Unrequited Love: Fashioning While Black

Donyale Luna, British Vogue, 1966

By now, most have heard about the controversial and racially derogatory H&M ad featuring a young Black boy wearing a hoodie which references him being the “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The brand has since issued an apology. I could devote pages as to why the ad was perceived as racist and offensive to some given a specific historical context, but this particular racial myopia is only one element of the fashion industry that is problematic (I spoke about another regarding accessibility for legally blind photographers in a prior article). So, while this issue, and its implications, are important, it is not one I will focus on in this article. It merely represents a piece of a larger puzzle (rather, minefield) that Black folks and other people of colour must navigate on a daily basis, whether as creators, photographers, or models (of all ages), where we remain largely absent or underrepresented, particularly as decision-makers.

Today, I learned that the first Black supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue was not in fact Beverly Johnson, but Donyale Luna, who appeared on the British version of the magazine nearly ten years’ prior. Tragically, this profoundly stunning woman’s career was cut short, not unlike other well known models of the time such as Gia Carangi (the latter of whom had a movie devoted to her story starring Angelina Jolie), by the ravages of drug addiction. There are two issues that struck me when I learned of this. First, Vogue, established in 1896, had its first Black woman appear on its cover almost 80 years since after its inception. Secondly, it was jarring that I, as a Black woman myself, didn’t know this icon’s name until now (and disappointed, but not surprised, that her compelling and fascinating story has never been publicised in the same way as Gia’s). While Ms. Luna’s contributions may not be as monumental as those of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, or Mary Jackson — the remarkable women who inspired Hidden Figures — she is nonetheless just as much of an unsung hero, particularly to those of us trying to pave our way into an industry where we have been historically denied access, and when granted entry, often have to compete for crumbs, as Naomi Campbell described in an interview about …read more

Source:: The Huffington Post – UK Tec

      

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