Showroom Celebrates: Donyale Luna & Naomi Sims

Posted by Erin Carter on

This year's theme for Black History Month is African Americans and the Arts and what better way to celebrate than to honor the models that ruled the runway in the 60s and 70s along with other legends that transformed the world of fashion. Follow along all month as we walk the runway of nostalgia and celebrate the Black icons that made history.
Donyale Luna’s modeling career was launched in April 1965 when Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine that had never had a Black person on its cover before, featured a line-drawing sketch of Luna. Luna was then signed to an exclusive one-year contract with Harper’s legendary fashion photographer, Richard Avedon.
Donyale Luna, in March 1966, became the first African American model to grace the cover of the British edition of Vogue.  Luna also became the first black fashion icon, and her face and form inspired the first black mannequin produced in 1967.

While in New York, Luna was embraced by Andy Warhol and his entourage, and she appeared in five of Warhol’s experimental films.

Luna moved to London, England, in December 1965 and soon became a success in Europe as a model, inspiring Time magazine to proclaim 1966 as “The Year of Luna.”

In 1975, Luna married Luigi Cazzaniga, an Italian photographer.  She passed away at age 33, on May 17, 1979,  leaving behind her daughter, Dream Cazzaniga, who was not quite two years old.


Naomi Ruth Sims is widely credited as the first African-American supermodel. A businesswoman and author,  Sims was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of LIFE magazine and Ladies’ Home Journal.

After moving with her family from Mississippi to Pennsylvania, her mother became ill and Naomi and her siblings were placed in foster care. At 5'10" as a freshman in high school, Sims became a target of bullying over her unusual height by her classmates.

After high school, Sims attended college after winning a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and by 1970, Sims would quickly become one of the first successful black models, achieving worldwide recognition.

Sims retired from modeling in 1973 at the age of twenty-five to start her own business. She created a successful wig collection that expanded into a multimillion dollar beauty empire, including five books on modeling and beauty. Naomi Sims died of breast cancer on August 1, 2009, at the age of 61.


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