Today we recognize Naomi Sims, as she passed away on August 3 at 61 after battling cancer.
She was the first African-American model to grace the cover of Ladies Home Journal, and Halston refers to her as the first black supermodel.
Naomi began her fashion education studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but started to model as a way to earn money. Despite initial disinterest from agents, she found fame through hard work and perseverance. Naomi quit modeling five years later to create wigs for black women, as she found the marketplace to be quite lacking. She also started the fragrance, beauty, and cosmetics department of her company, and wrote books on beauty: All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman, How to Be a Top Model, and All About Success for the Black Woman.
If you haven’t gone yet, head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Costume Institute’s “The Model as Muse” exhibit, where Naomi is featured for her 1967 The Times cover and for the 1969 issue of Life. It pairs with a quote from curators Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan: “The beautifully contoured symmetry of Sims’ face and the lithe suppleness of her body presented on the once-exclusionary pages of high-fashion journals were evidence of the wider societal movement of Black Pride and the full expression of ‘Black is Beautiful.’”