a victim of police harassment without the support of the people who endorse, promote and encourage her career.
The support from the fashion industry is needed now more than ever to fairly represent their black models and other models of color. By taking a stand to support these models both on and off the runway, it will show the world that not only is fashion inclusive, but it encourages and gives a voice to all races — especially people of color. The fashion industry should open their eyes and realize that racists don’t care if you’re an international figure who has traveled internationally or rubbed elbows with the world’s most elite, all they see is color.
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Instagram is doing its part by ensuring all aspects of fashion are equally showcased. The photo-sharing app launched #RunwayForAll on Monday, an initiative designed to encourage diversity and inclusivity in the fashion world, particularly for models. Every day this week, IG promises to showcase the stories of models who are "redefining industry standards making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll."
First up, Mama Cax (@caxmee). She's a blogger and freelance model based in New York.
“The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she says. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.”
“#RunwayForAll means any teenager feels represented when they open a magazine or watch a fashion show,” says Mama Cax (@caxmee). Mama grew up in Haiti, lives in New York City and never aspired to be a model — “not only because there were very few dark models on magazine covers but also because I grew up with very little knowledge of the fashion industry,” she says. “Eight years ago, after getting my leg amputated, the idea of being a model was even more far-fetched.” Today, Mama is modeling and doing other things that she was told there was no audience for, like sharing tips for traveling as a black female amputee. “The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she says. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @caxmee by @simonhuemaen
A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on May 30, 2016 at 8:00am PDT
Tuesday's post featured Shaun Ross (@shaundross), the first male albino professional model who is openly gay.
“I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” he says.
“#RunwayForAll is a world where everyone is treated the same,” says Shaun Ross (@shaundross). When he started modeling nearly a decade ago, Shaun was the only male model of color with albinism. “I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” he says. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like @winnieharlow, @jilly_peppa and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.” When he started, Shaun was one of a few openly gay models in the industry. “Agents always told male models to be masculine, but that was never the case for me. I never wanted to hide my sexuality,” he says. “I’d rather be myself.” Photo by @shaundross
A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on May 31, 2016 at 8:02am PDT
Follow the #RunwayForAll hashtag to see more models challenging mainstream beauty standards with their own kickass definitions.
What do you think about Instagram's newest campaign? Let us know in the comments.
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Chanel Iman is feeling purple in this upcoming spread for Harper's Bazaar Serbia. The actress and model honors the late entertainer Prince in the magazine's tribute to "The Purple One."
According to Refinery29, the spread was shot by Joshua Jordan at Electric Lady Studios, a location Prince is said to have loved. Iman sports many of Prince's signature looks, including his lace gloves.
Iman took inspiration from her mother for some of the Prince looks. Jordan said, "She showed us pictures of her mom in the Afro, and when she put it on, it was as if we moved into the future and flashed back to the past."
Yacine Diallo, a makeup artist for the shoot, said that the shoot was not only a tribute to Prince, but also the women in his life. "The story was also a tribute to all the talented, beautiful, and sexy women like Vanity 6, Sheila E., Wendy, and Lisa he had on stage with him throughout his career. Chanel Iman was perfect to interpret this sensuality and freedom that always inspired me while growing up watching Prince videos and listening to his music."
The full spread will be available on May 21.
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Different television shows and movies are a big part of childhood for a lot of people. What cartoons you watched on Saturday morning, or what movies you and your friends crowded around the TV for on a Friday night are fun memories. Media had a big influence on Mayara Efe when she was younger, but her memories aren't fun.
Growing up as a plus-size, gay black girl in Brazil, Mayara never saw people like herself on television or in magazines. She didn't see black women in print, and didn't see LGBTQ characters on television.
“I was born black, in a poor neighborhood and I’ve always been fat, always the 'chubby one' in comparison to the other kids,” Mayara tells Teen Vogue. “I feel that the beauty standard established in society is very unfair, and it is even more hypocritical in Brazil, which has the second largest black population in the world. Brazil is a mixed-race country, with different kinds of shaped bodies and even so, when you turn on the TV, open a magazine, see a billboard or a fashion campaign, all you see are tall, thin, white people.”
Because she didn't see anyone like herself, Mayara felt she wasn't quite right. She felt like she should try harder to become what society was telling her was good and pretty: white and thin with straight hair. Mayara went on a years-long quest to look like those women she saw in media. She tried to lose weight by drinking bitter teas, by restricting what she ate and even taking weight-loss drugs.
On top of that, Mayara also straightened her hair to look more like the women on the screen. She basically tried every way she knew how of changing herself. With the images of thin white womenconstantly on screen, the portrayal of LGBT characters pretty much non-existant, and the insults from her family and classmates, Mayara says it was hard to love herself. She became depressed and even attempted suicide.
Maybe you know how Mayara was feeling. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 7.4% of girls between 12 and 17 years old are depressed. Minorities and people living below the poverty line in America are also more likely to experience depression. In every single age group, the percentage of girls and women who experience depression is higher than the percentage of men. With the rise of social media, the pressure to fit in is still strong, and trying to fit in with the beauty ideals constantly being pushed at you can make you feel even worse.
“I felt like an impostor. No matter how much I tried, I was not even close to what people presented to me as ideal beauty. I was a very outgoing girl, but over the years and after trying so hard to fit into that mold, I ended up losing all my confidence,” Mayara explained. “I felt I was ugly, inadequate, and incapable to do anything because of the size of my body, my skin tone, and my hair’s texture.”
“I lost my voice, the joy and zest that I had for life,” Mayara continues. “I became increasingly anxious and depressed, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought about dying."
If you, like Mayara and so many other girls, feel this way, there is a way out. For Mayara, that way out came when she discovered feminism. At nearly 20 years old, Mayara started learning about self-love through feminism. She realized that her self-worth was not based in what boys thought of her, or about the things other people made fun of her for. Her self-worth, Mayara found, is based in loving her body and her self for how she is. Feminism taught Mayara, she says, that beauty doesn’t fit in one box, that women don’t need to depend on male approval to be beautiful, and that she doesn’t need to withstand abusive relationships.
“Just these simple questions took an enormous weight off my shoulder and set me free,” she says. “I evolved so much that I no longer fit inside the person that I was, I was becoming this person that I am today.”
Something else that helped Mayara become who she is today are photos. Once she started gaining confidence, Mayara posted pictures to Instagram that her grandmother snapped. Her pictures took off, and now Mayara is a body-positive activist and a plus-size model. She’s sharing her photos now as part of Instagram’s #MyStory series, a campaign that honors the diversity, power, and beauty of all types of women by giving them a platform to share their stories in their own words – or images. Also part of the #MyStory initiative is teen feminist powerhouse Rowan Blanchard.
O bonde passoooou, as novinha observô
A photo posted by Mayara Efe (@mayaraefe) on Dec 25, 2015 at 6:54am PST
As part of the movement, Mayara is getting her message out that girls can stand strong on their own. It’s women’s responsibility to make sure girls know that they don’t need to succumb to society’s beauty standards, and that what they see on TV isn’t the only thing that’s out there. It’s women’s responsibility, she says, to make sure what’s on TV becomes more representative of the truth.
“This is a job that I don’t see as theirs, but as ours: women who have been through it and conscious media that try to break this beauty standard. It is our job to reach out to these girls and make them understand that their bodies belong to them and they are beautiful no matter what,” Mayara says. “I truly believe in this new generation, women across different social backgrounds are increasingly breaking all of these standards that were imposed upon them, and they are coming out and speaking up.”
"Up until my early twenties, I tried changing my hair in all possible ways to make it look like what I thought society considers 'right.' After all, how could I embrace my curly hair if nobody has it?" Mayara says. "That is why I truly believe that being represented is important. If you find someone with your skin tone or sexual orientation, with your body as a main character on a TV program or film (and not just an extra to pretend that there is diversity in the cast), you will feel motivated to embrace who and what you are."
Ainda é 3 da tarde mas já destruí a internet duas vezes. Lingerie:::: The Bralette Boutique ❤️
A photo posted by Mayara Efe (@mayaraefe) on Feb 15, 2016 at 9:27am PST
Mayara is making sure to do her part in representing black, curvy, LGBTQ- identified women in the media. After all, it was seeing a black woman on TV that planted the seeds for Mayara to eventually realize she could do anything. It was Whoopi Goldberg and Mayara was 9 years old. She says she ran all over her house, alerting everyone that there was a black woman on television who wasn’t a maid.
“At that exact moment, I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be. I think that’s the importance of spreading the message of self-respect and representation,” she says. “I remember the mixed feeling of happiness and surprise when I saw Tess Holliday become the first plus-size woman in history to sign a contract with an important agency. Now I know I can.”
A photo posted by Mayara Efe (@mayaraefe) on Feb 18, 2016 at 5:10am PST
“And I want to tell every girl that feels ugly, excluded and not represented is that there’s nothing wrong with them. Society is all wrong, not you. You are great,” Mayara continues. “So, stop caring and get up to conquer your place, and your place is to be happy.”
This post originally appeared on TeenVogue.com
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Diamond Divani is a model, actress and blogger born in Winston-Salem, NC and raised in Raleigh, NC. In 2013, she decided to venture out and move to New York to see what else life and the fashion industry had to offer. Since then, Diamond has worked with published and celebrity photographers, has modeled in New York Fashion Week and also has worked as a background extra on 50 Cent's hit television series, Power.
Although the model life was very rewarding, she still felt unfulfilled. Diamond created her lifestyle, fashion and natural hair blog to share her new and everyday experiences. DiamondDivani.com was born and has been a huge blessing in her life and career. She hopes that people can look to her as an inspiration, knowing that although discouraging times do come, you can persevere and make it through.
You can check out past editions of MADE here.
The MADE campaign focuses on the journey of entrepreneurship; the good, the bad and the indefinite. Drawing much inspiration from MTV’s MADE series, where everyday people overcame fears to be the very best version of them, we aim to do the same. We hope to inspire others by handpicking select influencers to share their intimate journey of becoming MADE.
Campaign Presented on behalf of Malyia McNaughton, Made by Malyia Jewelry
Creative Direction: Sherod Lewis, Heir PR (@heirsherrod)
Videography: Shayla Jaye, Shayla Jaye Productions (@lipstickndlashes)
MUA: Dominique Jenelle...