They called her “the reincarnation of Nefertiti,” and “a girl of staggering beauty and magnetism.” She was Donyale Luna, the startling, owl-like beauty who crashed through fashion’s apartheid system on the back of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, becoming the world’s first black supermodel, and the first to grace the covers of both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
From a troubled upbringing in Detroit in which her mother shot dead her abusive father, the young beauty managed to escape her past after she was spotted on the street by a photographer, and invited to New York. “They went wild,” said Luna of the fashion industry’s immediate reaction to her.
She was 5’11, 118-pounds, flat-chested and X-ray skinny, with no backside and no breasts. Her legs were as stilt-like as a Giacometti sculpture, her fingers extended and spidery. She had caramel-coloured skin, almond-shaped eyes, full lips and an oval-shaped face which, in certain poses, retained a certain owl-ish surprise, as if she’d just been pinched from behind. She didn’t fit the aesthetic stereotype for what many thought of as black beauty. Her look was otherworldly, plain and simple.
Mia Farrow, Sharon Tate, Iain Quarrior, Donyale Luna & Peter Sellers at the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ premiere
She rose quickly to the top of the supermodel stratosphere. She worked with Salvador Dali, Frederico Fellini, Andy Warhol, David Bailey, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon, and named Miles Davis, James Earl Jones and Sammy Davis Jr. amongst her friends.
But ultimately her career was cut tragically short, as she became a casualty of the temptations of her chosen social scene, dying from a drug overdose in 1979, at the age of 32.
The above is a synopsis of an E-Book on DONYALE LUNA written by author Ben Arogundade. FIND the book and more by visiting his website. www.arogundade.com
Follow Ben on twitter HERE
Watch Donyale featured in William Klein’s fashion masterpiece ‘What’s Up With You Polly Magoo?’
STYLE.COM piece HERE
See Adele Rootstein DONYALE LUNA Mannequins HERE