Celebrating Black History

Honoring Contemporary Black Women

Super Models

Tyra Banks

Tyra L. Banks 

Tyra Lynne Banks (born December 4, 1973) is an American television personality, former talk show host, producer, author, actress, and former model.

Tyra Banks was born in Inglewood, California. She is the daughter of Caroline London (now London-Johnson), a NASA photographer, and Donald Banks, a computer consultant. She has a brother, Devin, who is five years older. Banks attended John Burroughs Middle School and graduated in 1991 from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. While growing up, Banks states she was teased for her appearance and considered an “ugly duckling”; when Banks was 11 years old she grew three inches and lost 30 pounds in three months.

Banks was the first African American woman on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 1997, she received the VH1 award for, “Supermodel of the Year.” That same year, she became the first-ever African American chosen for the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog. She was a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 1997 to 2005. In 2010, Banks re-signed with her former modeling agency IMG Models. Banks is now a contributor of the Vogue Italia website. She has since started focusing on her film career and hosting her own TV show.




Bev. Johnson

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson (born October 13, 1952) is an American model, actress, and businesswoman. She made history when she rose to fame as the first African-American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974. In 1975, she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle. She was the star of the reality series Beverly’s Full House, on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The New York Times named Johnson one of the 20th century’s most influential people in fashion.

Born into a middle-class family in Buffalo, New York, Johnson was a champion swimmer in her youth and aspired to be a lawyer. She was a criminal justice major at Northeastern University when she tried modeling while on summer break in 1971.She quickly landed an assignment with Glamour and began working steadily. She went on to appear on more than 500 magazine covers, including the August 1974 issue of Vogue, becoming the magazine’s first African-American cover model. Her appearance on the cover changed the beauty ideal in US fashion, and by 1975, every major American fashion designer had begun using African-American models.





Naomi Ruth Sims 

Naomi Ruth Sims (March 30, 1948 – August 1, 2009) was an American model, businesswoman and author, She was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal, and widely credited as being the first African-American supermodel.

Sims was born in Oxford, Mississippi, the youngest of three daughters born to John and Elizabeth Sims. She attended Westinghouse High School. There due to her height, she was ostracized by many of her classmates.

Sims began college after winning a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, while also taking night classes in psychology at New York University. Her early attempts to get modeling work through established agencies were frustrated by racial prejudice, with some agencies telling her that her skin was too dark. Her first career breakthrough came after she decided to sidestep the agencies and go directly to fashion photographers and Gosta Peterson, a photographer for The New York Times, agreed to photograph her for the cover of the paper’s August 1967 fashion supplement.

Despite this breakthrough, Sims still found it difficult to get work, so she approached Wilhelmina Cooper, a former model who was starting her own agency, saying that she would send out copies of theTimes supplement to advertising agencies, attaching Cooper’s telephone number, and that Cooper’s agency would get a commission if Naomi received any work. Within a year Sims was earning US$1000 a week. The key breakthrough came when she was selected for a national television campaign for AT&T, wearing clothes by designer Bill Blass. In 1968 Sims told Ladies’ Home Journal:

“It helped me more than anything else because it showed my face. After it was aired, people wanted to find out about me and use me.





Dorothea Towles Church (July 26, 1922—July 7, 2006) was the first successful black fashion model in Paris.

Dorthy Mae Towles, as her name is spelled on her birth certificate, was born in Texarkana, Texas. She was a daughter of Thomas Elsworth Towles, then a mechanic, and his wife, the former Anabella Clark.

She attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Texarkana, and then Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology and pre-med, graduating cum laude.

In 1943, following the death of her mother, she moved to Los Angeles, California, to live with her Dr. Henry H. Towles (1888-1965), a prominent physician and real-estate investor, and his wife, Ruth. There she worked as a clerk, secretary, and cashier, until 1945, when she began teaching biology and drama at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles; she also taught, in 1946, at the Holmes Avenue School.

In the summer of 1945, she enrolled in the University of Southern California, studying drama and speech under William DeMille. She also began attending the Dorothy Farrier School of Modeling and Charm. In 1948 she began studying for her Masters of Science degree at the University of Southern California, where she was a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.


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