Before their time: Donyale Luna

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As many interested in fashion know, it has not gone unnoticed that fashion has suffered from a lack of diversity in the past few years.  A few months ago, American Vogue had an article titled, “Is Fashion Racist”, which featured Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn and Arlenis Sosa. And Black models (and other ethnicities) have been missing from Vogue’s cover and editorials until very recently. Italian Vogue published their “All Black” issue in July to much fanfare and it became a best seller. And Ms. Naomi Campbell has spoken up about the issue and is said to be planning a London agency for Black models.

This brings me to the topic of this post, Ms. Donyale Luna.  Ms. Luna was the first Black model to grace the cover of Vogue magazine in 1966.  Born in Detroit with the birth name Peggy Ann Freeman, Ms. Luna was discovered by photographer David McCabe and quickly moved to New York to start her career.  In addition to a modeling career, Ms. Luna was also a party of Andy Warhol’s Factory and starred in a Federico Fellini film.  As a model, Luna supposedly demanded $60 a day for bookings, which was a pretty hefty rate during those times.  During my research, I saw an excellent post from Afrobella, who excellently summed up her life and career.

The real shame is  that Ms. Luna seemed to deny her Black ancestry and claimed anything but.  In a profile written by Judy Stone for the New York Times, Luna’s background was described as ” Mexican, American Indian, Chinese, Irish and, last but least escapable, Negro”. When asked if she thought her appearances in films would bring more opportunity for Black actresses, she remarked, ““If it brings about more jobs for Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Negroes, groovy. It could be good, it could be bad. I couldn’t care less.” Luna’s career declined when she started to exhibit unprofessional behavior.  She died of a drug overdose in 1979.

Seeing how hard the path is for Black models today, Ms Luna definitely blazed a trail whether she wanted to or not.   Imagining how hard it was for her in the 1960’s, Luna definitely rose to succeed beyond expectations.   Here are a few more pics of Ms. Luna that I found from this website, The Beautiful and the Damned.

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One response to “Before their time: Donyale Luna

  1. That is a sad story.

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