Rest in Fashionable Peace – Naomi Sims

August 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Before Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford, before Janice Dickenson even thought of claiming the term “supermodel” there was Naomi Sims, and she passed away yesterday at 61.

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Ms. Sims is sometimes referred to as the first black supermodel.

“Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”

When Ms. Sims arrived in New York on a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1966, there was very little interest in fashion for black models and only a handful who had been successful, like Dorothea Towles Church, who starred in the couture shows in 1950s Paris, and Donyale Luna, who was named Vogue’s model of the year in 1966.

In need of money, Ms. Sims, with her heart-shaped face and long limbs, was encouraged by classmates and counselors to give it a try. But every agency she approached turned her down, some telling her that her skin was too dark. Ms. Sims then told Wilhelmina Cooper, a former model who was starting her own agency, that she would send out copies of the magazine to advertising agencies with Ms. Cooper’s number attached. Ms. Cooper could have a commission if anyone called back.

Within a year, Ms. Sims was earning $1,000 a week and had been hired for a national television campaign for AT&T.

But Ms. Sims, in interviews, often said she held the industry in low regard because of the way male executives treated her and, more generally, she said, “because people have the idea that models are stupid.”

After five years, she gave up modeling and started a wig-making business with styles designed for black women. It eventually expanded into a multimillion-dollar beauty empire and at least five books on modeling and beauty.

“There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model, and there are many models who have nothing at the end of their career,” Ms. Sims told The Times in 1969.

(Text taken from Naomi Sims, 61, Pioneering Cover Girl, Is Dead, Eric Wilson)

LOL I love that last line! Nothing sadder than an old, broke model! 61 is so young! It definately reinforces the point that life is sooo short! What an inspiration to me and all aspiring models.

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1 Comment

  1. Jessica said,

    This is a good article!!! thank you for putting it out there!!!

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