Black History Month: Breaking Barriers On The Runway


For Part Two of my Black History of Fashion series I’m focusing on some models who have stood out to me through the years.

Donyale Luna

Donyale Luna, cited as “the first Black supermodel”, was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of British Vogue in March 1966.

She was one of the first models to break the racial barrier in fashion.

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson was the first African American model to cover American Vogue in 1974, as well as the first Black model to cover French Elle.

Johnson’s appearance on the cover of Vogue changed the beauty standards in U.S. print media, and inspired lots of American designers to include black models in their runway shows the next year and thereafter.


While she was at the University of Nairobi in 1975, Iman was discovered by the American photographer Peter Beard and moved to the United States to begin a modeling career. Her first modeling assignment was for Vogue a year later. She soon appeared on the cover of some of the world’s most prestigious magazines, establishing herself as a supermodel.

Iman Cosmetics was launched when the supermodel was on set for a US Vogue shoot and the makeup artist didn’t have any foundation for black skin tones

The all-inclusive cosmetics range was launched in 1994, and features difficult-to-find shades suited for brown and black skin tones.

Tyra Banks

Before she was the iconic America’s Next Top Model judge Tyra Banks was a supermodel herself. She walked in shows from Christian Lacroix to Victoria’s Secret.

She was the first black model to sign a contract with Victorias Secret and was an Angel from 1997 to 2005.

Naomi Campbell

When faced with racial discrimination, Campbell received support from her white friends; she later quoted Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista as telling the brand Dolce and Gabbana “If you don’t use Naomi, you don’t get us.”

In December 1987, she appeared on the cover of British Vogue as that publication’s first black cover girl since 1966.

In August 1988, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue after designer Yves St. Laurent threatened to withdraw his advertising from the magazine if it didn’t place Naomi on its cover.

In 1989 she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, marking the first time a black model graced the front of the September magazine, traditionally the year’s biggest and most important issue.

Grace Jones

I saved my favorite for last.

Grace Jones. There’s so much that can be said about her.

Model, singer, actress, advocate… Pick one. She excelled at them all.

Jones began her career in New York state, then in Paris, working for brands such as Yves St. Laurent and Kenzo, and appearing on the covers of Elle and Vogue. She was known for her distinctive androgynous appearance and bold features.

You cannot think of the ‘80s without picturing Grace Jones.

These ladies walked straight down the runway and broke down barriers along the way. They are an integral part of Black History in Fashion.


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