Our commemoration of Black History Month continues with the second installment of Black History Month Does Fashion, the highlighting of black supermodels of the present.
In this first part of the series, we highlighted the original path builders who brought color to the mute runway: two of the timeless beauties of Versailles, Bethann Hardison and Pat Cleveland, and the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue, Beverly Johnson.
These women and their stories are shared in commemoration for dedicating their lives, careers and voices to the empowerment and progression of black people. GlobalGrind salutes you.
Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid
Iman's start in modeling sings a different song from those of her modeling peers. Born in Somalia in 1955 to a family that was fairly well off - her father a diplomat, her mother a gynecologist - Iman was discovered by a scout while she was in University. Iman's first assignment was with Vogue in 1976 and she has since continued to grow exponentially in her career. The growth and adjustment to living in a new country, however, did not come without its perils.
In a 1980 interview with People Magazine, Iman addressed how she conquered being angry about racism: "I will never forget the first time I tried to get a taxi at night in New York, only to be ignored because I was black," she says. "It took a long time to realize that being angry at fools was a waste of time."
Iman didn't allow cultural ignorance to deter her success, she went on to flourish in modeling for 9 more years before entering a soft retirement in 1989. Iman, now married to the famed David Bowie, may have ended her modeling career, but never stopped being a role model and activist. Today she is the CEO of the flourishing Iman cosmetics and continues to be a flawless role model for models on the rise.
One of the original Victoria’s Secret Angels may simply be known to many today for her work on America’s Next Top Model, but Tyra’s quest as America’s real top model really began in 1991, reached its high in 1997, and has continued to grow steadily since. Discovered while in high school, the California native evolved from the world of runways to the cover of magazines and became the first African-American model to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Today, in addition to her strangle hold on the molding of tomorrow’s models, Tyra is one of four African Americans and seven women to have repeatedly ranked among the world's most influential people by Time magazine.
In a generation of change, Naomi Campbell managed to rank her name in the top three of the most in demand models of the 1990s. Discovered at the age of 15, Naomi’s personal life was tormented with its variation of highs and lows, but her career steadily remained on the ups. Just before her 16th birthday, Naomi appeared on the cover of British Elle and has since continued to dominate magazine covers. Naomi was also noted for being the first black model to appear on covers of both British and French Vogue and continues to produce top-notch editorial feature shoots.
As the first black model to sign an exclusive cosmetics contract with Revlon, Veronica Webb shared her modeling space with mega mainstream models such as Cindy Crawford. Discovered in 1985 while shopping in New York City’s SoHo, the Michigan-born girl entered a stride to fashion stardom walking in a multitude of high fashion shows and starring in Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever. Current-day, Veronica has put a hiatus on her modeling career to mother her 2 daughters, but has since become the co-host for Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.
Missed the first installment of Black History Does Fashion? Read it here.