Naomi Sims, who died over the weekend, has been identified in the media as the “first black supermodel” – largely because of her appearance on a 1968 cover of Ladies’ Home Journal.
But Robin Givhan at The Root says the supermodel label does Sims a “huge disservice.”
That wasn’t Sims. She was not known for her strut or her attitude or for throwing any sort of communication devices at the help. And her relatively short career of only about five years preceded the 24-hour news cycle when a model’s love life or her various temper tantrums could be cocktail chatter.
Appearing on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal–and Life magazine, too–was not some esoteric coup noted only by the fashion-obsessed. It was a cultural revelation. Sims pushed black beauty into the mainstream in a way that was more provocative and resonant than a million “black issues” of Italian Vogue.
Sims was also a successful businesswoman with a line of wigs aimed at African-American women. She was a model-turned-entrepreneur long before Tyra Banks ever uttered the word “fierce,” long before Banks was even born.
For more on Sims, check out this post from Shark Fu.