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Remembering Naomi Sims, The First Black Supermodel Rejected By Agencies For Being Too Dark

The<a href=httpshowafricacom> <a>cover<a href=httpshowafricacom> <a>of Life magazine features Sims Photo Yale JoelTime Life PicturesGetty Images

 

She defied the odds to become the first Black supermodel. Naomi Sims was raised by foster parents after her father abandoned her mother when she was born in Oxford, Mississippi. Her mother was unable to care for her because she was ill.

Sims was mocked by her peers because she was taller than most of them. She had witnessed the harsh reality of life at the age of 13, but she decided to persevere in order to achieve her goal. She moved an inch closer to her dream of becoming a model after securing a scholarship at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York after graduating from high school.

During the same time period, she enrolled in an evening program at New York University to study psychology. She worked as a model part-time to pay for her education. She wanted to give her all to her modeling career after finishing her graduate studies, but no agency would sign her because her skin was too dark.

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She was unfazed by attempts to derail her dream. She looked for fashion photographers to photograph her. She met with Times photographer Gosta Peterson, who was taken with her beauty and decided to help her. He agreed to photograph her for the cover of Fashions of the Times in August 1967.

Following this breakthrough, Sims approached all of New York’s top modeling agencies, including Eileen Ford. Ford turned down Sims’ invitation to meet with her. She was told that the agency already had models of her type.

Sims was not discouraged by the rejection; instead, she contacted former model Wilhelmina Cooper, who was launching her own modeling agency. Sims informed Cooper that she would send copies of the Fashion of The Times magazine to advertising agencies, along with Cooper’s phone number. Cooper could get a commission if anyone calls back. Cooper later called her to tell her she needed to come over because she had a job for her.

Sims’ fortunes improved, and she was earning $1000 per week a year later. Her career was further boosted when she appeared in an AT & T television ad campaign where she modeled clothes for designer Bill Blass. “It helped me the most because it showed my face,” Sims explained in an interview. “People wanted to find out about me and use me after it aired.”

She appeared on the covers of several magazines, including Ladies Home Journal in 1968 and Life Magazine in 1969, and was the first African-American model to do so.

According to the New York Times, her appearance in Ladies Home Journal sparked the “Black is Beautiful” movement. Top designers such as Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, Fernando Sánchez, and Teal Traina expressed strong interest in her services.

Sims left modeling after five years to focus on her business empire, which specialized in wigs for Black women. In the 1980s, she published several books on modeling and beauty.

Sims passed away from cancer in August 2009. She was 61 years old.

 

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Written by How Africa News

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