Model Me Legendary

17Jul09

Halston and Pat cleveland

Black was always beautiful to me.  

For this ecstatic white child, I can trace this love from bouncing on top my father’s shoulders at a Sly and the Family Stone concert at age 5 to being friends with Debbie Huff, whose dad was Leon Huff of the legendary Gamble and Huff, to meeting backstage the O’Jays due to my entourage status at age 14 to listening to Mumia Abul Jamal religiously on WDAS radio growing up to being a card-carrying member of my high school’s Black Culture Club and dating Michael, the dark and lovely football star….Ah!

We weave our memories public and private as our lives are marked by historic successes of our idols, parallel tracks of our lives and in-the-flesh meetings.  As a fashion media devotee since the age of 3, the black super models of the 80’s wove through my life both personally and professionally.  To honor the Beautiful with this blog, Fashion Beyond The Pale is a dream come true. 

You touched me…

Pat Cleveland is a fellow acting school student with a friend of mine and we shared flights and convos back and forth to Paris with her and her daughter a few years back.  Here she is in the photo above with Halston…

beverly07

I remember distinctly seeing the Beverly Peele Mademoiselle magazine cover, she was the first black woman to appear on a cover and I recall the power and holding the magazine in my hands, mesmerized.  Did you know that Beverly was…

  • on the runways of Paris at age 12?
  • made her first million by age 14? 
  • at age 18, named  One of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, by People magazine (1993)?

basquiat, tina chow, warhol

Splashed all over the pages of my coveted W full color newspaper (remember?), Tina Chow is included here because she was a captivating presence in the 80’s as model and wife of Michael Chow, the famed restauranteur with friends including Andy WarholKeith HaringJean-Michel BasquiatJulian SchnabelMary Boone, and Henry Geldzahler. She was also a friend of Paloma Picasso and Manolo Blahnik.  Here she is with Jean-Michel and Warhol.  

She also stands out for me as a forward-visionary designer of big, brilliant jewelry. She put huge raw crystals in woven baskets as necklaces at the same time I was a jeweley designer and I admired her greatly. One of the first heterosexual women to become infected with HIV, she contracted her fatal illness from French fashion arbiter Kim d’Estainville.  As I experienced friends pass from AIDS, and even to support a close hetero girlfriend get it from her previously gay lover, we all held witness to the sea change.

veronicaWebb180

Karl Lagerfeld gave Veronica Webb her first break for his Chanel runway show, a moment which she TOOK brilliantly.  In the middle of the catwalk she reached in her purse, took out a banana, slowly peeled it and ate it. This image is from photographer, Tarrice Love’s blog, which features his sharp images of black and beautiful models, both men and women.

tyra banks new york times magazine 1

Tyra.  I recall reading an article pre-TYRA MASSIVE, that she had mogul plans to conquer media and totally sensed the prophetic nature of her passion. You absolutely have to acknowledge that kind of singular drive, intent and vision.

Naomi

N A O M I.  THE BIGGEST, BADDEST AND BEST.

iman_v_110801

Iman wore a JAMP necklace that I co-designed for a Bill Blass runway show in the 80’s and I recall gasping both during her runway walk and watching the films years later. A daughter of a Somalian diplomat, Iman studied Political Science where she met fashion photographer, Peter Beard who insisted she come to America. 

Historic Gorgeous.  

  • 1979, the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue. 
  • the first woman of color to sign a cosmetics contract.
  • one of the most socially conscious women in the celebrity world. 
  • devoted wife of David Bowie.

grace jones

G R A C E.  Who is Sasha Fierce?  Grace was the Fierest of all. I can karaoke her to death and I hate karaoke. The image of her dancing on tables at Le Bain in Paris and every word of her songs told the story of my life in the 80s.  The Original Club Kid, her voice rang in my ears in Miami, NYC at the best-club-ever-anywhere,The Saint, Paradise Garage, Danceteria,Zanzibar in Newark and anonymous clubs all over Europe.

gia1

Have to include Gia in here.  While not African American, her dark and beautiful, smouldering sexy looks, sweet smile and tough and tragic life story in the fashion world are integral for me personally as I knew her and she is likewise legendary for many when looking back to the 80’s.  Gina was in my crowd.  We were a mixed race, daring,hyper, urban, bi-sexual art school clique in Philadelphia. I will never forget Gia’s presence in the room, her laugh and her pout. Angelina Jolie in the movie, Gia,is not Gia for me.  

Her edgy life ran along mine and I hold her memory dear.

Click here for the event “Fashion Beyond The Pale”

 


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