“Fashion has a notoriously complicated history when it comes to black models, but the past month felt particularly loaded with talking points: Prada hired their first black model for a campaign in nineteen years; Kinee Diouf became the first black model on the cover of Vogue Netherlands, months after the magazine had painted a white model in “blackface”; and then Raf Simons cast black runway models – six of them – in his Dior couture show for the first time since he arrived at the house. It’s slow progress since Donyale Luna became the first black supermodel nearly 50 years ago. Especially since most inveterate fashion-watchers don’t even know Luna’s name.”
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Why has Donyale Luna, the woman whom the New York Times called, “a stunning Negro model whose face had the hauteur and feline grace of Nefertiti” and became a superstar in Europe fallen into obscurity? It has been fifty years since Luna’s heyday. She was the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue eight years before Beverly Johnson’s much celebrated groundbreaking American Vogue cover. Why has she faded to black while other supermodels like Johnson and Twiggy have risen to iconic status?