Donyale Luna, born Peggy Anne Freeman, was the first Black supermodel.
At 6’2”, her altitudinous height was perfectly accompanied by larger-than-life almond shaped eyes, a lanky but svelte frame, and gawking gorgeous looks—apparently too hard to pass up, even in the thick of racism, she was sought out to be the “it” girl.
Discovered in the mid 1960’s when Blacks were thought of as less than whole human beings, let alone anything remotely super.
The name change is only a peak into what she altered. She notoriously wore piercing blue contacts beyond and during photo shoots and reportedly invented a myriad of ethnicities, opposed to being a Negro. However, it’s unclear and borderline gossip, why she felt the need to hide behind who she wasn’t.
Of all the pictures I have seen of her, besides a worshiper of dark brow pencil and a fab extending lash mascara, she was a minimalist with makeup. Her beauty was simply enough (and this is before all the tech-tweaking stunts available nowadays). By all appearances, she didn’t have issues with her features rather the skin tone housing her features.
If you’ve never heard of Donyale Luna, well, murky revelations of her background could have played a role. After all, being the first Black supermodel should be readily mentioned in our info obsessed culture of fashion and beauty.
Famously quoted, “I couldn’t care less “when asked about opening doors for women of color may have been reversibly prophetic.
I do think much of her comment is out of context. Her background screams escapism which could explain her comment. Luna was early 20’s, too young and unpolished to handle a career of sorts. Her mother killed her father. She moved overseas due to racism to gain more modeling gigs. She experienced racism while in Italy while earning the highest wage for a model in the 1960’s—a meager 60 bucks a day.
I think she was trying to find a mode of survival. It was not uncommon for Blacks to "pass" in those years and there is much left unsaid when history is recorded. Who’s to say what she failed to say about her experiences while trailblazing as a supermodel—a Black supermodel.
Luna, was spotted by a photographer not a modeling cast—she had a gift. So gifted, in 1966, a year after being discovered, a Time magazine article, “Luna Year” donned her as the hottest model for years to come and was the first Black to grace British Vogue the exact year.
A double threat, she landed movie roles and dabbled in the party scene aka drugs. Infamously she bragged about her love for LSD in an interview and became a “prima donna”. She would be dead 13 years later of an accidental drug overdose. Sadly, the gunk overtook the gift.