Largely forgotten today, Donyale Luna was one of the first women to carve the aesthetic space into which today's non-white models exist. There has never been a better time in history to be a Black model. Naomi Campbell is worth a reported £30 million, and the Puerto Rican-born Joan Smalls - a face of Estée Lauder - is the number-one model in the world this year, according to models.com. Yet until the advent of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s the fashion industry operated its own kind of apartheid, which entirely excluded non-white models from its magazines, advertising and catwalk shows.
Donyale Luna was the first Black model who really began to change things; to enable more diverse beauty paradigms to break through. Aptly, perhaps, she was discovered on a Detroit street in the same year as the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
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Sources: Linda Morand Model History and Telegraph.co.uk