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In 1974, Beverly Johnson was the first black model on the cover of American Vogue, and a year later, she was the first black woman on the cover of French Elle. Since her heyday in the seventies, Johnson has been honored by Oprah Winfrey, and named to the New York Times list of the most influential people in fashion.
In 1966, two years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Donyale Luna became the first black model on the cover of any MORE: From Cindy Crawford to Karlie Kloss: The 18 Hottest All-American Models Slowly but surely, black models began to break through the racial divide in fashion.It seemed that modeling agencies, designers, and editors all tended to look for one type of body, one type of face, and one skin color.Baker and Holiday were major outliers in the racially-segregated, largely conservative milieu of the early to mid-twentieth century, as black women were afforded very little recognition in any field by mainstream media during this time period.In the 1960s and ’70s, ground-breakers like Luna, Pat Cleveland, Grace Jones and, eventually, Iman, started appearing on the scene, oftentimes championed as one designer’s muse.Cleveland and Luna were undisputed darlings of the mod Youth Quake fashion scene of the sixties, and they set the stage for more and more black models to break into the industry.Known for outrageous, avant-garde personal style, she's depicted here in 1960.
Along with notorious sixties It Girls like Edie Sedgewick and Viva, Luna was one of Andy Warhol's "Superstars," and appeared in several of his films, in addition to some of Fellini's films. Sims started modeling after getting a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and was one of the first models to sign to the Wilhemina Agency.
While Prada’s runways still aren’t winning any prizes for diversity, Bruna’s appearance in its campaign is a clear indicator that fashion is moving further and further away from the racial boundaries that have limited the scope and impact of the industry during the past century.
MORE: Models Are Getting So Skinny That Editors Are Doing WHAT?! The Jamaican singer, actress, and model was one of the first black women in the business, where she modeled in Paris for designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo, before appearing on numerous magazine covers.
She became a modeling scout, and discovered fellow superstar Naomi Campbell.
Recently, she has been involved in a campaign to improve the diversity of the fashion industry, targeted at the CFDA. She continued modeling into the '80s, and then mostly retreated from the industry when she married and had children, but continues to make occasional runway and editorial appearances.
In 2010, she received a "Fashion Icon" award from the CFDA, and Iman has been married to musician David Bowie since 1992.