From the First Black Model on Vogue to the first Black Supermodel
On an ordinary day some time ago, August 6, 1968, an extraordinary thing happened. Katiti Karonde, an undergraduate at Harvard University, became the first African American model to appear on the cover of a major American Magazine. Glamour in the midst of its annual best dressed college girls competition decided to make a statement that would forever influence the history of American fashion magazines.
Ruth Whitney, a progressive tight-whipped editor took over as the Editor-in-Chief of Glamour just a year before Katiti’s cover and it was her rebellious guidance that placed Karonde on the cover. Whitney spoke about her decision in the following statement.
“That move had to be OK’d all the way up to the president of Conde Nast, and there was much consternation about it. For one thing, it had never been done, so nobody knew what would happen. They didn’t know whether they’d lose their wholesale distributors. They didn’t know whether advertisers would pull out from the next issue because we didn’t tell anybody. The concern about perception was an overriding one, but there was a financial concern too.”
“But the good part of the story is that it was the largest sale in Glamour’s history. The audience was out there just waiting for it. Women’s magazines were so fearful back in those days, just so fearful. And it wasn’t a scary thing to do at all once you’d done it.”
Years later Beverly Johnson would become the first black model on Vogue. An achievement that has forever changed the trajectory of American fashion media. As we continue to forge ahead toward diversity in every realm of the fashion world we look back at the black faces that have made history across newsstands around the world. These are the first black models on fashion magazine covers.
DONYALE LUNA | HARPERS BAZAAR MARCH 1965
A sketch of Detroit born Donyale Luna was the first depiction of a black model on the cover of a major fashion magazine.
DONYALE LUNA | MARCH 1966 VOGUE UK
With captivating looks and the support of almost every fashion influencer in the industry , Donyale Luna went on to appear on the cover of Vogue (UK).
ROLLING STONE NOVEMBER 1967 | TINA TURNER
Tina Turner can be credited with the birth of Rolling Stone. Here a young Turner gives a heartfelt performance to her fans on the second ever issue of Rolling Stone.
KATITI KARONDE | GLAMOUR, AUGUST 1968
Katiti Karonde was chosen as the winner of Glamour’s “Top 10 Bests Dressed College Girls” competition landing her a place on the cover and in history as the first black face on an American fashion magazine.
NAOMI SIMS | OCTOBER 1969 LIFE
Often credited as the first Black Supermodel , Naomi Sims appeared on the Cover of People Magazine during the wake of the Black is Beautiful movement.
JOYCE WILFORD | SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE JULY 1971
Appearing next to Bonnie Lyshoir, Joyce Wilford was the first Black model to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine.
DARINE STERN | PLAYBOY OCTOBER 1971
While not technically the first (Jean Bell appeared in a group with 4 other models in January 1970), Darine Stern was the first black model to appear solo on the cover of Playboy magazine. Stern went on to lead a lucrative career as a model.
NAOMI SIMS | COSMOPOLITAN DECEMBER 1973
4 years after her ground breaking TIME cover, Naomi Sims was the first black model to appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan solidifying her place as one of the top models of the time and perhaps the world’s first black super model.
BEVERLY JOHNSON | VOGUE AUGUST 1974
To be in a VOGUE is life changing and to be on the cover, well that’s just astronomical. Beverly Johnson, a bright eyed beauty from Buffalo, New York was the first black model on Vogue.
NAOMI CAMPBELL | VOGUE PARIS AUGUST 1988
Perhaps the most well-known name on the list, Naomi Campbell has always had the attention of fashion’s most important names. It is rumored that Yves Saint Laurent himself threatened to pull his ads from the magazine if they didn’t feature Naomi. YSL didn’t pull any ads and Naomi found herself as the first black model on the cover of VOGUE Paris.
TYRA BANKS | SPORTS ILLUSTRATED JANUARY 1996
Tyra Banks, an undeniable stand out beauty from Inglewood, California became the first black model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Even more impressive Banks has went on to appear on the cover of the following year’s issue before nabbing her lucrative 8 year run as a Victoria’s Secret model (yet another first for a black model).